What does a perfect steak have in common with steering a battleship? (*)
Tim Meyer covered that and much more in his sous vide “cooking show” last Saturday at Nova Labs. Sous-vide (“under vacuum”) is a cooking technique where a sealed, air-free pouch with food in it is immersed in a precisely controlled water bath for some time. Originally this method was developed for industrial food preservation (think MRE’s), and later adopted by award-winning chefs. Recently it became available to home cooking enthusiasts willing to spend anywhere from $300 to $1000 for a home version of the water bath.
Tim has demonstrated his own microcontroller-based device, put together for about $30 with components from Amazon, Harbor Freight and his own kitchen. He explained food safety considerations and complex chemical processes that happen when food is cooked for long time at low temperature. A plenty of pointers to more information was given, including tips about spices, flavors and why you need to freeze olive oil before adding it to your food in the pouch.
One of the slides was showing amazing variance in texture of soft-boiled eggs cooked with sous-vide setup at different temperatures. Half a degree makes a lot of difference: egg yolks set at lower temperature than whites, so it is possible to have a firm yellow center and runny whites.
Naturally, there was a taste test – Tim and his young assistant finished cooking a perfect rare steak, and initiated Maillard reaction using a plumbing torch. Any dish that requires the cook to use a torch must be good, right? And it was. The steak was sliced and fed to enthusiastic volunteers (the smell has even drawn 3D printing folks from the other classroom). It was delicious, and disappeared very fast.
At the end, Neal M. has demonstrated his own (over-engineered) variant of sous-vide cooker. It supports multiple modes, runs Linux, and can be controlled over the web. Naturally, it is housed in a custom laser-cut enclosure. I wouldn’t be surprised if it can post progress pictures to Instagram and tweets when the dish is done…