For those who don’t know and that is many professional chiefs in America, Sous vide cooking is low temperature cooking with the meat sealed in a vacuum bag. It was all the rage of cooking blogs about two months ago but has dropped off the horizon. I am still curious as to whether it is food fact or food fiction that it does a better job than traditional methods.
I simply haven’t had any success with low temperature sous vide because I have been busy getting my neck fixed and don’t think it would be wise to carry sophisticated electronic controllers through Customs and TSA. Still, I knew I would be bored and would do some cooking in my Hotel Room, but my first attempt at finding a rightsized cooker more traditional than a coffeepot was the small Crockpot which simply didn’t work as well. I like my coffeepot cooking in making “meals for one” because the food tastes the way it is supposed to and that is not always the case with sous vide.
When I was shopping for the Crockpot, I saw a fondue pot and started playing with the thermostatic control. I discovered it was a continuous dial with no fixed set points and when I turned it between off and warm, there was an audible click about half way between the two settings. I dint buy it right away because it was $30 and I didn’t know if it would work. With the small Crockpot a total failure incapable of making a safe stew or soup, I went back and bought my $30 “Sous Vide Egalitarian” Fondue Pot, a $10 digital thermometer, and a $2 dinner plate to use as a cover and to eat off of. My vacuum Pump and Vacuum Bags were Ziplock and the starter kit was under $5.00. Once again, the bags were allegedly Polyethylene but really didn’t feel like it. Caveat Emptor!
I chose a rather poor cut of Lamb, a shoulder chop, which has flavor but can be greasy when roasted or dry when grilled. I did this on purpose because it’s easy to cook a good piece of meat and if I’m going to buy new equipment or use new techniques it has to be special. The Picnic Ham, BBQ Ribs, and Turkey were special but can be done almost as well in normal equipment at normal temperatures and nothing else I did worked.
The review by Cara Parks claimed that cooking Lamb for one Hour at 134 was all that was needed and that it was excellent. My piece of meat was tougher and also I like my lamb about 140 at the bone so I choose 2 hours at 145.
It really wasn’t tough to set up the Fondue pot as a Sous Vide cooker. I put water in and heated it up. If it got too hot, I added cold water and turned down the dial. Two notches below warm was proper for 145 and it held very constant for the 2 hours needed to cook the meat without any adjustments or water added.
The meat was seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper and placed in the vacuum bag. Because of the fat, it floated until I placed a set of keys on the bag to weight it down. A lid was placed on the Fondue Pot to hold the heat.
The picture below is the uncooked and unseasoned piece of meat. The one right below it is the piece after it was cooked for two hours at 145 Fahrenheit. Take note it is really cooked as the meat has broken away from the bone and the texture of the meat and fat has changed. Unlike high temperature roasted shoulder chops, the grease did not spread to the meat and the fat was easy to remove from the meat.
I would consider this a First Class win for Sous Vide that is pretty much unique to this style of cooking. A slow cooker is fine for tenderizing a cheap cut of meat, but only if you like eating all the grease and fat that come with the least expensive cuts.