Sous Vide Cooking at Home
By Madeleine Hill
Look, I’m not Andrew Zimmern, but I do work for him (both a blessing and a curse). I love to cook, but I didn’t go to culinary school. Two years ago, I turned a hobby into a salaried job when I started testing Andrew’s recipes for Food & Wine magazine and andrewzimmern.com, and now I’m bringing my own kitchen experiments to life in a brand new series. First up: sous vide cooking at home.
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Part One: Sous Vide Beef Tenderloin
When the folks at Sansaire sent a care package to the office that included a new sous vide machine, what else was there to do but take it home and try er’ out? I’ll admit, I’m a little skeptical of the process. It seems more like a science experiment than a method for the home cook; after all I’m drawn to a more humble, old world approach to food. (Not too mention that not-correctly-cooked sous vide chicken I ate at a restaurant last month, with its pink hue and rubbery texture, left a sour taste in my mouth.) But, every doubt I had disappeared when the sous vide beef I made turned out to be the best piece of meat that’s ever come out of my kitchen.
It helps to have friends in the rolodex who know a thing or two about cooking sous vide. I called Gavin Kaysen, from Minneapolis’ Spoon and Stable, and quizzed him about sous vide tenderloin. Here’s what he had to say:
- Set the sous vide machine in a large stockpot, fill with water and turn to 59 degrees celsius.
- Place two 5 oz portions of tenderloin, seasoned with salt and pepper, in a Ziploc bag. Remove the air by holding the top of the bag open and lowering the bag into the water bath. When just the top of the bag is above the water, zip it closed and drop it into the water.
- Cook for 40 minutes.
- Remove the bag from the water bath, and let it rest for 12 minutes.
- Take the steak out of the bag, and sear in a hot pan, basting with butter, thyme and garlic.
Seems easy enough, right? Well, as it turns out, it was just that simple. Think it’s not possible to accomplish in your home kitchen? Think again. It not only resulted in one of the most tender, perfectly-cooked pieces of meat I’ve ever made, it also took the stress out of over- or under-cooking the most expensive cut of beef you can buy. I can’t speak for other ingredients or proteins, but for beef tenderloin, I’d say the sous vide method is a winner. Stay tuned for more experiments to come.
The Sansaire sous vide machine. Why use this method? First, it allows for precise and even temperature control, so you don’t overcook your food. Second, results are easily repeated. And finally, cooking in a plastic bag creates a more humid cooking environment, typically resulting in moist, juicy food.
The sous vide machine plugged in and clipped to the side of my stock pot, with the beef tenderloin sealed in a Ziploc bag.
40 minutes later, the meat rests for 12 minutes. Maybe not the most appealing to look at, but be patient, it gets better.
Here’s a look at the cross section of the tenderloin… evenly cooked from edge-to-edge.
You can sear the tenderloin in a hot cast iron pan with butter and herbs, but this is where I strayed from Kaysen’s recipe because I wanted to take my new Searzall for a test run. The brainchild of the Booker & Dax food lab, the Searzall attachment for a blowtorch produces a consistent, evenly-spread flame that creates a professional-quality crust on meat. It’s an amazing tool for searing, melting cheese and making s’mores indoors. Plus, I love using a blowtorch in the kitchen.
The final product. Honestly the best piece of beef I’ve ever cooked. Would I prepare beef tenderloin this way again? Absolutely.