I have been saying all along, that I would never use sous vide as a tool until I found something it does a lot better than the tools I already know how to use and the meals I know how to cook. I already know how to cook chicken, beef, lamb, turkey, duck, and offal to perfection and also do a pretty good job on most cuts of pork and venison.
I have cooked ribs professionally for a hotel Ribs Night and roasted a whole pig for a hotel wedding that everybody loved. I still cook an occasional pork roast or a tenderloin of pork and skip ribs because the results are inconsistent and it is too much of a culinary effort for inconsistent results.
My daughter has had the same mixed feelings about ribs and asked (told?) me before I quit on sous – vide, could I find her a decent way to make ribs and consistent London broil. Well when I started my search for a rib recipe, the highly technical article on sous vide cooking by Douglas Baldwin showed up and now that I had a working sous vide controller, I made an investment in time to skim the technical manual on sous vide.
As the author points out, sous vide means under vacuum it does not necessarily mean low temperature and he has published detailed charts of the interaction of time and temperature and meat thickness.
HOWEVER when it came to the recipe for ribs it was simplicity itself – He recommended 8-12 hours at 175. Now that is my kind of cooking. It happens to be exactly the temperature range of a Crockpot on the low setting or my coffeepot. This is something my daughter will definitely try if it’s worthwhile as she already has a Crockpot and all she needs to purchase is a Handi-Vac for under $20. For those who care, the Reynolds Handi-Vac uses polyethylene bags which do not have Bisphenol A.
The first problem with the original recipe was the brine/marinade which called for 7-10% salt and 0-3% sugar. After a little calculation and adapting for the fact that I like the taste of Brown Sugar, my simpler brine/marinade recipe was
- 16 oz. Water (2 cups)
- 2 level Tablespoons salt
- 1 Heaping Tablespoon Brown Sugar
Mix the salt and sugar into the water, trim the excess fat off the ribs add the ribs and let soak overnight in the refrigerator. It is important to keep the marinade simple as there is no place to burn off volatile materials like alcohol or vinegar.
The next morning, drain the ribs and wipe dry with a paper towel. At these temperatures, any excess moisture will vaporize, the bags will float and it will be difficult to guarantee uniform heating which is critical in very low temperature cooking. After the ribs are dry, use the Rub to add additional flavor to the meat.
- 2 Tablespoon paprika
- 1 Tablespoon celery salt
- 1.5Tablespoon crushed garlic
- 1Tablespoon black pepper
- 1Tablespoon chili powder
- 1Tablespoon ground cumin
- 1.5 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 1Tablespoon table salt,
- 1 Teaspoon dried oregano,
- 1 Teaspoon ground ginger
The only changes to the Rub Mixture were to delete white sugar and cayenne and add the ginger which I doubt changed the flavor at all. Mix together and rub into the meat. Store the excess in the refrigerator until the next time.
The rest is straight forward, carefully place the ribs in the vacuum bag so that no rub or moisture gets into the zip lock area, pull vacuum and place into the coffeepot and gently wedge against the walls. In a crock pot, you could use a wire baking rack to hold the ribs in place so they don’t float.
You can pour water on top of the ribs or get a head start by passing 10 cups of water through the coffee maker to heat it up. My $100 sous vide controller is totally unnecessary because 175 is pretty much the natural temperature in either coffeepot cooking or Crockpot cooking and is only being used to monitor the temperature.
At the end of 12 hours the ribs are dumped into a colander and the excess juice went down the drain. If you are a fanatic, the ribs can be darkened with a blow torch, but I find that effete touch unnecessary – especially when the ribs are smothered in BBQ sauce.
I served the ribs with my homemade BBQ sauce, corn and potato salad which were also made in my coffeepot. This was a fantastic meal of non-greasy, tender ribs that were very flavorful without being over powered by either the brine, the rub or the sauce which all worked together to produce the end result.
My son-in-law who is a perpetual Doubting Thomas wanted to know if it was really the sous vide or was it the care and ingredients used. I told him I din’t care as I did not stand over a hot pot or a smoky grill for hours to get an end result that was as good as any ribs I had eaten in my 65 years on earth. This recipe is the first step in proving that Mathematician Douglas Baldwin is one heck of a good cook. I will probably stick with his higher temperature suggestions and try a few more because of previous disappointments with beef.