Skip to comments.Cook Your Meat in a Beer Cooler: The World's Best (and Cheapest) Sous-Vide Hack
Posted on 12/05/2012 4:24:39 AM PST by 2ndDivisionVet
By this point, there is absolutely no question that the method of cooking foods at precise low-temperatures in vacuum-sealed pouches (commonly referred to as "sous-vide") has revolutionized fine-dining kitchens around the world. There is not a Michelin-starred chef who would part easily with their Polyscience circulators. But the question of when this technique will trickle down to home usersand it certainly is a question of when, and not ifremains to be answered.
The Sous-Vide Supreme, introduced last winter, and of which I am a big fan, is certainly a big step in the right direction. But at $450, for most people, it still remains prohibitively costly. In an effort to help those who'd like to experiment with sous-vide cookery without having to put in the capital, a couple weeks ago I devised a novel solution to the problem: Cook your food in a beer cooler.
Here's how it works: A beer cooler is designed to keep things cool. It accomplishes this with a two-walled plastic chamber with an air space in between. This airspace acts as an insulator, preventing thermal energy (a.k.a. heat) from the outside from reaching the cold food on the inside. Of course, insulators work both ways. Once you realize that a beer cooler is just as good at keeping hot things hot as it is at keeping cold things cold, then the rest is easy: Fill up your beer cooler with water just a couple degrees higher than the temperature you'd like to cook your food at (to account for temperature loss when you add cold food to it), seal your food in a plastic Ziplock bag*, drop it in, and close your beer cooler until your food is cooked...
(Excerpt) Read more at seriouseats.com ...
Read the whole article. Results are mixed. I guess I would worry about bacteria growing and that issue was not addressed.
One other thing. We don’t cook in just any kind of plastic. Not sure of the science but Mr. M has researched it and says its bad.
And just where exactly is the beer supposed to chill while said food is cooking?
I think I’ll pass on any poultry cooked at 140F for one hour (as described in the article)..
I’ve had a Sous Vide Supreme since they first came out. Pretty much only use it for meats, made the best Italian beef for my son’s graduation party in May 2010. I stopped using it when my vacuum sealer bit the dust, but just got a new food saver when they had a sale.
The SVS is also supposed to make superb veggies, but I just haven’t tried it yet. Maybe I’ll do that this week with the baby carrots.
It really is a neat way to cook. To prevent bacterial growth, you need to quick chill the foods in an ice bath, then refrigerate or freeze if you are not immediately serving the food.
Just a couple caveats, though. Don’t use wine (unless you’ve precooked the alcohol out) or fresh garlic. The length of cooking tends to concentrate flavors, and garlic imparts an “off” flavor, garlic powder works fine.
I don’t know about cooking meat, but I use a cooler to make yogurt. I heat milk with added powdered milk to 170°F. Then, let it cool to 110°F. Place the milk in the cooler, add starter and wait 6 to 8 hours. The result is yogurt. To make greek style yogurt, I drain through cheesecloth for several hours until it reaches the proper density.
Of course, it is still, yuck!, yogurt. But it is chock-full of inexpensive probiotics.
We’ve never gotten sick from it. One hour would generally be only boneless chicken breast here. I’ve cooked turkey breast in the sous vide and it takes much longer. There are cookbooks and websites with better instructions/explanations out there. If you eat at a restaurant and you have a perfectly done steak, it is likely sous vide cooked these days.
Make a real, active, electronically controlled Sous-Vide cooker for about $50.
Is there a type of plastic that is considered safe to cook in?
Have also heard a big cooler is a great way to cook a large quantity of sweet corn. Just fill with boiling water and drop the corn in, close and wait about 30 minutes. Plus all the mess is outside and the corn stays hot but quits cooking.
Certain plastics contain BPA and should not come in contact with food. Only buy plastics made in USA and if you have any doubts about BPA content get it in writing from the manufacturer that the product is BPA free. There are other chemicals in plastics to watch out for as well.
my BIL bought my wife a sous vide and the required foodsaver vacuum sealer....first of all WTH is a sous vide. and why do I want to cook food in plastic bags.
she used it...once....it is stored for now....though I did use the vacuum packer to freeze a load of venison we harvested up at my deer camp.
its that damned Cooking Channel....it turns good cooks into lousy gourmet chefs.
Wouldn’t it be easier to just use a crockpot with a temp probe?
After reading how this works, I knew I already had a “Sous-Vide” cooker. It is a wide mouth 48 oz. Thermos Nissan bottle.
I thawed a frozen steak in the microwave. Poured boiling water into thermos to preheat it and brought a pot of water on the range to 140 degrees (recommended for med rare).
Removed the mostly thawed steak and sliced it into 1” strips (one inch square and about seven inches long). Placed the seasoned strips in a vacuum bag and pulled a vacuum on it. Placed the bag into sink and poured the preheat water over it to raise the temperature a bit. Rolled up the bag of steak and put it in the Thermos. Poured the 140 degree water in and closed Thermos.
That was about fifteen minutes ago. It still has about 45 minutes to an hour (it can’t over cook) to go before I can test it. I will post the results later.
Personally, I’d love to be able to sous-vide at home. It’s a great technique for adding a lot of flavor in a short amount of time and cooking foods to precise temperatures.
The gist of it is that by vacuum-sealing the food to be cooked, any marinade gets sucked right into the meat, without any long marinading time, so you can literally prepare the meat right before cooking. The immersion circulator then allows you to precisely control the temperature of the food to be cooked, as the entire water bath remains at that constant temperature and the meat draws the heat from the moving water (which is constantly reheated to maintain temperature), eventually reaching equilibrium.
So, really nice for poultry or fish that really needs to be cooked to a very precise temperature (too low = unsafe, too high = dry and disgusting). For presentation, you aren’t going to have any sear or grill marks, or have any crust or crispiness (i.e., if you leave the skin on, no crisp and brown skin), so you need to leave off skin or give it a quick sear or broil after it’s cooked (not sure how well that would work), or just go skinless and add a sauce.
Amazing! How do it know?
Okay, I just added corn to my brunch.
I put three halves of frozen corn in my other 48 ounce Thermos, salted it and added boiling water. Put the lid in and now will wait and when the steak is cooked I will have a nice brunch if this system works as well as touted. It will lower the cost of cooking, but that is not my goal. I like the idea of spending a few minutes preparing and then forgetting about it until eating time.
Look for a later post telling how the steak and corn fared.
The single best new cooking method I have tried in years is the NuWave (as seen on TV!)
It is great. Even reheated pizza is good (not like when you nukje it in a microwave)
I've used this method to precook apples for apple pie. It causes them to hold up better during baking phase, and prevents some oxidation.
There are some flaws to this method that are obvious. First it's named in French. The method wasn't invented in France, it wasn't pioneered in France, the first commercial applications weren't done in France, and the first commercially made machines weren't made in France. Why a French name? It just pissed me off.
Another important issue to note is that you can't brown anything using this method. The Malliard effect (yes, named after a Frenchie, but he at least deserved it) dramatically changes the flavor of many items (for the better) and in my mind is a requirement for most meat and a lot of vegetables.
Can you imagine Beef Bourguignon (a classic French dish) without the Malliard effect?
When you take into account the weaknesses of the vacuum water convection method it's a very situational cooking technique.
I don’t think this is going to work for you. In a closed system, ignoring heat loss, you have added 140 degree water and a below room temp mass. These temperatures will normalize at some point, as some average of the two, depending on the mass of the meat and the water. However based on this the final temp of the meat can’t reach 140. I would guess at the end of the process you will have steak that reached approximately 80 degrees. Math isn’t really my specialty but a quick guesstimate would be 38oz of boiling water would cause 12oz of mostly thawed steak to reach 140 degrees in 1 hour.
After a little more than an hour cooking in the theremos the steak was cooked to medium, but my choice of seasoning needed additional application. Steak was tender and was very good.
Corn on the cob was crisp, but I think it could have used a little more cooking time. A little salt and butter and I really had a great brunch. It will get better as I gain experience.
The steak was cooked well enough, but next time I will use boiling water and see what the outcome is.
My dog enjoyed the leftover steak.
Sous vide is great for cooking meat for a crowd or quickly preparing individual portions. Imparts flavor and tenderness at your desired doneness, then a good quick sear for maillaird and fond for a pan sauce. Faster (after the slow water bath process) more precise, and deeper flavor than a sear and finish in the oven.
You can calculate the BTU needed to raise the temp of the steak, (assume it is the same as for water, 1 calorie = The energy needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water through 1 °C or 1 BTU = amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one 1 pound (0.454 kg) of liquid water by 1 °F) then adjust the starting temp of your hot water accordingly.
That’s the one. I bought two on Amazon about three months ago for $55.34. Today’s price is $36.50 ea. Two would be $73.00. Looks as if they are up $8.63 ea. over what I paid. With the price increases on nearly everything, even in our local stores, going up weekly, I will have to be very prudent in my purchases.
I bought the Thermos Nissans to cook beans and rice in and just discovered today you could cook anything in them. Plus they are super for keeping coffee hot.
We use two “pillows” filled with packing peanuts. One pillow has a recess large enough to hold a 3 quart pot. The other pillow covers the pot.
We bring rice, pasta, fresh veggies to a boil then put the pot into the pillows. Perfect rice & spaghetti in about 10 minutes.
Dried beans requires boiling about 15 minutes, putting it into the pillow for an hour or so, then bringing it back to a boil for another round.
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