Friday, January 01, 2010

My first experiment with my Sous Vide Supreme

For Christmas Myron got me a Sous Vide Supreme. The idea is you put food in vacuum sealed bags, then let them slowly cook to the proper temperature in a very precisely controlled water bath. It is widely used in high end restaurants because you can cook food to the desired temperature and it just stays at that temperature. You can cook a perfectly medium rare steak and leave it for days without hurting it.

My first experiment was veal osso bucco. This is a cross-section of the lower leg, and typically you braise it for two to three hours in the oven. The closest thing I could find in the cookbook that came with the Sous Vide Supreme was bone in pork, which said 58C to 60C for four to six hours.

I put a little salt and pepper and a small pinch of saffron on each piece of osso bucco, put two per bag, and sealed them. Then I set the temperature on the Sous Vide Supreme to 58C and dropped them in and left them for six hours. Here is how it looked before I pulled it out of the cooker. Yes, it is done at this point and yes, I know it looks like brains.

I made a sauce from sauteed onions and celery with a touch of browned butter, chicken stock and heavy cream, and served the osso bucco with honey glazed carrots with pine nuts and green beans with sherry vinegar. Here are the results:

So, how did it taste? The flavor was okay, but the texture was weird. Sous vide cooking doesn't create crispness or browning, so you have to try to get that after the fact. You run the risk of overcooking it, though, since it's already completely cooked. The other issue is osso bucco has a lot of connective tissue. After doing more research I have learned that 58C just isn't hot enough to dissolve it, you need at least 60C.

One experiment, one mediocre result. I have a chuck roast cooking now, and I'll follow up after I pull it out. I already know I started out totally wrong so now I'm hoping to salvage it. The joys of experimentation. :-)


  1. I'm sorry that your first experiment didn't work out well!

    I've gotten some amazing results from my Sous Vide Supreme, so much so that I've not cooked any other way for weeks. Browning does make a huge difference with some meats: I've found that pan-searing, broiling, and torching all work well.

    Here's the report that I wrote up after my first week with it:

    I've learned a lot from it since then. For example, I just did a bison pot roast for about 30 hours at 135 F. (I didn't sear that.) It was fantastic -- very tender, like prime rib.

  2. Osso bucco needs at least 24 hours to dissolve the connecting tissues. My sous vide setup (SousVideMagic/Rice cooker) does this very well, because it is very energy efficient for long term cooking.

  3. @Diana - I had actually come across your blog already. :-) My pot roast actually came out very good, as did some poached pears. I'm really enjoying the experimentation.

    @Dan - It doesn't necessarily take 24 hours to dissolve connecting tissue. It depends on the temperature. At the French Culinary Institute they do beef short ribs at 57C for 48 hours. I would expect osso bucco to be similar. If you increase the temperature to 64C the time decreases substantially.

  4. Sous vide is an amazing technique - however you have to fully understand it.
    1) 6 hours for a piece of meat with a lot of connective tissue is far too short. You will have an amazing result if you cook it for much longer. I have cooked before beef osso buco [even has more connective tissue] for 18 hours and it was amazing - soft, tender, juicy.
    2) You can vary the temperature - however your result will also widely vary: 56 to 58 degree centigrade will lead to a cut of meat which is medium rare. If you want to get a "braised meat" result, you would need to cook it [shorter] at around 68 to 72 degree centigrade [usually 10 - 12 hours are definitely enough]. Your meat will have a flaky texture.
    3) Maillard reaction: yes - sous vide doesn't have anything which comes close to the maillard reaction [browning]. However it is just a vehicle to cook your meat... you definitely have to finish it. You can flash fry it before sealing - especially for "braises" this is an acceptable method! For the lower sv'ing, you can brown it afterwards.
    Then the best way is, to chill it down [which would also make it more safer] and either fry it in smoking oil, grill it over very hot coals or use a very hot broiler [usually they are not really hot enough] - or use a blowtorch.

    Sous viding is not so terrible different, as other cooking methods, if you fully understood them. It gives you a lot of more flexibility... as you have at least 2 different ways to go [very long and very slow - or long and not so terribly slow] which completely gives you two completely different results].

    Anyway - the way above surprised me, as 6 hours would be even quite short time for a slow cooker [which is definitely faster and hotter than SV].

  5. Dominik, I did this post six years ago and this was the first thing I had ever cooked sous vide. I now have both the Sous Vide Supreme and an immersion circulator and understand it a lot more. I will be doing more posts about sous vide soon since I'm now back in culinary school and will finish next year.