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On the road promoting Under Pressure with Keller, I was reminded why sous vide is such a compelling technique.  Pictured here (thank you brad for all the pix), are short ribs, or rather the slab of meat that rests across the ribs.  Before sous vide, this cut would necessarily have been gray or brown, like beef stew and would have been served with a sauce made from the braising liquid.  Short ribs had to be braised—seared then simmered in liquid for several hours—in order to melt the collagen that would otherwise leave them tough.  The meat would go well above well-done.  With sous vide though, you can cook short ribs at temperatures well below the point at which red meat becomes gray if you cook it long enough for the collagen to melt (133 degrees F/56 C for 72 hours for example).  The result: rare short ribs that are meltingly tender.

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These were served at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington, DC on Friday where Keller and his protege, long time French Laundry veteran, Eric Zeibold, now chef of CityZen, and I had a conversation about why they are so enthusiastic about sous vide.  We were also joined by Bruno Goussault, one of the forefathers of sous vide cooking (that's him with Keller, below). On Saturday, Keller and I spoke at Astor Center and I was surprised and delighted by how many non-culinary-professionals there were.

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Tonight we're in Philadelphia at the Free Library where we're expecting a large and lively crowd.

Normally book tour is a lonely business.  One travels from one city to another not really staying long enough to enjoy the town, and too fatigued to do so were the time available.  This little jaunt for me has been like a paid-for vacation, especially with a day off yesterday (the Miro and Van Gogh exhibits at MOMA followed by a fantastic production of Mamet's Speed the Plow, followed by dinner with old friends).

But also, the pleasure has been the nature of the events.  The publisher is sending me on this trip, hiring drivers, putting me up in fancy hotels, and all I have to do in return is get on stage and have a conversation with a good friend about things that we both love and care a lot about, food and cooking, in front of a lot of people who care about the same things.  I'm telling you, life can be sweet.

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PS: A quick warning for those who may want to buy the book—it's surpassing the publisher's expectations regarding how well an expensive book explicitly geared toward professionals would sell.  Meaning they're concerned they'll run out before the second printing arrives sometime in January.  If you are planning to buy this book as holiday gift, don't procrastinate.

UPDATE: Grant Achatz demos sous vide turkey and stuffing for his business partner Nick Kokonas at serious eats. Notice he does not use any fancy equipment–a pot of boiling water and zip-top bags.

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56 Wonderful responses to “On the Road with Sous Vide: Short Ribs”

  • Andy

    Hello! I’m a line cook, and I just don’t get how people are able to get away with sous vide stuff from a sanitation regulation perspective in a professional kitchen. In MA, a full HACCP plan is required for any anaerobic applications in the Kitchen. If we have a potentially hazardous food in the “danger zone” (which the MA upper limit to is still 140 rather than 135 for some reason) for more than 4 hours (total) we’re legally not allowed to serve it even if we do bring it up to “proper” temperature. These times/temps are based on FDA regulations which, as I understood, most states adopted for themselves. Are the FDA regulations that frequently ignored? Are the health departments in these areas simply more enlightened than they are in Boston?

    That being said, I’ve never once seen a health inspector really pry about how a dish is prepped or cooked(other than speed at which things are cooled, etc)… they always seem more interested in finding little ‘gotcha’ type things like an empty paper towel dispenser or less than perfect sanitizer PH records. Are they simply unaware that this is going on?

    If anyone could recommend any further reading on the sanitation aspects of sous vide cooking, I’d be grateful. I’d also be interested to hear if any fellow members of the trade have had regulatory clashes with inspectors over sous-vide cooking.

  • Edaname

    I read the whole book and puzzled over some of the temperatures used in some of the recipes: they, especially seafood recipes, tend to be deliberately set higher than the “real” optimum (lower) temperatures to meet minimum 140F standard set by some local Health departments.
    Am I correct in my observation?

  • Andy

    Hello! I’m a line cook, and I just don’t get how people are able to get away with sous vide stuff from a sanitation regulation perspective in a professional kitchen. In MA, a full HACCP plan is required for any anaerobic applications in the Kitchen. If we have a potentially hazardous food in the “danger zone” (which the MA upper limit to is still 140 rather than 135 for some reason) for more than 4 hours (total) we’re legally not allowed to serve it even if we do bring it up to “proper” temperature. These times/temps are based on FDA regulations which, as I understood, most states adopted for themselves. Are the FDA regulations that frequently ignored? Are the health departments in these areas simply more enlightened than they are in Boston?

    That being said, I’ve never once seen a health inspector really pry about how a dish is prepped or cooked(other than speed at which things are cooled, etc)… they always seem more interested in finding little ‘gotcha’ type things like an empty paper towel dispenser or less than perfect sanitizer PH records. Are they simply unaware that this is going on?

    If anyone could recommend any further reading on the sanitation aspects of sous vide cooking, I’d be grateful. I’d also be interested to hear if any fellow members of the trade have had regulatory clashes with inspectors over sous-vide cooking.

  • CuredMeats

    There is a major discrepancy in the book and this blog regarding safety and cooking times that concerns me.
    Keller mentions that for safety, food should not be kept between 40-140 for longer than 4 hours, yet McGee’s intro and this blog entry discusses shortribs cooked at 133 for 72 hours.

    Seems like something that needs to be clarified. I know the food is safe as it is taken to sterilization times, but it’s a pretty big “nit”.

  • luis

    Just packed lunch… that Souvide’d turkey breast carved beautifully. The cross section is even colored throught. The sage and thyme were on the bird and I could taste them along with the flavor of the turkey. The seasoning was very nicely on although I should pay more attention to it in the future. The butter was washed away from the bird when it realeased its juices. Can’t eat healthier than this.
    I will try to souvide again this week and I am confident it will come out great this time.
    Also I will inject the bird with compound butter next time.

  • luis

    EUREKA MOMENT!, In the book Keller says that most meats that go above 155 F releaase most of their juices to the cooking liquid.(In this case the cooking bag). This is what happened. Exactly what happened yesterday.

    Achatz never gives a proper recipe in his video and I just assumed 160 which caused the juice to come out of the breast.

    LEARNING pains…(what do I say about chefs and their books…) Most Impresise bunch…

    Can’t wait to try this again and use Kellers suggestion to keep the meats below 155. Damm what a surprise and WHAT A LESSON to see all that liquid inside the bag yesterday.

    Kelller’s poultry table suggest he cooks much under 160.. I think this is because he is doing those tiny bite size baby dishes they like to cook. But at home folks usually cook 1 dish.

    I am sure if I keep the meats under the magic 155 and finish them under the broiler I will be fine next time. That would be more than worth it. Thank you Ruhlman…Keller, Achatz this is very exciting…folks.

  • luis

    Upon reflection, post morten on every one of my dishes type thing… What is Grant Achatz thinking???…. his suggestion for thkgvs..zip lock bag turkey does NOT WORK!. Plain as that. The thing is simple to do. There is very little or no room for error.. I don’t see what the big deal is…. Other than I was happy I didn’t lose any seasoning and that’s important if you are watching your health you don’t much oil or fat to cook this style. But It’s like putting a bag over Andrea Bocelli’s head and expect him to thrill you!!!!!!!! NOT!!!!!!!!

  • luis

    If you guys think about it, the zip lock bag thing is required for the first time you try the dish until you determine your cooking times. In the book there is a table of cooking times but not by lb. and not very comphrehensive, Obviously Keller is mostly concerned with the restaurant’s dishes. It’s better than nothing. But you are gonna want to do the zip lock bag run as a precursor to your own dishes.

  • luis

    Kellers Principle… what are you trying to do.. and how to do it best?.
    Well the rock of Gibraltar looking 2 lb turkey breast doesn’t seem like it would cook evenly on the grill pan???? So under the broiler and voila… Perfection!

    Breast has beautiful color and texture. Wait one second folks.. the bag as I recall had a lot of liquid in it. It did NOT leak. I made sure of that!. So the liquid came from the breast of the turkey and the turkey feels like it gave it up. SO! what does that mean????. It means this is probably wrong. What’s left? Well perhaps if we ACTUALLY VACUUMED BAGED the thing as the technique suggests we do in the first place I would be dinning on perhaps a much moister bird. This is a lot of work for no cigar.. everything but the crime…thing…damm… At least I may understand the need for the vacuum thing…. Bird is ok, but not worth the effort. Next experiment will definitelly have to have a vacuum bag. Zip lock bags let the moisture leave the bird. NO OTHER REASON FOR HAVING THE VACUUM THING….none!!!!!!!!.

  • luis

    Done!.. 2 lb turkey breast sousvide’d in about 1 hr 20 min..to a tmp of 160 in water @160. Well I will try to bring it closer to 165 then I will crisp it up on the broiler pan. Finito. I’d say sousviding bone in turkey breast meat is about ~40min/lb thing.
    What a great thing…Ruhlman Rules…!

  • milo

    If something is frozen, why not just defrost slowly in the fridge? Microwaving can be horrible for food, especially for thawing meat. Personally I think it’s one of the very worst things you can do with meat – why go to the trouble of doing sous vide if you are going to thaw frozen meat in a way that is going to completely ruin it?

  • luis

    True Milo, true. Sometimes after defrosting in my cold fridge I finish up in the microwave. It’s a “Magic Chef” and it has a program to defrost greens, poultry and meat. At that time it does a nice job but sometimes it cooks around the pointy tips which I just cut off with a knife.

    Well folks 20 mins later the turkey breast tmp has risen 15 deg to 145. At this rate it will be done Before the next 20 mins. But since we can NOT overcook the meat when we are Sousviding… no worries I will check it again in twenty mins or so… it should be done cooking. And just from openning the ziplock bag… my hands are perfumed with the seasoning. I feel the concentrated seasonings smells inside the bag.

  • luis

    Sousviding turkey breast on stove top…~160deg water. ~40 min into it… breast tmp is ~130 deg. Looking for meat tmp to equal water tmp. Don’t know the shape of the meat heating curve?.. but suspect it will curl up and rise faster now that is reached 130 deg. So next read in twenty mins…

  • luis

    Sousviding a turkey breast on the stove top. Just like Achatz’s video shows you. Stove top on warm and caramel thermomether ~160 deg. Plan to finish it on the grill pan after it reaches an internal tmp of 165 F. Same seasonings as Achatz’s.. sage, thyme, garlic plus salt and lots of butter.. but much less than he uses. It’s just a proof of concept test, but I am excited about it. Taking the air out of the bag once in the pot was simple. Clamping the top of the bag to the side of the stockpot to keep it out of the water is genius. A U shaped heavy brass or cast iron wooden brace would work very well at keeping the bags upright in the pot. Plan to take interval meat tmp readings to set the time required.

  • luis

    I am reading “Under Pressure” and I am very very impressed with Keller. Keller is what he is.. every bit o’it. He tells you rigth in the book. Sousviding is just a technique. He envisions a dish. then he decides on which technique is best to make it happen. Genius!. Lots of looking around etc.. not to bore anyone. But sousviding at home using a freezer glad bag seems ok as long as YOU DON’t TAKE IT TO THE BOIL. (Which sous viding never does!!!!!).
    Also I think using a heavy duty paper bundle spring clip to clip the seal side on to the side of the vessel will keep the bag’s open end above the water and there is no way the water will ever enter the bag. You can stick your tmp probe in and see what the protein is doing but that’s all. Keeping the rest of the bag submerged is not difficult if you think ahead of time. You can figure a way…no doubt’s there.
    Tonite I found me a big Snapper fresh at the market and come tomorrow I will be roasting it in tha oven with veggies as usual. Why mess with a good thing? This snapper gave his life up for me/you and I will honor his most generous gesture best I can.
    (Who knows? I didn’t invent this shitty world….and I don’t understand it unless we are supposed to start from shit and elevate ourselves from there….to what? where? a place were we don’t need to eat these creatures anymore”??… that’s nice….)

  • Amelia

    Saw the interview in Philadelphia and didn’t get to ask my question. Quite off topic but I thought folks might be interested…
    Where would you and Mr. Keller be celebrating Thanksgiving and who would cook the turkey?
    (And I too would LOVE to know where you dined that night.)
    Thanks for a fun evening.

  • jscirish27

    Michael,
    Just purchased “Under Pressure” online and am eagerly awaiting its arrival. Would have loved to meet you and TK at Astor Center in NYC but was working that night. The reason you met so many non-professional cooks was two-fold: increased enthusiasm by the home cook; most of us professionals were at work. How about a Sunday or Monday night next time . . .

  • luis

    I am learning a lot about how food behaves as it reaches different temperatures from this Book. This book does not disapoint. Just a great read. Yesterday I wanted to throw into my backpack and take it in to work.

  • luis

    Achatz is on youtube making sousvide turkey thanksgiving dinner. He chops it off into quarters and seasons each in a ziplock bag and dunks it into a stockpot to cook. Then he finishes it off in the hot pan.
    So it proves there is lot the home cook can do without the professional vaccum packing machines and immersion blenders. Amazing how developed this technique is already. Kellers book just puts it on the map for us here in the States.
    I am guessing Achatz took the breasts out first and then the legs. He said this is how you can achieve the desired different tmps for the meats. Maybe even seasoned them differently too.

  • luis

    dennis I disagree. Once you reach recipe tmp with the liquid or without the liguid in a regular slow cooker the mechanism maintains control… Put it plainly once you fill a bathtub with water and all you need to is maintain the level due to evaporation… your energy consumption goes to near ZERO!. The quality of the vessel youre cooking in makes a big diff… get it. You want to Ramp up quick to tmp and then after that is maintain…This is not an always full on thing.

  • dennis

    Actually, this power thing got me thinking.

    Looking at these two popular immersion circulator power ratings: http://www.polyscience.com/lab/7306.html and comparing with these estimates of general household electrical appliances: http://www.absak.com/library/power-consumption-table

    It would appear that making those short ribs is at least the equivalent of running a room air conditioner for 72 hours (using the 7306 model…twice as much using the 712 model). I’m no electrician, but I am pretty sure those immersion circulator wattage ratings are for 1 hour of use.

    Not to rain on the parade, but this doesn’t seem like a very green process.

  • luis

    I think Keller might be right. this isn’t for the home cook. But I think I like the technique so much that I can cook similarly at home but with modest expectations.
    The dutch oven on low heated water to ~145 lowest setting. Good news is that it was stable with very little variation.
    The food saver thing is not a good idea either because you contaminate the direct vacuum thingy…plus I don’t need another fancy gadget in the kitchen.
    However the benefits of cooking at constant temp and in a say tightly wrapped double aluminun foil pouch in the dutch oven is a more healthy vitamin friendly process. No too oil.. or fat.. more vitamins. Slightly different process. Safe for the homecook. For that matter I can use the timer of the slow cooker just as well. Set it and forget it. It won’t cook the protein one degree higher than its setting of 160 for low or two hundred for high. Definitelly low setting. Not strictly what Keller is doing but hey Perhaps not a bad thing for the home cook. I can try it in immersion or even in the oven the way I cook spare ribs already anyway. Enough of this. I always get overly excited when I am learning new things. Thanks guys.

  • Rene

    Can’t wait to get this book. Is it crazy to answer the timely question of “how do I cook a turkey without drying it out” by looking to sous vide?

    Of course you would need a garbage bag and a bathtub, but seems like it would work. Or am I way off?

  • ruhlman

    JS–we ate at Vetri.

    Kanani–you’re funny!

    Rube–Keller will be at ferry building williams sonoma on 12/8, at keplar’s books on 12/11. for signings only. no plans to cross the pond.

    raffi–sous vide uses for home and for restaurants are different. in restaurant it’s for consistency and efficiency. for homes it’s quality of execution and convenience.

    dennis–don’t know what the energy use is but minimal relative to our other uses.

    Rene–you could sous vide a turkey if you wanted. keller published a sous vide turkey recipe last year in ny mag–sous viding the breast i believe and roasting the legs. that would work well.

  • Raffi

    Just a question for Ruhlman… How much of the current vogue for sous vide is really about ease of preparation for restaurants? I realize that short ribs are good this way, but I’m a cynic, and I wonder if practicality has something to do with it.

  • luis

    Interesting Cameron. Thanks for the link to the rice cooker approach. Seems that is an alternative technique that does not involve vacuum bagging. Keller is gone big for the vacuum bag technique. Also there may be a finishing step on the grill in some cases to get the right crust on the outside of steak etc. And the slow cooker is not appropriate because is basically a two tmp machine. This is all about controlling the tmp and letting the time ride it seems. The guy that suggested using the dutch oven on the stove top with thermomether is probably got it about right for the homecook.
    Depends how low the tmp goes and MAINTAINS. Very nice… lots of new learning going on..

  • casa

    The idea of using all that plastic to cook food, leaves me cold. I know it works wonderfully, but at what cost.

    Not to be a crank, and I know this is the wrong site to rant about it (with the book coming out and all), but I hate to see all that great food being cooked in such a worthless vessel.

  • luis

    I must learn about Pasteurization. Pausterize the sous vide bags and knock myself out with this technique after that.
    The thing is the taste. I understand tar tar and crudo and all that.
    This is a good thing I think but Keller may approach it from a high end chef’s perspective. I have to consider it from a lowly home cook’s perspective. That is my task.

  • dennis

    This may be slightly off topic, but how much power do these immersion circulators consume?

    While I am sure the results are delicious, this would seemingly be at odds with sustainable food practices by using large amounts of energy (although 72 hours certainly qualifies as “slow food”). It would be interesting to see what the amount of energy consumed using this process vs., say, 3 hours in a gas or electric oven.

  • luis

    Oh crap, this sounds like I am pasteurizing the bag??? doesn’t it? Light just went up upstairs… go figure….
    There is way too too much going on here that I need to sort out. Need to get grounded and go from there..
    Corn fritters and breaded Calamari are in my tomorrow dreams tonite…..

  • luis

    Tomorrow when I am rested I will read tha book some more. But reflecting on the little bit I read… Defrosting and Sous Vide cooking may be a NO-NO!. This ELIMINATES 50% of the problem and then there is the warming up of the bag…past the safe 140 deg mark. It almost makes sense to parboil the bag in boiling water for a minute or so just to get it out of danger and then go into the immersion thing. Of course the RESULTS will speak for themselves.. But honestly folks I am great at boiling things…we all are.. No way we can screw this puppy up? it seems…

  • luis

    Under Pressure is in the house!. Thank you Michael and Keller. Browsed through in a fog as I just got home from a long long day….
    Have to say I find the book logical, clear and fun to read. Keller covers the issues of food safety and sous vide cooking in a very easy to comphrehend fashion. He better as all this boils down to is cooking something in a vacuum sealed plastic bag while immersed in heated water. Doooooooooh!. Still the recipes with the pictures and the information coupled with the fact we are being introduced to a new exciting cooking technique.. It’s great. A very very easy read and very pleasant book.
    Bacteria thrives in a defined tmp range. Keller suggests to get the bag through this range very very quickly. This is a two backhanded threat. Once during defrosting… unless I use the microwave to defrost protein. Again the microwave..again the mcwa..v. The other time is on the heat back up to cooking tmp. If I have five qts of screaming 160 deg -200 deg water… and I submerge this little pecker vacuum sealed defrosted package….(Unless you know microwave….you will probably blow the package up in the microwave while defrosting…). Be this as it may be… I think first we read and test and learn then… we may cook?. safely. AGAIN folks this is one of these things you shouldn’t fool with unless you are very very careful and read Keller’s book really really well.

  • J.S.

    Michael,

    Really enjoyed hearing you and Chef Keller speak in philly. I was curious where you had dinner that night?

  • E Clauser

    I got the last copy at the downtown Borders in Boston (with the help of my 40% good customer coupon : ) I have never done sous-vide – I bought the book because it’s Keller – enough said in my opinion. I’m wondering, though, what is the best, most reliable, yet not four-figure cost to set up method for the home cook to do sous-vide?

  • Shola Olunloyo

    Mr Ruhlman

    Good to meet you finally.
    I hope you did not take offense to my lack of interest in autographed books.
    I never buy a book unless I deeply respect what the person does and I bought all of yours. My money and respect will serve you much better than my adoration.
    Cheers

    Shola Olunloyo.

  • Robert

    Michael, I just got back home from seeing you and chef Keller in Philly, Both of you were great and it was very much worth the 2 hour drive. The only downside was that we couldnt get a drink afterward. But thanks again and it was great to meet you.

  • Joey D'Antoni

    Pleasure to meet you and TK on Friday in DC. The book is excellent–did the Duck Pastrami on Saturday, trying a couple of other things out. Keep up the good work.

  • kanani

    So glad to hear you’re back on top of your game! The book tour has been good for you. The book got a nice write up in Vogue magazine. I look forward to the day when all this technology comes mainstream and we can buy the gizmos (is that the right word?) ourselves for the house.

  • Cameron S.

    I agree with Claudia – this book is the gateway drug to sous vide equipment. So tempting. I need more storage shelves.

  • Shelley

    I recently bought Under Pressure because I’ve played a little bit with sous vide techniques using my $150 FoodSaver, water simmering in my LeCrueset dutch oven, and a cheap kitchen thermometer to watch the temps. I want to learn more, even though I’ll never own an immersion circulator. Bah.

    And, Ruhlman, I didn’t spot your name in the book credits right away… wondered why at first. Aha! THERE you are. ;)

  • Peter O'Henley

    A wonderful book indeed, but when will sous vide equipment (chamber sealer, immersion circulator) be affordable for the “at home” chef…

  • Conway Yen

    I think 133 degrees F was in reference to the collagen, since that’s the temperature that collagen begins to break down in water to form gelatin.

  • Pablo Escolar

    Ruhlman:

    Congrats on the success of the book! The past couple of months have had some of the most interesting people in food speaking in NYC. Thanks for coming to Astor Place. Regarding short ribs, I find 133 is a little too rare for short ribs. Don’t get me wrong, there is something magical about a tender short rib that looks rare/medium rare. I’ll admit it is probably a mental defect. I have those.

  • joelfinkle

    Please check your spelling:
    > With sous vide though, you can cook short ribs at temperatures well below the point at which >>>read<<< meat becomes gray

    Not trying to be a nitpick here, but so far as I know, only Homaru Canto makes people eat what they read, and even he hasn’t come up with a way to make it change color after reading ;^)

  • TheBrad

    Hey Ruhlman, thanks for the credit on the pics! It was great seeing you guys in DC. The book is gorgeous, as were those short ribs.

  • luis

    Damm it Ruhlman I am still waiting on this book… my bad for going with the cheap shipping charge… I can not wait. This is special I think. Maybe not?… won’t know until that damm book arrives…..any day now.
    Let’s do something….Ruhlman,.. put a few folks to work?….that’s a good thing.