Sous_vide_circulator

I’m very excited to announce the publication of the latest cookbook, Under Pressure, from the team that created The French Laundry Cookbook and Bouchon—the first American cookbook to address the fundamentals and the most refined extremes of this relatively new technique: cooking food at low precise temperatures, aka cooking sous vide.

Harold McGee writes in his introduction, in the very first sentence: “This book introduces American cooks to one of the most important culinary innovations of modern times.”

Let me repeat: One of the most important culinary inventions of modern times.

McGee continues: What is this great advance?  “A way of heating foods precisely.  At last!”

Such a simple notion but an impossibility until the immersion circulator (the device pictured above) arrived in the restaurant kitchen.

Thomas
Under Pressure
is a cookbook that, first and foremost, codifies this new technique.  It addresses the three basic sous vide principles: time, temperature and pressure.  And the four basic uses: storage, marination, compression, and cooking.  And it gives a thorough rundown on safety issues (McGee consulted on all matters microscopic).

For chefs and professional cooks, the 10-page key to product-time-temperature is worth the price of the book alone ($75 retail, $47.25 from Amazon)—want to sous vide beef sirloin, chicken legs, pork belly, carrots?—the chart tells you recommended temperature for recommended time. 

And for anyone curious about the methods and various uses of sous vide—from a la minute fish cooking, to cooking tough cuts of meat for days, to vegetable cookery—Under Pressure stands to be the definitive work.  (I’m biased, of course, but still—how could it not be the definitive work?  It’s the only one out there.  … OK, there is Sous Vide by Joan Roca, translated from the Spanish, but that remains relatively obscure and costs more than $200; not to take anything away from Roca, who is hugely respected and makes sauce out of dirt.)

Deborah Jones, whose photography fills the first two books, surpasses herself (as I hope her pix here indicate). Susie Heller and Amy Vogler wrote and tested all the recipes—a heroic task.  David Hughes at Level designed the book.

Sous_vide_veg

The recipes come from Keller as well as from his long time chefs de cuisine, Corey Lee at the French Laundry and Jonathan Benno at per se.  Desserts are from executive pastry chef, based at per se, Sebastien Rouxel.  As with all the books, these are the exact recipes used in their kitchens.  Every recipe uses at least one sous vide application.
Sous_vide_mise

I'm was thrilled to have been a part of this project and am very excited to see it published.

Sous_vide_mango Above, vegetarian "steak tartare": compressed watermelon with mango "yolk."

Keller and I will be discussing the book this Friday at 4:30, at the restaurant CityZen, joined by CityZen chef Eric Zeibold, long time 2nd in command at the French Laundry (event is now sold out, sorry!), on Saturday evening at Astor Center in NYC, and at The Free Library in Philadelphia on Monday.

UPDATE: A word on plastic and safety.  Still not sure what all the fuss is about, I asked Harold McGee by email if there were some definitive answer to questions about the safety of cooking in plastic.  His reponse: no, but there doesn't seem to be anything to worry about.

"What I would say," he wrote, "is that all commercial wraps have been much tested and don't seem to pose much risk. Polyethylene in particular, the standard cling film, is made without plasticizers and is least likely to release chemicals into foods. Saran is now polyethylene (used to be PVDC). Cryovac is a proprietary sandwich of different plastic layers that apparently includes PVC or PVDC, but the food-contact layer is polyethylene."

If you're concerned, he says, call the manufacturer of the product you use.

UPDATE: I've just been sent a link to the podcast of Keller and myself at
the Free Library in Philadelphia, 11/29/08.  Click past my windy intro to hear Keller describe sous vide in his own words.)

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86 Wonderful responses to “Under Pressure: Cooking Sous Vide”

  • VacNBags

    We recently launched a website offering vacuum sealers and bags. We have a line of channel vacuum and sous vide bags which are a poly/nylon composition. The channel vacuum bags are suitable for temperatures up to 158 degrees farenheit and the sous vide bags are suitable up to 212 degrees farenheit. We can provide further specifications if you are concerned about safety, etc.

    We are offering a 10% discount on the sous vide bags is the discount code -SOUSVIDE is used. Enjoy!

  • Hal Wyman

    Check out the Beckett DP80 submersible pump for “circulating” the Sous Vide Magic water. It’s only about 3x2x2 inches with suction cups on the bottom to hold it in place. Add a short piece of 1/4″ hose with a weight on the end and now you have circulation as well. It has adjustable flow control and I use it on low flow.

  • Andy C

    This book is an awesome knowledge exchange for chefs that want a step-by-step guide for duplicating glitzy recipes using the same (expensive) equipment Keller’s staff uses. Many of us are less interested in cookbooks comprised of a collection of proven/tested recipes than in the scientific principles and processes of cooking and food safety. This book can’t be considered a technical reference, although it covers the basics well enough. Learning comes in many forms, and learning by reference (recipes) is a tried and true approach. However, extrapolating new insights and understanding from this collection of Veal and Foie Gras recipes doesn’t do much for mainstream restaurateurs and cooks who could have benefited from more discussion on the basics – English speaking or not. For instance, without any discussion of how the Product, Temperature, and Time table was developed, the Sous Vide community is rewarded with just another incomplete list. Knowing why Sirloin of Beef requires 139.1 DegF for 45 minutes versus Lamb Medallions that require 140.9 DegF for 35 minutes would seem worthy of some discussion, and without more technical discussion on vacuum, readers will conclude that vacuum, and expensive vacuum equipment are important to Sous Vide. Instead they need to know that the objective is fluid-to-fluid heat exchange. When the product includes liquid, and commercial vacuum equipment is out of reach, freezing is one alternative, and so is squeezing the air out of the bag and sealing it with no vacuum. For this reason, and rightly so, the time and temperature table doesn’t specify pressure; important technical knowledge that should jump out at the reader.

  • Jeff P

    Fascinating stuff, all the way around. Finished the Keller & Ruhlman book Under Pressure last week. Posted a review at our site: http://www.sousvidesimple.com.

    Also, use the basic home setup of sous vide magic controller + crock pot. It’s worked pretty well.

    I’ve been playing around with freezing various seasonings and flavorings – about 20 different things — mustard, a bunch of different oils, bbq sauce, molasses, soy sauce, etc.

    Since the basic consumer vacuum sealer doesn’t like liquids and most of the literature suggests freezing your seasoning in ice cube trays, I figured I’d see what freezes and how long it takes.

    Most but not all of the seasonings freeze or gel up, but some do not, no matter how long you freeze them. I document the whole experiment and all 20 seasonings I tried here:

    http://www.sousvidesimple.com/profiles/blogs/freezing-liquids-for-sous-vide

    Love to hear if anyone else has looked at this issue and what you’ve found??

    -Jeff

    P.S. I know the commercial vacuum seal units don’t have this issue, but as long as I’m using my consumer vacuum sealer I’ve got to deal with this. Unless someone has a better idea?

  • luis

    I love my Hamilton Beach slow cooker…. got a corned beef brisket going with tmp probe setting. The thing reports the internal tmp of the protein and the actual tmp.. I love it. The results when it turns off and rolls to keep warm will be outstanding. How easy is this?. This is why I want to sous vide a lot going forward. Keller’s book is in transit and I CAN NOT WAIT TO GET IT!!!!!!!!!!.
    Microwaving and plastic is an issue. But Sous Vide and plastic is not.. far as I can see.
    Freaking Ruhlman can you imagine me walking down the grocery aisle in my megamarket and picking up entire Sous Vide meals from tha frozen section and poping them into my Sous Vide slow cooker and voila… a Keller dinner in my home? Dude let’s do something… make some moola? You are right this is BIIIIIIIG!!

  • Conway Yen

    I agree with Pablo on the health issue. Compounds that leach out of plastics and into our food and water have been pretty prominent in the news lately, and it’s certainly a cause for some concern; however, I’m willing to bet that people are more worried about it now than ever before simply because they keep seeing, hearing, and reading about it in the news. Time will bring us a new carcinogen — a new villain — and the worries about the dangers of plastics will diminish. Perhaps a 21st century Horace Fletcher will emerge, espousing the many health benefits of rabid mastication and advocating a severe restriction on the amount of animal protein we all eat (dear God, I hope not)?
    Until then, I think it’s important to realize that just about everything has a negative side to it and surprising things may have carcinogenic properties. Fortunately, adult humans are fairly resilient and durable, so, to be on the safe side, as long you don’t feed kids and infants too many foods cooked sous vide or in heavy contact with conventional plastics, and stick with organically grown foods (pesticides and other chemicals, yanno. Another health concern.) then everyone should be fine.
    Furthermore, if you’re an adult who is seriously concerned about the health issues related to plastics, yet you regularly drink alcohol, I would seriously question your logic. My background is in psychology (substance abuse in particular) and the research and statistics show that alcohol is the single most dangerous substance on this planet. To drink while being worried about what leaches out of plastic seems somehow hypocritical and illogical to me — which isn’t to lecture anyone on the dangers of drinking. I drink on occasion myself. I didn’t used to. Just when I started working for the government.
    Everything in moderation. Happy eating, everyone.

  • luis

    1976 Congresional Club Cookbok!. Got one in primo condition at a estate sale in the hood for outrageous price of 1 dollar. What an outstanding collection of easy American recipes. A treasure. Keller your book better live up… I know it will can’t wait to receive it.

  • Pablo Escolar

    Ruhlman:

    Just saw Keller and you at the Astor Center. Regarding health, it is worth reminding people that the more we label everything dangerous and cancerous the harder it is for people to make educated decisions about it. We used to be convinced that cooking with microwave ovens was incredibly dangerous. Now there is one in almost every home. Also, grilling causes cancer. I haven’t see much behavioral change in whether we grill foods or not.

    I’m not saying we shouldn’t think or talk about it, but lets also put it into context and use moderation with a side order of common sense.

  • luis

    The thing is that measuring my slow cooker I see that low tmp tops out at ~ 160F and High tmp tops out at ~ 200F. More work still to come. But these are low tmps by anyone’s judgement and the threat to melt the bad out of plastic at these tmps is questionable. Specially because you just cook the protein for a limited amount of time. Anyway if Keller has the answer I will soon find out.

  • luis

    bah!, I once had a tennis coach that had a plan. Simple and twisted but a plan. He wanted to wear his body out inside out such that when his time came everything in his body would break at once. Seeing my dad suffer with alzheimers @ 94… I think the coach had point.

  • JGPavlov

    I have been interested in this technique since I saw it on some food show a couple of years back. The thermostated recirculating bath has been a standard piece of equipment in the chemistry labs I have worked in for as long as I have been working in labs. I always wondered about cooking in them.

    The use of plastic is a problem for me, however. There is real reason for the fuss. PVC based films were standard until a few years ago in home wraps(Saran changed their formulation to LDPE in 2004) and PVC is STILL the standard film in the food service industry because of its superior protective qualities. PVC films contain plasticizers which have been shown to leach into fatty foods. These plasticizers are suspected carcinogens.
    LDPE in theory does not require such plasticizers, but other chemicals are added to increase clinginess of the films. (In bags this may not be a problem as clinginess is not required.) The risks of these chemicals are not known. Bags made of layers which include PVC will have plasticizers. Even if the contact layer is not PVC the plasticizers can migrate through the layers.

    As far as tested safe, it is a good they are tested for storage, not for cooking. (Except maybe those marketed as “microwaveable”.) And frankly, when you test something, you are only likely to find those things you know to look for. I am not convinced. Until 2004 every time a chef told me to put plastic wrap on the surface of a hot custard to prevent skin formation, they were telling me to put suspected carcinogens in my food. No thanks.

    Anyway, I still might try the Sous vide. Maybe I can wrap in aluminum or parchment before I put it in the plastic.

  • luis

    Characterizing the slow cooker. Filled with water lid tightly on last night it heated slowly….I think it had reached ~160 F by the time I called it a day and turned it off.
    Understanding the slow cooker heating profile is key to applying Kellers rules for Sous Vide in the home. Hey!… something to do before they deliver the new shiny expensive cookbook. What drives me? is the set it, go to sleep and forget it thing. The fact I don’t have to cook in fat or clean a mountain of dishes.. that the flavor and proteins and vitamins have no way to escape the protein… This is exciting… I think.

  • kathleen

    Mr. Ruhlman,

    As a former Chicagoan that saw you speak with Grant Achatz at the Steppenwolf a couple of years ago, I was pining for tickets to see you at the Astor Center with Chef Keller. However, I couldn’t seem to come up with 125$.

    THANK YOU SO MUCH for coming to the Free Library in Philly, my adoptive hometown.

    I’m so thrilled, I can barely breathe!
    It’s wonderful of you both!

  • luis

    PROBLEM……..! I just realized the probe will not work as intended in the slow cooker.
    Because since the protein is immersed in water the probe will be reporting the temperature of the water and not the internal temperature of the protein.
    AGAIN another great REASON for BUYING Kellers book with the research. Use the slow cooker as an immersion blender of sorts and probe the protein with your kitchen thermomether until it reaches a safe internal temperature. I have a feeling I can mathematically correct the slow cooker duration to the Keller suggested immersion blender cooking cycle reasonably close. Again this seems doable. A couple of simple experiments will bear this out. All I need is a nice vacuum sealer and Keller’s book.

  • MessyONE

    Mark – You’re right. The lowest temperature on this thing is 165 degrees. Well, blast.

    There’s also a large black warning box in the instruction book that says:

    “Food poisoning hazard. Do not cook food in slow cooker using “Buffet” (that’s the 165) setting or if buF shows on the cooking time display. Doing so can result in food poisoning or sickness.”

    Hmmm. That label ranks up there with “Do not iron clothes on body”, right?

  • luis

    SWAIN, Thank you for the reminder. I have read about this ” cycling the product past the bad tmp zone as quickly as possible”.
    I will look further into this key safety process.

    Regarding Sous Vide cooking again with a nice caramel thermometer and a dutch oven it can be done perfectly on the stove top. Specially since the cooking times are so short, you can ice down the water if you need to keep lowest temp.
    My new Hamilton Beach slow cooker with gasket and probe can bring something to safe internal cooking temp and then alert me. What the actual diff it makes from true immersion blender… my guess is NO DIFF. Anyone here but Ruhlman and Keller might discern. Even then in a blind study my guess is neither would be able to tell the diff. It’s a doable experiment.
    The trouble is most cooks and writers of cookbooks are extremelly imprecise and inexact about writing down the exact processes.
    Case in point is the brining information that’s out there. The recipes don’t work for the most part producing a very salty product because the brining times given are mostly if not all way way too long. After many months of working on this problem I recently learned a four lb chicken takes 1 hr to brine at recipe sodium concentrations. I achieved the same result by cutting way down on the salt but keeping very long brining times which may not be as safe. Again with the brine… Just making a point of my observations regarding the imprecise cooking information out there.
    I think chefs take artistic license and overlook the fine details of the craft. Which is why most of my bookshelf is useless without carefull anotation and improvement of the results.

  • Mark Swain

    TJ – TV dinners? Are you kidding me? You have obviously not had Sous Vide. I love the 1950-60′s style (I’ve been watching MadMen lately – great show) but Sous Vide is really a modern invention. The temp is really everything. How do you like your filet? How do you like your pork? How do you like anything cooked? The perfect temp is what Sous Vide is all about.

    Sous Vide is many things but one thing it’s not is a TV dinner!

    —–SWAIN:::——–

  • luis

    Kate, yesterday before going on… I was sitting around reading as usual and some young guy came up and was interested in what I was reading again… A recipe booklet or some such thing… He concluded… Luis reading about food is like reading about porn for you!. I had no comment but perhaps that’s what some folks like to do? Cook? Eat? Enjoy?….Imagine.. taste.. design… and never feel like you have it covered… So many ingredients and soo many variations…and so many techniques… You can really dive deep into food.. way beyond tribal menus. Or you can do something else???

  • tj

    So now we’re using energy twice to cook our food? Once for the “cooking” and yet again for the painstaking “reheat”?

    Now we’ve invented a whole new way to churn through mountains of plastics and petroleum products?

    Now we’re back to the old-style TV dinners that asked you to boil packages in pots of water?

    And we’re paying this much money for it, on the pretense that it’s the latest, greatest thing?

    Whatever happened to just cooking the food fucking properly?

    Does anyone — or any food — really merit another drain of time and energy? I can see it now — a world full of suckers, boiling bags of food, and then bitching about the environment.

    Bad, bad idea.

  • Mark Swain

    MessyONE – Hey just wondering what temp ranges your getting on your slower cooker? I’ve tried many and can’t get them under 170F? Sous Vide is most below 150F Again if yours is going below I would like to know which one so that I can tell friends.

  • Kate in the NW

    OMG. I used to think I was a “serious home cook” because I cook much more (and sometimes much better) than many of my friends, but you folks are a whole other species.

    This is just beyond me.

    What do you people DO all day????!!!! (professional chefs excepted).

    I am not a slacker. I make my own stock. I go to the farmers’ market. I feed my family fresh, mostly organic, local-when-I-can food. I have been known to attempt the occasional all-day recipe.

    But sous-vide? Nuh-uh. I agree with the playing-with-fire comment. Sous-vide is just too…STERILE for me (no un-pun intended). I will happily eat it – seek it out, even – in restaurants, so I can experience it, but at home? No. I really doubt that this will be a home-cooking revolution, unless someone can make it cheaper, faster, and easier than the microwave. It’s hard enough just getting people to use their stovetop. And the plastic-use thing does concern me.

    Plus, fire is fun. And low-temperature things sealed in plastic? Not so much. They’re just not sexy. Until they’re unwrapped, maybe. I don’t know. I will definitely try it – when it’s produced by a professional.

    The book looks lovely, though. Congratulations!

  • MessyONE

    For those that have commented on slow cookers, the newest/hottest/sexiest one I could find is by Kitchenaid. I had meant to buy the Cuisinart version, but one look is all it took to change my mind.

    1. The Kitchenaid has minimal controls – you don’t have to feel like you’re piloting the Space Shuttle when you just want to cook at X temp for Y hours. Also, there’s less that can go wrong. I’m always dubious about complicated controls on a machine that’s going to see a lot of use.

    2. The Cuisinart doesn’t have a soft gasket around the lid. This means when it’s on, the lid is constantly vibrating loudly against the ceramic insert. Kitchenaid is not only silent, the gasket is easily replaceable.

    3. Kitchenaid makes a bigger pot. Seven quarts is better than six(? can’t remember).

    4. It’s a few bucks cheaper.

  • Mark Swain

    — Luis

    If your cooking sous vide…or…..this also work for other left overs….

    An ice bath after cooking helps chill the food (in a bag). Keep what you want to eat that night but put the rest in a ice bath as soon as you can.

    The main issue is getting the product/fish/meat through the bad temp zone as soon as possible. If it’s chilled bellow that range your good.

    =====SWAIN:::———-

  • Karin (Grew up in Cleveland and miss it in VA)

    Congrats to you. Please pass along the same to Susie – another Cleveland girl done good!!

  • Kanani

    Luis, I wish you’d get a blog so we could see what you do.

    I think once books like this come out and interest is piqued, then manufacturers will jump on the bandwagon to make the process more affordable and accessible. If it were something I’d use a lot, then the $500 would be worth it. The real issue is devoting the time to understanding and doing.

  • luis

    Rebecca T. of HonestMeat, You want safe? Try the new Hamilton Beach slow cookers. Same Same but safe. Totally safe. My eggplant Parmigianne is all tucked in and taking a slow tmp ride for the next five hrs. Come tomorrow I will wake up to a great safe meal. the difference is that I can wait the five hrs… Restaurants Sous Vide is done in real time for the customer rigth there that momemt.
    It’s not for everyone and kids perhaps most of you should not try it at home.

  • Heather

    I’m still trying to find a way to get away with using regular lab equipment instead of throwing down for the immersion circulator thingy. But if McGee says so, I guess…

  • luis

    NYCook, Let me spell it out Ny.. Keller gets primo fish as he well should. Supermarket fish is … what it is. Good but not Keller good. Things happen in the megamarkets.. use your imagination. Taking the fish and the protein to its FDA agreed upon safe temp works for me. Besides not being a calibrated chef palate means I am very very happy with the result. Taste fantastic. Don’t know if this will make sense to folks but it works for me and again I see no downside in my fish flavors and textures. My biggest issue anymore is that I cook then I eat a bit..save the rest and most of the time leftovers are way degraded from fresh cooked meals. I am to the point that I cook and I eat and I trash great food… It’s a waste but consider the alternative. How many times do I need to eat the same thing in one week?.

  • milo

    “With all the talk about Bisphenol-A and other plasticizers that disrupt the hormones, cause cancer, etc., how can cooking with plastic bags be safe?”

    If it is safe, I assume it’s because some plastics are safer than others, some leach chemicals and some don’t (at least assuming the latest studies are correct).

    I have been using less plastic for food, still some for storage but no more for cooking – they say some are safe but I’d rather avoid taking any chances.

  • Rebecca T. of HonestMeat

    With all the talk about Bisphenol-A and other plasticizers that disrupt the hormones, cause cancer, etc., how can cooking with plastic bags be safe? Is there any companies making vacuum seal bags that are completely safe?

  • Smoking Isn't Harmful

    Ishmael: You should try to quit to cooking food in plastic bags. They say its bad for your heart, your lungs. It quickens the aging process.

    Roy: Yeah, well who’s done more research than the good people at the American Plastic Bag Association? They say its harmless. Why would they lie? If you’re dead, you can’t buy more plastic bags.

  • Mark Swain

    Well,

    I’m sure many of you like to eat at nice restaurants around the US and well there is Sous Vide going on. Not in every kitchen by any means but in California many of the high-end place that I have been in the last few years had one or two things on the menu cooked Sous Vide. If you ordered it I bet you didn’t even notice, well besides it tasting amazing. As more see the many benefits of Sous Vide (perfectly cooked products, less product loss, etc….) I think many more restaurants will start using the method.

    *Note, sometimes on a menu they call it “poached” instead of Sous Vide? Not really correct but I guess it’s kind of like poaching? There is liquid involved? I think they use the poaching term because it sounds like a normal cooking method. Telling a customer the dish is cooked Sous Vide either excites them or freaks them out! So next time your at a nice place ask if their poached steak or fish is cooked Sous Vide?
    ——
    Veron – Ya. A loin would have worked much better for your Sous Vide experiments. The leg of lamb would have worked with a much longer cooking time and a bag that sealed better, food saver would work. The loins cook much faster thus the plastic wrap works ok for the dish. I would give it another try with loins and I think you will have a much better experience.
    ——–
    Chad – Thanks for the passing on the tip about a quick boil to kill all the little bugs. I’ve not tried that in the past but I have tried a quick sear before bagging and that actually give the meat a nice grilled flavor while its cooking. For fish I tend to stick to the vodka and/or vinegar.

    =====SWAIN::::—–

  • Andrew

    You can put liquid into the bag with a food saver, it’s just harder. The way to do it is to freeze the liquid first. Seal it up, and then let it thaw in the fridge.

    I use an older version of the sous vide magic controller and a crockpot for great results. I do it probably 3 or 4 times a month. It’s changed the way I do confit!

  • Karen Tedesco

    I use FoodSaver bags to package meals for some of my clients. They are made of polyethylene plastic, which, depending on the source, either has no known health risk or is a suspected carcinogen. Who really knows?

    I personally love sous vide as a method, but probably wouldn’t choose to eat food cooked that way on a regular basis, just to be on the safe side.

    I’m eager to dig in to the new book, however, even if only for food porn enlightenment.

  • dorette

    looks totally fabulous – and loved experiencing the method at trotter’s and alinea last may- does anyone here know what is the photo of on the cover????

  • ruhlman

    NYCook, on page 130 of the book is a recipe for foie-stuffed quail in a jar. See that method–sounds similar to what you’re looking for.

  • Heather

    I picked up two tickets for DC yesterday, too. I’m really pysched to see the three of you at CityZen! Thanks for the tip; I’d never heard of the sponsoring organization, The American Institute of Wine and Food, before.

  • Dick Black

    The more people who embrace this method of cooking will mean that a “home” sous vide set up will get cheaper much faster.
    Actually I am quite surprised to learn Keller is working with an outfit to bring it in under $500.00. I think you could probably do it for much much less.
    Look at the price of a high end personal coffee systems and how they plunged when the competition heated up.

  • NYCook

    MR or fellow chefs not to long ago my Sous Chef at a place I was working explainied a Foie preperation he did where they would put Foie in a mason jar with some salt, brandy, and pink salt and let it cure for a few days, allownig the Foie to marinate and release some of it’s juices, the mason jar with the Foie was then put into an immersion circulator and poached at a low temperature untill cooked.

    I was in the process of leaving this restaurant and he was brand new and we were just chatting casually during pre-service prep so I didn’t press him on it at the time figuring I could just learn more about it on the internet, but I have searched high and low and can’t find anything on this technique and I was wondering if you know a preperation similar to what im talking about or mabey could help point me in the right direction.

  • NYCook

    This is a really cool book, and has been making the rounds amongst the cooks in our kitchen, whats so great about Sous Vide is the amount of options it allows for, and the precision. As a Chef you want/need to be in control of EVERYTHING and this allows for one less thing to worry about, because if you know the times and temps it’s pretty much set it and forget it, without variables such as oven temp-non/wrongly calabrated ovens- and human error.
    Louis if you buy local in season fish you shouldn’t have to worry about getting sick, even if your fish is “undercooked”. But I would tend to believe that Thomas Keller knows what a properly cooked piece of fish should be temped at, and how long one should cook it and at what temp.

  • Lisa

    I know that some people use glass canning jars instead of plastic, and I wish more was published about the use of jars.

    I own a vacuum sealer, the wide-mouth jar sealing attachment, and a bunch of jars. -This set up has been useful in eliminating kitchen moths from supplies of dry foods, so use the jars and sealer all the time.

    As a vegetarian, I also wish that more was published about cooking vegetables in this manner.

  • milo

    How does energy use compare with sous vide versus other cooking methods? Temperatures generally seem to be much lower, but seems like much longer cooking times.

  • carri

    Last year, Ruhlman and I had a short discussion about the subject of cooking in plastic, so to try to back up my concerns, I did a little research and did find a study done on the effects of plastic in sous vide applications. The result was inconclusive, no tracable chemicals had leeched into the food. (needless to say, i ate a little crow) I will try to find the actual study and link it here. I do still feel a little uncomfortable even just with the waste factor this presents, not to mention the expense of getting started. I have to say that when I quiz ‘non-foodies’ about this method they say “cooking in plastic? are you kidding me?” Perhaps this book will give it the attention it deserves and all those MAVERICKS out there something new to try!

  • Frances

    Is all that plastic biodegradable? Our household is in the midst of a very frustrating battle to minimize packaging and unnecessary waste. It kind of bugs me that the latest food rage is … more plastic.

  • Derek

    Michael –

    Thanks for the reply. Sous vide is very interesting, but I’m still figuring out to poach an egg properly, so I think I can wait a while until equipment prices drop before diving in.

  • milo

    I have to agree that I’m skeptical about the safety of cooking in plastic (moving away from reheating in any plastic in the microwave and got rid of my plastic water bottles), and especially using that much plastic and throwing it away (or even recycling).

    I wonder if someone will invent a reusable container to do this sort of thing? Otherwise I can’t see doing it on a regular basis.

  • chadzilla

    Ok… one more comment.
    Swain brought up another great point above about pouring vodka and/or vinegar over meats before bagging to kill of any bacterial threats. This is important, although their is another way.
    Blumenthal suggests (and this is written elsewhere also… as in Bruno Goussault’s studies) that enzymes are the culprit in a lot of sous-vide meat that ends up with a livery flavor and/or texture. What happens is that the cooking temp is not high enough to kill the enzymes, but definitely high enough to greatly speed up their activity… which is changing the nature of the meat. Blumenthal’s way around this is to do a quick 3 second dip in 80ºC water (or a simmering pot on the stove) immediately after bagging. This will destroy any bacteria and enzymes on the meat’s surface. Afterwards, proceed to cooking the meat at the normal desired temperature. There is another method to destroying the enzymes, but it involves freezing at an extremely low temperature very quickly. So, unless you can afford to also purchase a holding tank and dewer for liquid nitrogen, then stick to the simmering water technique.
    Besides, vodka or vinegar will definitely impart their flavor onto the meat, and that’s not always desirable.

  • chadzilla

    … also, please check out the site below if you are interested in an economical way to set-up for sous-vide cooking in your own kitchen.
    http://chadzilla.typepad.com/chadzilla/2008/04/altering-the-ho.html
    The ‘sous-vide magic’ device at culinary solutions is great for most home purposes. With enough support, this unit in conjunction with the Keller book (and other great books on the subject) could become a revolution in home cooking. There are many dishes that could be bagged and dropped far ahead of time, and opened and finished upon waking up or returning from work for a truly exceptional upgrade in home cooking.

  • chadzilla

    Sorry for the multiple postings, but…
    The sous-vide Magic sells at Fresh Meals Solutions, not Cuisine Solutions as I stated.
    Swain had already mentioned it above, so I’m throwing in my endorsement as well.
    The economy is tough right now, but for under $500 total investment, you can buy a Food Saver, Sous-Vide Magic, and a compatible rice cooker… about half the price of a single thermocirculator from Polyscience.

  • Andy Coan

    Thanks Michael, that’s a good way of looking at it. No different, really than walking away from the oven with a chicken roasting, or a pot of stock simmering away. Just more like the future. :)

  • chadzilla

    I fully subscribe and endorse everything you’ve stated, Michael… but, please take the time to read the ‘meat cookery’ section of the Fat Duck Cookbook until you hit the chapter on ‘ice cream science.’ I’ve cooked a lot of things sous-vide and read a lot about the subject, but Heston Blumenthal’s short section may be worth another $65.00 after Chef Keller’s. If they only sold it in small condensed versions designed to be carried and read on the go instead of a reinforced stone desk large enough to support the massive thing.

  • Mark Swain

    Any chance your doing talks in California as well?

    I’m in Southern California but would drive up north for one of your talks.

    —–

    Wondering why Veron’s (the comment above) Lamb sous vide didn’t work? What didn’t work about it? Try the lamb using the olive oil poaching method I posted above. It’s easer to control if you don’t have all the gadgets.

    —–

    Duck confit. Yes you need less fat but a little does help the cooking process. For steaks and fish I almost always add a little bit of butter inside the bag. Not only does it help the cooking but you can also make a quick pan sauce.

    ——–

    Thanks again for the post. Just happy people are starting to talk about sous vide in the home. Again not a chef and I’ve been cooking this way for over three years. I can be done!

    ====SWAIN::::—-

  • veron

    Luis – I don’t have a microwave in the kitchen…we decided we didn’t use it enough to keep one. :D
    Michael – I did cook Michel Richard’s lamb sous vide …I was not very successful with it. It’s great that you emailed Harold Mcgee to weigh in on the plastic health issue. I really want to try duck confit sous vide since you do not need all that fat …I read you can just seal the leg in the plastic without any extra fat.

  • Mary

    Wow. I’d love to hear you talk, as well. Any plans to come to Toronto. Any do you foresee practical application of sous vide in the amateur chef’s kitchem?

  • ruhlman

    –peter, yes, i wrote the book, as ever in conversation with Thomas, Corey, Jonathan, and Sebastien. The latter three more or less wrote their own intros and i edited them (much to their credit; for that and many other reasons, i admire them enormousely).

    –Derek and others. how practical is sous vide at home without all the equipment? good questions. it depends how comfortable you are in the kitchen. there are ways to achieve the same effects with just plastic wrap (or just oil). foodsavers work well for sealing. the circulator though is great because it maintains exact temps, and you can wrap food in plastic if you want. Keller and Polyscience are working on a circulator that they can sell for under $500, so that’s a step in the right direction. The technique doesn’t require an investment of thousands of dollars. but yes, hundreds to do consistently. the chamber vacuum sealers are very expensive, and you need one of those to vacuum seal liquids. in michel richard’s book, Happy in the Kitchen, he has lots of sous vide style cooking using just plastic wrap.

    –about the plastic wrap and cooking in plastic. i think people worry too much. basically, the rule is, better not to cook with anything containing PVCs. So use Saran Cling Plus and Saran Premium. Food bags from the sealer companies should be fine at these low temps (always well below boiling). I’d like to know what the fears are exactly—what cells in your body will the plastic hurt? I’ve emailed Dr. Mcgee for more info and will weigh in if/when i get it.

    –andy, no it doesn’t take the fun out of cooking because, as is addressed in the book, all the things you do to the food before and after it comes out of the bag is the cooking part. Some short ribs i now have cooking at 56 degrees C. for three days, i think i will barbecue to reheat, though i could bread and fry. it’s every bit as elemental and satisfying to cook sous vide.

  • Victoria

    MR, I have the seen the book, and it is truly beautiful. A third wonder.

    I hope you will personally address the concern about plastic someone raised above, which is my major reservation about this cooking method. ?

  • Mark Swain

    A slow cooker is a good idea but the lowest most of them will go is about 170 – 200 degrees.

    A rice cooker with the Sous Vide Magic controller on the other hand will hold a perfect temp. The controller has a temp probe, you set the temp you want, and the device turns the cooker on and off to maintain it. Not all devices/cookers work with the controller as the cooker must not “rest” when you unplug it. In other words if you can turn on your cooker, start it up in cook mode, unplug it, then plug it back in and its still on then it will work. If it resets after unplugging then it will not. Or another way to tell is if the device has a computer on the front most of the time it will just reset when the plug is pulled. Many rice cookers do not reset thus work with sous vide magic. Or I use my mini deep fryer by Cuisinart.

    freshmealssolutions.com

    It works pretty good and is only $129 + Rice Cooker or I use a small deep fryer with the controller. This setup works really well for butter poaching or olive poaching! I know I can put my $900 circulator in a vat of butter and it will work fine but using the SM controller and my small deep frying I use about a 10th the butter!

    If you don’t want to spring for a polyscience circulator (which does work much better) or hunt for one on ebay (I found a really nice circulating bath on ebay for $300) then this controller is the next best thing.

    =====SWAIN:::::——-

  • brandy

    I am intrigued by the technique and I have no doubt that the book is beautiful and interesting — but, what about all of the plastic waste generated by the process?

  • luis

    And home cooks.. I am pretty sure that using my new Hamilton Beach slow cooker with temp probe programming I can bring every thing to the tmp it’s recommended safe at. Also I think I can use plastic zip lock bags with an outer layer of cling wrap and be 110% drip free and safe. The tmp probe is your guarantee. I am NOT so sure I wish to cook Salmon to an internal tmp of 124 deg in 15 min.. but I have all the confidence to bring it to 135 take it out and yes… it may carry higher.. big effing deal… It will be deliciously safe without playing Vegas with my health.

  • luis

    veron , based on yours and others folks concerns here… you might consider Barbara Kafka’s Microwave Gourmet. Same healthy, same cook mostly in its juices but collagen might be roughed up a bit more.. so texture? may not be same same. However nutritional I think is same same. In the micro there are few leaching out vitamins and other good things concerns. I love the microwave as much as the stove top and the slow cooker and all other things good.

  • SWAIN::::------

    Ok.

    For those that don’t like the plastic bags or have any of the gadgets this method produces something close, not the same as sous vide, but close. Before the alternate method I must say that Sous Vide truly changed the way I think and cook food. I am not a chef. I’m just a home cook and I do think there is a market sometime in the future for sous vide at home. If you have the time and means I would highly suggest learning the technique. It does take a bit of time to learn and a few gadgets but you will not be sorry!

    Now for a great method that I’m sure many have tried already but thought I would suggest it because the results are similar to Sous Vide.

    I had great reservations about making this dish, but I’m telling you this is a great steak (salmon works great as well but cook for only 20-25 minutes). And its actually super simple to make, just takes a bunch of olive oil.

    2-4 fillet mignon (or salmon)
    6-8 garlic cloves, sliced thin.
    Herbs fresh or dried (thyme, rosemary, or your fav)
    1/2+ bottle of Olive Oil.
    Salt & Pepper to taste.

    Salt and pepper the steaks, and place them in a small dish so they are not touching. Next add the herbs (full sprigs or dried), and the garlic. Now don’t stop reading on the next step! Cover the steaks in olive oil (I use the big bottles from costco, takes a lot of oil), to cover the steaks. Yes cover the steaks in olive oil. Place on a sheet pan and place in the oven at 225. In about 25 minutes turn steaks over, and cook another 20-25 minutes or until the temp is about 130-140 depending on how you like it. Remove the steaks and sear both sides in a pan or on the grill. The reward for doing all of this and wasting a bunch of olive oil is when you slice the steaks and see that they are PERFECTLY pink from edge to edge! The texture and flavor is amazing, just soft butter like meat perfectly cooked with all of its juices.

    Enjoy.

    =====SWAIN:::————

  • Andy Coan

    So am I the only one who thinks this takes all the primal, playing-with-fire and touching your food joy out of cooking? I’m sure the results are delicious, but I can’t see ever wanting to do this in my home kitchen.

  • Stephanie

    Thanks for the heads up – I picked up the last two tickets and will be at CityZen on Friday.

  • Sean

    The company that comes out with an immersion circulator at a price that’s affordable for the average home cook will have found the keys to the castle. I’m hoping that the ubiquity of the process — on Top Chef, at good restaurants, with this book — will spur innovation. We may have to wait for the recession to end, but I feel like sous vide will be de rigeur sooner rather than later.

  • veron

    Peter and Sharon – I am also concerned with the plastic chemicals leaching into the food. When I was at the food science class taught by Harold McGee this was one of the questions I wrote out.
    It was never answered.
    And then I sent a question to the Polyscience site – the makers of the thermal circulators- asking about a heat-safe plastic i can use with their circulators as there was that water bottle safety issue that just came out -
    again no answer.
    So if somebody can give a definitive answer to this , it will be greatly appreciated.

  • SWAIN::::------

    A few things….

    This is a great book with lots of helpful time and temp tips. Although the temps seem a little on the high side for some items. But still a great guide.

    As for the the gadgets. I started cooking sous vide at home about 3-4 years ago using a food saver vacuum sealer and a nice thermometer. I’ve talked to many chefs who still use this method. I did upgrade to a polyscience circulator and that really did help. Or there is another device called “Sous Vide Magic” which does not circulate the water bath but does keep the water at a set temp. I have one of these as well and it works great for cooking or poaching items like lobster in butter without using bags (see the book for the method). Either of these combined with the food saver sealer worked perfectly for me at home.

    Last year I stepped up to a pro-vacuum sealer from Multivac and it’s much better than the food saver but it did cost $2,600. And it’s big. It has a very powerful motor that allows for other cooking method as well such as compression and vacuum brining/marinading.

    As for the plastic. The food saver bags will go up to 170 degrees range and the bags used for sous vide with a pro-vacuum sealer are cook and chill bags that go up to 212 range. So with a food saver bag I would stay away from high temp dishes. Both are food safe at these temps. I have heard that some have had issues with the food saver bags but for shorter cook times (like a steak between 1-4 hours @ 55-57c, fish 20-30 minutes @ 50 – 51c) the bags work fine. I did try a pork belly for 48 hours with a food saver bag and it did get a little weak. But pork belly is cooked at 68c for a really long time. This is where the pro-bags that go up to 212 help.

    One other tip to help with food safety that I do is poor a cheap vodka and then a cheap vinegar over what ever I’m cooking before I place it in the vacuum bag. This is just something I do to help kill anything that might be on the out side of the meat product. Does anyone else do this practice.

    Hope these tips help. And do buy the book!

  • Hugh Hancock

    Derek – I’ve got the book and also cook sous-vide on a regular basis, and my impression is that it would certainly be very difficult to cook most of the recipes without at least some and preferably quite a lot of investment.

    The recipes appear to all be intended to use a chamber vacuum sealer and a professional water bath, which I believe is the setup used at Keller’s restaurants. Chamber vacuum sealers have the advantage over cheaper home vacuum sealers that they can seal liquid into a bag as well as solids, and that advantage is used in most of the recipes. Some of the recipes could be adapted to use frozen sauces, but I don’t know how well that would work – it might affect both the flavour and the coverage of the sauce.

    Unfortunately, chamber sealers cost about $2,000. Most home sous-vide cooks use something like a FoodSaver ($100), and it would have been nice to see some recipes adapted for this sort of device.

    (BTW, Sharon – all the evidence suggests that FoodSavers and similar use plastic which doesn’t degrade at sous-vide temperatures, so you’re safe. There’s no practical way to sous-vide without using plastic that I’m aware of).

    You don’t necessarily need a water bath or circulator to cook the recipes, although a few of them are quite precise on the required temperature, or use cooking times well in excess of most people’s patience. I can’t imagine anyone maintaining the temperature of a stove-top pot for 24 hours straight for beef tongue, for example. However, you could either use a circulator ($1000, more or less) or a cheaper “Sous-Vide Magic” machine with a rice cooker ($300 approx).

    There’s a lot of information on sous-vide on the Web, including quite a lot of the temperatures recommended for meats, in particular. Start with http://www.egullet.com (search for “sous-vide”), or try Douglas Baldwin’s excellent guide at http://amath.colorado.edu/~baldwind/sous-vide.html

    (Personal plug – my cookery show also has focussed on low-cost/no-cost sous-vide in the past, notably in http://www.kamikazecookery.com/films/2 and http://www.kamikazecookery.com/films/7 )

    I must admit, I found “Under Pressure” a little disappointing as far as home sous-vide cooking goes. There’s a thread on the book over at Egullet at http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=116482&st=30 , which may be interesting reading.

  • swillmonkey

    Sharon, I’m thinking you’ll be okay since it is food grade plastic.

    Sounds like a great book, too bad those units are so expensive, I think the winery I work for invested close to $6K on one….not sure I would want to try to jury rig something.

  • Peter Steinberg

    Three things:

    1. Congratulations! The book looks lovely and informative. I expect this book will find it’s way under a lot of chistmas trees this year.

    2. What was your role in the book? I love, love, love your writing but I notice that this is listed as written by Keller. Were you the writer behind the writer?

    3. Does McGee address the safety of cooking food for extended periods in hot water in plastic? I, like many others, are somewhat concerned about the leaching of plastic into my food.

    Congrats again!

    Peter
    FlashlightWorthy.com
    Recommending books so good, they’ll keep you up past your bedtime. ;)

  • Derek

    One of the Amazon commenters wrote that the recipes cannot be made using normal home kitchen equipment and suggested a cook would need to invest in several thousand dollars of pro-quality equipment to use the book. Is that accurate?

  • Sharon Aikers

    Is there a way to cook this way without plastic? I’m a little concerned as it is with plastic leaching harmful chemicals into my food.

  • veron

    I have the book! It looks gorgeous…although some of the pages were stuck together :(.
    I was a little disappointed that he did not have a section that made it more possible to do it at home without the thermal circulator. I guess to do it with a thermometer and non-commercial vacuum sealer will not be that safe specially for bacterial growth which he discussed very carefull- so I guess I understand his point of not going that route.

  • Russ H

    Thanks! You just helped me complete my christmas shopping for my brother the chef!

  • luis

    I think I may be purchasing this book. This technique can be easily done at home with a vacuum pack machine and a caramel thermomether on the stove top.

    As with any new technique I am concerned with the low cooking temps and even more with the low cooking times for some proteins such as fish.

    It does cook them in their own juices and preserves their textures (collagen) but hey ~124 degrees for 15 min for salmon steaks?..Hmm not sure about that outside a restaurant setting were very little is under control.

    My new crockpot has a temperature probe that guarantees the process stops when the internal temperature hits the tmp setting and sets off an audible alarm. Great feature.

    Now the laboratory prototype looking machine in MR’s picture handles ONE tmp at a time. Perhaps more useful versions are already out at the restaurants or on the design boards.

    At home its no big deal stove top, slow cooker, oven, toaster oven.. a can of sterno can all be used to layer cook your entire meal. In the comercial kitchen too for that matter. The key as Michael suggests is the tables of cooking times vs ingredient mass that we may find in this book. The research.. the hard work that went in.. that’s the VALUE of a detailed technique book.

    I tend to avoid techniques that are like this heavily dependent on time vs mass and tmp. Microwaving is just like this but on steroids. Sous Vide by its gentle nature should be much more forgiving and easier for the home cook I think.

    Also Sous Vide is very very Pritickin like.. it requires almost no oil or fat to cook anything. This I like very very much. GOOD ONE RUHLMAN….