ghetto sous-vide

Why walk when you can run? Or to put it in a more cooking-centric manner, if it’s good enough for Heston Blumenthal et al, then it’s good enough for me.

After watching many an hour of Heston’s Feasts (or Great British Menu or Hell’s Kitchen or…, yeah, you get the picture), I’d noticed that a particular cooking method was particularly en vogue at the moment – sous-vide. You know the method, that one where they take an incredibly good looking piece of meat and vacuum seal it and then pop it into a temperature controlled water-bath. An hour (or three) passes and they retrieve the bag of meaty goodness and plate it up. The piece of meat that looks so incredible you (briefly) consider crash tackling your television with an animal-like desire (or perhaps trade a sibling / partner / parent) so that you might possess and consume the delicious morsel. Yeah, that method.

After seeing sous-vide used by the best and brightest chefs on multiple occasions my interest was piqued, but unless I happened to find myself trapped in a commercial kitchen overnight (you remember! those childhood fantasies where you get trapped in the toy store at night and run amok) I’d have little chance of getting to ascend to cooking nirvana that the sous-vide method would grant me. That was until I stumbled upon Cook Your Meat in a Beer Cooler: The World’s Best (and Cheapest) Sous-Vide Hack.

To say I was excited about the hack would be a massive understatement; I may have ranted to my partner about the wondrousness of sous-vide le coól boxe (French for sous-vide in an Esky) on more than one occasion. Incessantly. Relentlessly.

Thus I was forbidden to talk about it, on pain of death.

Now, given my proclivity to talk (especially about things that interest me), for my own safety I felt it was best to dip my toes (terrible pun intended) into the sous-vide water as soon as possible.

So on a particularly lazy Sunday, with the blessing of the ‘missus’, I set out to pick up my apparatus.

For the ‘hack’ you require very few things:

  • Esky (or any suitable insulated vessel)
  • thermometer
  • zip-lock bags
  • measuring jug
  • meat!

 ghetto sous-vide apparatus

So after scuttling about trying to locate the required equipment (every store had sold out of cooking thermometers, apparently), I was down to the important decision – the cut of meat! I had already picked beef as the animal, wanting to cook an ‘epic’ steak, but I was less decided on the cut; a tough cut that could be made better through the long cooking, or a good cut that could be sous-vided to excellence.

I chose the latter, getting a nice looking t-bone.

So with all the required pieces I sourced, I returned home to prepare my experiment. Now the procedure is straightforward enough – place your cuts of meat into the zip-lock bags, remove all air from the bag, and seal. This is quite an important step for two reasons – firstly, the bag of meaty goodness won’t sink and settle with air in it. Secondly, and more importantly, air is a poor conductor of heat, meaning your meat will take longer to cook and will cook less evenly.

So with the meat sealed, I set about getting the ‘oven’ prepared.>

Now in the recipe I was following it called for the steak to be cooked at 54C for one hour. So after scratching my head to recall Year 12 physics I came out with a handy rule of thumb: equal parts boiling water and cold tap water will result in combined temperature just south of 60C. Being a punctilious soul that I am that was close enough for me!

So the meat was dropped in, timer set, and thumbs twiddled. Sixty minutes later I returned to this find this ‘beauty’.

 cooked t-bone

Now while she may not have been stunning with a less-than-perfect appearance it did have a beautiful even cook throughout, just as sous-vide promises. The meat was juicy and perfectly medium rare.

 nice and bloody

To ‘gussy’ her up and make her look as beautiful on the outside as in I decided to place it on a smoking griddle plate to brown off and give it grill lines. This is step is mostly cosmetic – the only comment against sous-vide being that the low temperature isn’t sufficiently high to melt the fat.

But, no matter – a minute on the griddle on each side made her beautiful!

 ghetto sous-vide t-bone (with hand model)

Now to the important part, the taste! Knowing I wouldn’t be an impartial judge (c’mon, she’s my baby…err…girl), I enlisted my partner to be the taster. To put it delicately she inhaled it, which in my books is a big endorsement.

I found the experience entirely satisfying and I will definitely be sous-videing again, whether it be ghetto or otherwise and to honest the whole experience makes me feel just a little bit fancy – watch out Heston, here I come!

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13 thoughts on “ghetto sous-vide

  1. Gem

    Oh the deliciousness – so tender AND juicy. And the best thing is, nearly everyone has an Esky so it can be tried by pretty much everyone.

  2. Billy

    Awesome work! Looks like a lot of fun. I wonder if a crock-pot/slow cooker would have a low enough temperature setting to sous vide?

  3. Tristan

    @billy it’s funny (but unsurprising) that you mentioned that – it seems to be the most common question people ask. The consensus among ghetto sous-viders is that a crock-pot / slow cooker doesn’t have a fine enough temperature control, and is potentially too hot. That is unless you’re prepared for a ghetto mod of your slow cooker 😉

  4. pg

    Holy epic esky, batman. That is pure awesomeness right there!! I am so going to try this.

  5. Agnes

    I am definitely trying this too 😀 I don’t have an esky, but I have a thermal pot which I’m sure will do the same job. Very nice grill lines, btw!

  6. Adrian @ Food Rehab

    gosh, don’t you love that ‘first cut’ into the steak?! And those grill marks…nice!

  7. tristankenney

    @agnes I’m sure a thermal pot would work for you :)@adrian as you can see by the hand blur @snarkattack (who was sampling the steak) was more than eager 🙂

  8. Gem

    @food_rehab yeah, I was the lucky bastard who got to cut into that beauty and also ‘taste’ it for research purposes. Hard life, I tell you.

  9. Gem

    @offthespork if you use your thermal pot, you should blog it so we can see how it turned out! 🙂

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