Oct 182013

I’ve seen smartphone apps for sous vide cooking mentioned before, but until now never actually downloaded or tried one. Previously of course, they’ve all been iphone apps, and I’ve been an Android user for about 5 years now. I stumbled across this app from CookingSousVide.com today, and I’m familiar with Jason’s work, so downloaded it for a look. It’s $1.99 USD, which I thought was a little steep for such a simple app, but considering the leg work that’s gone into the research I’d say it’s a fair price. It’s hard to find this many times and temperatures collected together, and having on my phone might come in handy.

Here’s the main menu screen:


It’s all pretty simple, with each individual cut divided amongst the type of food to be cooked.

For what it’s worth, I’m testing on a Samsung Galaxy S4 and the performance of the app is perfect – displays clearly, easy to navigate and easy to use. There are plenty of links in the app leading back to the website too, for extra information.

There are some obvious bugs though, the app feels like it was taken from iphone and recreated for android, as the back button on my phone only exits the app, no matter what level of menu or page I’m viewing, and you have to use the back button in the top left of the app’s screen to navigate – this is extremely annoying. There’s an option to save items to a favourites list, but when clicking “add” I only get taken to the favourites list, with no other way of adding an item to the list. There’s also a ‘notes’ section on each page, but on my phone the ‘save notes’ button doesn’t operate and I can’t use it. It’s a shame these obvious errors haven’t been corrected.

Here’s a sample of a particular item in the app:


I haven’t spent a lot of time checking the accuracy of temperatures suggested or fully exploring all the pages of the app. What I’ve read of the information on various pages is all sound advice, similar to what you’ll find in the books from the same author. Given how much time it often takes to find sous vide cooking times and advice online this is a great quick reference guide.

The app itself needs some work to remove the bugs I’ve noticed, though hopefully improvements will come in future generations.

Read more over at http://www.cookingsousvide.com/ for the author’s website.

iPhone/iPad etc – https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/sous-vide/id388460050?mt=8

Android – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.cookingsousvide.sousvide

Jul 292013

A great way to demonstrate the versatility and usefulness of the chamber cryovac machine is to try some very simple and inexpensive preparations that will allow you to achieve interesting textures and tastes that are otherwise impossible. One of the first I personally tried was compressed cucumber, something that ended up on the restaurant menu as a great alternate texture for the same fresh taste.

Compressing fruit and vegetables in a chamber cryovac makes the flesh more dense and somewhat more flexible, giving the added impression of being more juicy. Cell walls are broken and the structure of the product changes in a way that’s difficult to describe without actually touching and tasting.

Here’s my method and a sample plated amuse buche I served recently:  First, peel your cucumber carefully, taking off a very fine layer of skin and leaving the slightly greener layer of flesh underneath. Cut into sections about 10cm long, then turn on it’s end and quarter. Using a thin blade remove the seeds and you should be left with a flat bar about 10cm x 4cm about 5mm deep.

Next, season the cucumber flesh. I used a tiny pinch of sea salt and a sprinkle of both dehydrated celery leaf and cucumber skin. They help impart a stronger flavour and look fantastic. To make, simply place celery leaves and cucumber skin in a dehydrator. Once dry, blitz into a fine powder using a spice grinder.

Lastly, lay flat in a cryovac bag as big as your machine will take. Add a dash of rice wine vinegar to create a slightly pickled flavour. Cryovac on your machine’s highest setting, and leave to infuse for a few hours in the fridge. Once ready to use just trim any soft or flimsy edges to make a more uniform serve.

Play with different pressures and times and you’ll discover more interesting textures. I prefer to vac on 8 out of ten for a slightly crunchy strip. You can vac multiple times to create an even softer texture.

Here’s one of our first uses of compressed cucumber, an amuse buche of cucumber, cold smoked and sous vide ocean trout, Greek yoghurt and coriander.


Jul 292013

It’s been almost a year now since I started using the Grant SV200 Circulator and it’s been a reliable performer for probably thousands of hours already, getting used on a daily basis for the preparation of a wide variety of menu items. While the kitchen isn’t big enough to allow it’s use during service it’s certainly made our prep time more efficient.

This particular model cost a touch under  $1500 including shipping from Ecotel in South Australia. That worked out cheaper than any other major brand circulator, and was very cheap considering most circulators can’t even be imported direct for that price.

Grant’s official website has the full run down of specifications and benefits of use: http://www.grantsousvide.com/products/universal-stirred-heater/ but here’s the product information you need to know about most:

  • ± 0.5°C Accuracy,
  • Temperature Range Ambient + 5ºC – 99.9ºC
  • 50 Litres Capacity,
  • Stainless steel contruction,
  • Programmable with three pre-set temperatures
  • 1.3kW Heating element,
  • Available in 120 or 240 volt Power,
  • One year Guarantee.

Here’s our device, heating up to 65°C, you can see the orange “heating” indicator light on the top left of the unit.


Grant seems to be more popular for it’s unstirred water baths, we opted for a circulator simply because we believe they provide more even heating and are more adaptable, being able to use a variety of containers depending on the size of the job and space available.

Although I’ve only used a few circulators in a professional environment, small details in design and performance make you appreciate the quality and finish of such a machine, and for me, this includes:

  • Wide and secure screw fitting for use on a variety of pots or containers
  • Unpluggable cord for easier cleaning and storage
  • Simple interface  with clear display
  • Ease of use – a simple dial and two buttons
  • Sturdy construction
  • Removable cage and fitting for easy cleaning

It might seem simple but people often overlook these things and anyone who’s worked in a commercial kitchen understands that any equipment needs to be simple to use, as many people might need to use the machine and it’s difficult to train new staff consistently.

So in my opinion the Grant SV200 is everything a chef needs in a compact circulator, with all the required features while maintaining ease of use. I’ve never found an issue to complain of, and if I was to purchase another circulator I would almost certainly buy another.

Oct 072012

For those of us wising to sous vide at home, the prohibitive cost of equipment often makes it difficult to achieve professional results. There are dozens of options for hacked, DIY or other unreliable ways to cook sous vide, but none will ever be as easy as using a well designed circulator. There have also been many companies offering cheap solutions for home users, usually involving a PID controller to be used in conjunction with a rice cooker or slower cooker.

Nomiku Sous Vide Circulator

Vimeo Video of the Nomiku Introduction

Nomiku hopes to change all that by offering a simple to use, cheap home circulator. I first saw Nomiku pop up on Kickstarter some months ago, and it quickly reached it’s backing goal, promising an affordable circulator for home use. The fact it was backed so quickly on Kickstarter shows the interest people have in sous vide at home, and obviously with the Nomiku becoming available in December 2012 there’s a new wave of home cooks who will be able to use it.

Nomiku’s Kick Starter Page shows their plans for the device, a compact, affordable, easy to use sous vide circulator. The creators are the same people that offered DIY printed PCB plans and kits for sous vide on the internet a few years ago, and are still available at Lower East Kitchen. They also have a sous vide recipe site, so it’s obvious they’re big fans of the technology and will be available in the future.

Current information, release dates, and a few FAQ’s are available at Nomiku.com, but I can sum up the important facts about the machine fairly quickly:

  • 0.2°C Accuracy, 0.1°C Stability,
  • 5 Gallon (19 Litres) Capacity,
  • 750Watt Heating element,
  • Circulation Pump 10Litres/Minute,
  • 110 or 240v version available,
  • Can be set in Celsius and Fahrenheit.

Considering how cheap it is, it’s compact design and being backed by a passionate team of developers, I’m very excited about this machine and I am certain I’ll have one arriving sometime towards the end of the year !

Oct 012012

Tom Aikens is a young chef from the UK with two Michelin stars. His incredible rise to fame might have been helped with the use of sous vide technology, which he demonstrates in this live demonstration for StarChefs, posted on YouTube by PolyScience. He claims to have been using sous vide methods for about 12 years, which suggests he’s comfortable with it and through his demonstration you can hear the reasons why he’s using it at his famous London Restaurant.

The specific details for the Lamb: The fillet is marinated in Sheep’s curd and milk with a little lemon zest, and seasoned. It’s then cooked sous vide for 15-18 minutes at 52°C. It’s then finished in the oven after being crumbed (including a little cheese) which sounds like it would be incredible.

The most interesting parts of this video for me were the stories of Tom’s experiences working in various famous kitchens around Europe. Certainly plenty of details that will interest professional cooks and chefs. There’s also some great tips for professional mashed potatoes and sauteed onions.

Sep 232012

For those of you wishing to test the sous vide method before committing to the purchase of a professional waterbath or circulator, there are plenty of resources online that illustrate how simple sous vide cooking can be. Wherever the term “ghetto sous vide” originated, it’s always been used to describe a hacked or DIY waterbath without expensive equipment or exact temperature control. That might sound a little silly considering the precise nature of commercial sous vide equipment but it needn’t be the case to get great results at home.

Honestly, there’s barely a difference between steak cooked sous vide at 55°C and 60°C, and I doubt anyone is that finicky, especially compared to the alternative methods with even wider margins for error.

The general principle is the same – seal the food as best possible, immerse in the bath and maintain the water temperature as best possible. There are dozens of methods to achieve this, but here’s the very simplest way I know, illustrated. I used a ~300gm scotch fillet that’s been aging in my fridge for about a month and a half, and I know it’s already very tender and ready to go.

My equipment was simple: A 10 litre stock pot, electric kettle to boil water, and a digital thermometer. I fashioned a small clip to hold the thermometer onto the side of the pot so I wouldn’t even have to hold it and could see the reading clearly.

My aim was to cook it Rare (50-54°C) to Medium Rare (55-59°C), knowing that I wouldn’t be able to control the temperature enough to make it perfectly rare. I filled the pot initially with hot tap water, which sat comfortably at 55°C. Once I added the steak it started to drop fairly quickly, which is unsurprising considering it isn’t at all insulated. Other ghetto sous vide rigs usually involve an insulated cooler.

The steak stayed on the bench for about 70 minutes in total, while I checked the temperature and adjusted it every ten minutes. Each time I simply took a few scoops of water out, and added boiling water to bring it back up to the correct temperature. Doing this allowed me to keep it inside a pretty tight window, always between 52°C and 58.5°C. When I took it from the pot the internal temperature of the steak was 53.1°C, which is a good rare temperature. It certainly didn’t need to be in the waterbath for so long, as I imagine it would have reached a suitable internal temperature within 30 minutes.

At this stage the scotch had a texture like jelly, barely firm and soft to touch. I seared it in a hot pan with a good dose of salt and pepper till I had a great crust, which is essential to me when cooking a steak.

Excuse the dirty stovetop…

It was very easy at this stage to feel the difference in texture on the crusted sides compared to the edges where it was still soft. You can see the ring of seared crust (and overcooked edge) of the steak once it’s cut:

So in the end it came out as a very acceptable Rare steak, deliciously seasoned and incredibly tender. In this case I didn’t bother using any fats, marinades or aromatics in the bag, but obviously you can improve on this basic method once you’re comfortable with the method.

Sep 142012

I have posted previously about my struggle to cook chicken thighs with bone in to reduce the redness and blood contained along the bone, while maintaining a delicious, moist sous vide flesh. I thought I’d add a few photos of chicken marylands cooked just as I described in the last post:

Chicken Marylands – Cooking Bone-in Chicken Sous Vide

So here’s the thigh directly after sous vide reheating at 65°C, followed by patting dry and searing to give a nice crispy skin:

Cutaway view of the thigh / drumstick joint:

And finally a view of the flesh pulled with a fork to show the interior. The photos don’t really show how juicy it is, but I can assure you it was everything you’d expect from a perfectly brined and cooked thigh.

I hope someone’s gathered a few facts they can use ! Love to hear your questions and comments.

Sep 142012

This is just an old photo I just found while deleting personal data from my last phone. It was a very popular dish, and I wish I had a better photo of it.  I imagine I took this photo under heatlamps during a quiet service.

The whole pork belly is brined overnight, usually 24 hours in aromatics and a 6% salt brine. It’s cryovaced whole with a few cups of rendered fat or butter, and a few sprigs of thyme. Laid in a gastronom tray I leave it at 80 degrees celcius overnight in a combi oven on steam. Cool on the bench till lukewarm, then press between two trays and a few sheets of baking paper with a carton of beer on the top tray in the coolroom.

The 80°C temperature seems high for pork, but because we’re cooking with the skin on, this is the only way to start breaking down the collagen to make the skin tender. It’s quite acceptable to cook pork at lower temperatures, as long as you spend a little longer rendering the fat from the skin when you crisp it up. The best way is to use a non stick pan with a good coating of oil and add the pork, skin side down, before it heats up too much. Increase the heat gently, allowing time for the skin’s fat to render out and cook the skin till crisp.

Cut into portions and score the skin side, reserve for use. When it’s time to serve, simply place into a slightly warmed pan with a film of oil and a sprinkle of sea salt. Heat slowly and render out some of the belly fat as you crisp the skin side, and once almost golden and crisp, place into a warm oven till heated through.

Unfortunately that’s the commercial size directions, I would do four sides at a time to get me through a few days, and repeat a few times each week. The offcuts were used to make a beautiful ‘open’ lasagne with a rich pork and quince jus.

Serve with your favourite condiments, in this photo it’s a Granny Smith apple salad, with fine shallots, baby herbs, radish, dressed in verjus and olive oil. Beneath the Pork Belly is a line of balsamic glaze and a sprinkle of pistachio dukkah.

Jul 262012

Under Pressure – a 2005 New York Times Article

This is a very old article by internet standards, which made it stand out even more to me as I read it. Written in 2005 by Amanda Hesser, the article starts with her surprise at being served “cryovacked” watermelon, something very new then, but almost old news now. Compressed fruit has since been seen on many menus, and certainly continues to excite diners.

It is, however, a very informative article, that mentions many techniques I’ve only recently discovered (like flash brining fish, or making ice cream base sous vide) and covers even basic sous vide food safety measures. Most exciting is the story behind sous vide and vacuum sealer use in commercial kitchens, pioneered by scientist and economist Bruno Goussault.

If you’re looking for a good intro to the method, it’s history, pioneering figures and plenty of insight into how it can be used commercially, this is a great first read.


Jul 192012

I recently put chicken marylands on the menu at work, assuming diners would appreciate the darker chicken meat, more flavorful and with a crisp roasted skin. I’ve been brining chicken for a long time, and sous viding breasts for previous menus so I thought it would be an instant hit. Unfortunately I didn’t count on the chicken thigh bone retaining it’s bloody red color no matter how long I cooked it at 65°C. I played with many temperatures until I finally tracked down a few posts online that refer to the same problem, none of which offered concrete solutions.

I pushed the temperature all the way to 75°C and I initially felt happy, with a only trace of pink remaining. A few customers mentioned it to the waitstaff so there were obvious concerns, even if none were sent back to the kitchen.

Finally I discovered that at 80°C the chicken thighs would cook perfectly through to the bone, with no sign of overcooking the flesh ! I’m still not sure why this is the case, as 80°C should be thoroughly overcooked by most people’s standards. The chicken is moist and falls apart like a perfectly cooked leg. It’s the same texture and taste as if it was cooked in the oven till a probe on the bone tests at ~70°C. Initially I wondered if the center of the chicken wasn’t reaching a high enough temperature while cooking sous vide but probing them always returned a temperature no less than a degree below the target.

My method for Sous Vide Chicken Marylands:

  1. Clean the cuts of excess skin and remove any remaining carcass bones from the hip joint.
  2. Brine in a 6% salt solution for 24 hours (I’ll post this method separately)
  3. Cook at 80°C for 1:15
  4. Either chill in ice water, for storage / reheating, or
  5. Remove from bag, pat skin dry with paper towel
  6. Sear outside in a hot pan with a generous splash of canola oil till golden

As a chef I have cooked almost a hundred legs at a time this way, enabling me to serve them quickly during service. That process is simply dunking them direct from the fridge into a warm bath when the order comes in (the bath is at 60°C or so for reheating) and searing them directly before I send the order.

I’m still trying to work out what changes occur in the skin of these sous vide legs, because the skin becomes quite sticky when first dropped into the pan, making it difficult to achieve a perfect crisp skin without losing skin on the pan. There are discussion online about the extraction of gelatin from the bone / meat as you would expect from stock, but again nothing concrete.