March 7, 2019 at 8:06 am #888434
Since Greg is our resident Sous Vide expert (and invariably helpful), I’ll assume he will respond to this.
Greg, I’ve been thinking of getting an Accu Slim circulator, so I have been reading up on them — mostly the Cooks Illustrated, Serious Eats, and Sansaire websites. I would welcome your thoughts.
I want a plain device that will not require my phone or social media. Would like to cook fish and the occasional poultry a couple of times a week for one or two people. My first choice would be an Anova, because it’s an established company for this device. However, I suspect you got your older Anova in a better era, as there seem to be a number of complaints about the current connected models, but the older unconnected model seems to be cherished by people who still have them. As you may already know, both the Anova and the Accu Slim were well reviewed at Serious Eats:
I haven’t figured out yet if the current Anova models can be operated entirely phone- and social media-free.
My only hesitancy with the Accu Slim would be (1) Not many Amazon reviews, mostly from people who got free circulators (2) Instant pots don’t seem to last long (along with other brands of electric pressure cookers), so why expect the company’s circulator to last at least several years? Is an inexpensive circulator less likely to break down than an inexpensive electric PC because it is a simpler machine?
I’ve also been looking at these open top silicone bags. I read somewhere that a vacuum isn’t necessary when cooking fish, so these bags seem like a good solution for someone who is suspicious that in a decade or so it will be found out that Sous Vide plastics are not as safe as we thought. Sorry for the longish link :
(Laura made it shorter ; )
Any thoughts, Greg?March 7, 2019 at 11:27 pm #888444
Me helpful? I really have to do something about my image round here. :P
I have a total of four Sous Vide units. All of them Anova.
1. Original Anova unit. Still going strong after all these years. Except for one hiccup that I have learned to work around.
2. Anova One. As far as I can tell, This is just the Original Anova rebranded when they brought out the Precision Cooker. No longer available. I odn’t use this ione. i simply keep it as a spare
3. Anova Precision Cooker. Original Bluetooth model. Worked a treat until it started to blow house fuses. One day I will pull it apart and work out what went wrong and hopefully fix it. The clamping system it uses is simply brilliant.
4. Anova Nano. The smallest of the lot. It lives in a drawer in the kitchen, but I hardly ever use it. Under powered. Limited range of pots it can connect to. Very plasticky. Doesn’t hold temperature as well as the others. I wouldn’t trust it with eggs, but everything else should be OK. I won’t replace it when it dies.
The problem I had with the original was that it suddenly stopped running, and would not even respond to “Turn it off and on” It displayed some sort of glyph on startup and otherwise behaved like a brick. It stayed in this comatose state for several days. During which time I had contacted Anova and they had sent out a replacement unit (The Anova One). TYhat was also when I ordered the Precision Cooker as I had already realised that Sousvide was a technique I was not going to want to live without. I have since worked out that the electronics were cooking when I used it with a lid on my pot above 90°C (very rare) and that by keeping the lid off my pot, it would continue to behave up to over 95° Since water boils here at 96° that is more than hot enough. It just cost me a little more to run because of the heat loss.
Both my Precision Cooker(APC) and my Nano have bluetooth. The newer model of the APC also has WiFi. But not my model. Both can be run without. And I do. Frankly, the App is a pain. Much easier (on the APC) to twirl the thumb dial and hit start. Lovely design. I will say the App is a handy source of recipes, but for actual cooking, I use the device controls every time. I also NEVER use the inbuilt timer. Far more convenient to use one of my many kitchen timers. Or just a clock. With a few exceptions (Eggs!!!), cooking sous vide is not at all time critical. 15 hour Cook? I want to eat at 19:00? That means I put the machine on at 03:30, and the food in at 04:00. Ugh. That’s bloody inconvenient. No matter I’ll just bung it on before I go to bed. It works out fine. In general I find I can blow out the time by double before I start to see noticeable degradation in the result. Pretty handy when the guests arrive late.
Neither the Joule nor the Accu Slim is available in my neck of the woods. So I cannot really comment much on them. But Kenji’s comment that the Joule stops working if the connection to the internet goes down is a real red flag to me. That is just dumb dumb DUMB. It also means that the smarts are not in the device itself, so it cannot be fixed by a software update. I know you are not interested in the Joule anyway, but others reading may be. I was until I saw that titbit.
The Accu Slim looks like a good unit on paper. At least as good as the APC. And Kenji’s test appears to bear that out. I do worry about reliability though. This is often sacrificed in low priced items. Still Instant Pot do have a good reputation for after sales service. And I cannot say the reliability I have seen from Anova is stellar. Though their after sales service is.
The one aspect of the APC I would miss (and still do with mine broken) is the adjustable clamp. I have successfully cooked with it in everything from a 0.5 litre (pint) saucepan to a 60litre kitchen sink. You would want to make sure that the AS will fit the pots YOU want to cook with.
I wouldn’t worry about the time to temperature. You can always start with hot water. I usually do. Maintaining temperature OTOH is critical. That is what one of these devices is all about.
Any more questions?March 13, 2019 at 11:03 am #888457
@laura, thanks for doctoring my unwieldy link earlier. :-)
Greg, I kept getting Service Unavailable messages instead of the Hip site for days, so this response has been on the slow train.
Your description of your fleet of Anova circulators was exactly what I was interested in knowing. Thanks for taking the time to describe their longevity and current usefulness. It strengthens my impression that the older models had a better track record than the newer ones.
The fixed clamp on the Accu Slim would be a step down from the Anova. But I think it would work on several pots I have. And I don’t know if I am patient enough to wait until the next Black Friday to get killer deal for the APC. So I will probably get the Accu-Slim and cross my fingers on quality.
I share your exasperation with designs that may spoil your food if the Internet or Bluetooth connection is interrupted. Wouldn’t that problem also fall under the You Had One Job meme? I don’t see why it gets a pass.
I can see how for what you cook, sous vide was a game changer. I don’t cook large lumps of meat — just quicker cooking fish steaks and occasional poultry parts. The attraction isn’t as much time-shifting the start times as it is cooking these things properly without babysitting them.
Years ago I looked into sous vide as an alternate method, but nixed it when I read the only silicon bags available didn’t work well. The seal tended to leak. What’s changed is there are more brands of silicon bags out there now. So what do you know about how well silicon bags work?
Those I linked to above seem improved over old designs: No corners or zip locks to harbor bacteria/food bits from old cooks. If they last a reasonable amount of time, they would seem a doable alternative to plastic. But I wonder about bacterial buildup on silicone. Of course you would invert and wash them after each use, but would you need to boil the bags after each use as well? They wouldn’t be getting heated to very high temperatures for just fish and eggs.
Also, I’m not entirely clear on how I would close these bags up. I was thinking maybe the water pressure would keep the bag pressed closed if I made sure the fish stayed under the surface. (Do fish steaks float?) What do you think, oh sous vide Great One? :-)March 14, 2019 at 8:12 am #888462
I haven’t played with the silicon bags. The few that were available when I started out looked extremely questionable. The ones you linked to look much better.
I started off using zip lock bags – I still use them now and again – but they are plagued by leakages, so don’t use them if you want your food dry. Then I moved to a side pull vacuum system. These work well but have a nasty habit of pulling any marinade out of the bag. They also need special quilted bags to work. Captive market = high prices. I broke two before I gave up on them. I finally moved on to a proper chamber vacuum – mine is by PolyScience so I am hopeful of quality though it is the bottom of their range. Very expensive though and it is a monster of a box. It sits on the bathroom bench. Luckily we are empty nesters and Pam is very forgiving of my peculiar habits. It works brilliantly and has a range of vacuum settings so most foods and marinades work well. It also uses both clear (heavy duty!) plastic bags and the quilted ones for the side pull machines. Just as well as I have a heap left over from my old machines.
That all said, those Silicone bags you linked to look great. Yes the water pressure will displace the air and hold them shut. Just fold the top over the side of the container and peg them in place – I use heavy duty spring clamps – the type sold in hardware stores for woodworking. You don’t need the really big ones. As long as they will go over the rim of your container they will work fine. Even a clothes peg will work if your container doesn’t have much of a rim. What you won’t be able to do is vacuum seal the food and freeze it until you are ready to use it. Food keeps pretty much indefinitely when stored this way. I will buy a dozen or so salmon fillets, add some oil and a few herbs seal and freeze them. Then use them over the next several months. likewise steak. I know you don’t eat it – neither does Pam – but I will buy a bunch of them every six months or so, then have maybe one a month. They go straight from the freezer to the Sous Vide, so they go through the danger zone very quickly indeed.
I am sure those silicone bags will wash and re-use well. We actually re-use the vacuum bags a few times. You lose an inch or so each time you vacuum seal so their re-use is limited, but since they have sharp corners that are hard to clean properly, it is probably just as well. Those rounded seals on the bags you linked to should work well.
One thing I do use that I love are the polypropylene balls that float on the top. they insulate really well and cut down on both water loss (important on long cooks) and electricity usage. Plus You can slide the bags straight through them. I tried ping pong balls first, but they didn’t last long and smelled terrible.
Late here now. Will sign off and come back to the topic tomorrow or the next day.March 19, 2019 at 10:45 pm #888488
Greg, it was encouraging to read your optimism on the Silicon bags. I’ve decided to try them.
I have to say that although I expressed lukewarm enthusiasm for the time-shifting aspect of sous vide, the more I think about it, the more convenient I can see it being. No more having to defrost fish. Pasteurized eggs for mayonnaise!
A few days ago I was looking over the Accu Slim owners’ manual. It says to cool anything you don’t plan to eat right away in an ice bath. Makes me wonder if low temperature-cooked sous vide leftovers, such as fish, are more prone to bacterial growth. Typically when I make salmon I make enough for two or three and finish the remaining portions in the next couple of days. Do you think it’s riskier doing this with sous vide fish than cooking it conventionally.
Your lifestyle of pulling portions from the freezer to sous vide each day sounds great. But my small freezer compartment is so stuffed lately that despite organizing the contents, I’m having to slam the door to close it. I’ll have to see how the silicon bags do first.
ATK did a show on sous vide a few weeks ago that devoted a segment to reassuring viewers that food grade plastic — in particular, Ziploc freezer bags — are safe. So, where do the Ziplocs tend to leak? Corners? Side seams? I suspect the silicone bags will puncture after a while, so depending on how long they last and how many times I’m willing to shell out $21 for just two bags, I might migrate to plastic eventually. I suppose one could test for leaks by filling the Ziplocs with water first. My kitchen (and bathroom :-P) are too full of stuff already to consider a vacuum device.
Polycarbonate balls. Do you think they make a significant difference in holding temperature for short cooks such as an hour or two? I have no idea now expensive running an 800 watt device for an hour or two would be. Does it run continuously, or cycle on and off as needed? And I looked up the balls on Amazon. Some cost twice as much. Are some better quality than others? Just trying to figure out if they are worth getting for what I plan to do. I wonder if they’d help much in summer to keep my place cool. (Didn’t you folks just have the hottest summer in your recorded history? You would know.)
You’ve been a sous vide enthusiast for some years now, Greg. It’s nice to get some answers from someone with experience. I don’t know anyone else using this technique. I suspect overtasked working teachers don’t do much home cooking.March 20, 2019 at 6:05 pm #888499
Part 1 – Chilling
With the exception of seafood, I don’t think leftovers are any more prone to bacterial spoilage than any other method of cooking. Bacterial contamination tends to start on the surface, and most sous vide is done at temperatures sufficiently high to kill bacteria on the surface relatively quickly. What I think is happening is that we are becoming more aware of, and more scared of spoilage. Certainly, I know people who will look at a use by date and throw it out if it is even a day later. Me I sniff first then decide. Sometimes I throw things out BEFORE the use by date. More often I keep things well beyond. Further manufacturers are becoming more aware of litigation. By including an admonition like this, they stave off most potential law suits.
Seafood is a special case. (I only have experience with fish, but I think it also applies to lobster, shrimp etc.) Fish is cooked at a temperature sufficiently low that bacteria will not be completely killed off within the cooking timeframe. So the shorter the period it remains in the danger zone the better. If I was planning on seafood leftovers, I would definitely quick chill it.
However, I rarely have leftovers. I package food I intend to sous vide in meal sized portions. It gets cooked and eaten pretty much immediately it comes out of the waterbath. The one exception is sausages. Pam has sausages when I have steak – about once a month. Because she likes the sausages cooked at 62°C and I like my steak at 55°C, I precook the snags when I vacuum pack them and before they go in the freezer. I do prechill them in water, but I use cold tap water not ice water. We don’t keep enough ice on hand to use it this way regularly. If it is a hot day (we don’t have central heating or air conditioning), I will either use water from the fridge, or toss a few ice cubes in. When I cook the steak, the pre-cooked sausages go in too and get reheated to 55°C.March 20, 2019 at 6:45 pm #888500
Part 2 – Balls
I cannot comment on the relative quality of sous vide balls. I have only bought them once, so don’t have experience of different brands. I will say that it would be easy to make cheaper ones by making the walls thinner, but have no idea if that would shorten their life. When I bought mine, it was early days and I really only had one choice : I got them from Modernist Cuisine – I note they don’t sell them anymore. Because they were very expensive, I put off buying them. I tried a number of other cheaper options first: Cling film (don’t go there), bubble wrap (or there!), ping pong balls (they worked well, but had a short life span) Cutting a hole in a lid – works but it meant I could only use one pot if I wanted to limit evaporation.
Does it reduce electricity costs? Yes! My 1000W original Anova uses less electricity than a lightbulb when averaged over a long cook. The energy saving will be less on shorter cooks, but it will still be there. The water will come up to temperature faster, and need less energy to keep it there with some form of insulation over the top. As a lot of heat is lost through evaporation (the hottest, fastest moving molecules will be the ones that escape), I suspect that a lid of some kind is more important than insulated side walls. Though I generally use both.
Does it reduce water use: Yes!. I only rarely do long (multi day) cooks, but when I do, I no longer even bother to check if the water needs topping up. Before I went to balls, I had to top it up twice a day.
Convenience: Balls are a “pass though” lid. Just drop the food in. No need to lift anything off. I usually try to leave a corner of the bag sitting above the balls so I can just lift it out too. If it happens to fall all the way in, no big deal. If the temperature is less than 60°C I just put my hand in and fish it out. If it is hotter, I use tongs. That can be more difficult as 1. You cannot see through the balls so it is a bit of a lucky dip. And 2. sometimes the balls get into the jawas of the tongs which means they don’t close properly.
Storage: I mention this because I often see comments about balls being difficult to store in a small kitchen. I can only think these comments are made by people who don’t use them. I store mine in my main SV cooking pot. They effectively take up no space at all. If I want that pot for something else (rarely happens!), I just transfer them to a bowl or colander temporarily. I do that when I want to dry them out thoroughly too.
Does it heat the kitchen? This extends beyond the balls, and it is time for breakfast, so I think I will make this topic part 3.March 20, 2019 at 7:52 pm #888501
Part 3: Does it heat the kitchen?
Well yes. Every method of cooking known to mankind does. Except a barbecue as that happens outside the kitchen. It still heats its environment though. If you don’t want to heat the kitchen, don’t cook.
However it heats the kitchen LESS than any other method I can think of. Even salads if you keep those ingredients in a refrigerator. Or make warm salads.
Sous Vide is an incredibly efficient method of transferring heat to food. there is very little wasted heat. Even less if you use an insulated container with balls. If I cook beetroot at 86°C (and I do) I can put my hand on the pot after an hour and it feels only vaguely warm. I cannot say the same thing if I bake them in the oven. Or even pressure cook them.
Speaking of baking, I had a “roast” dinner last night. It was for two as usual, so I just used a small rolled chump of lamb (no leftovers :) ) which I cooked sous vide for 14 hours at 58°C, then blowtorched to add some external charring. I had some rosemary and garlic in the bag with it. Pam thought it was the best roast lamb she had ever eaten. Personally I thought it was a bit mushy – a complaint I have heard about SV meats, but have never experienced before. I will cook it for 12 hours next time.
For sides, I did “roast” potatoes. I quartered a few potatoes, then pressure cooked them for a bit less time than I usually do for mash. I intended to finish them in the oven along with the lamb, but I had a brain wave. I decided to treat them as chips (fries to you) I started by air drying them. Then realised I could speed that process by putting them in the chamber vacuum to pull the moisture out. I just sat them on a bag in there to keep the insides clean, and turned the sealing cycle off. Then I deep fried them at 170°C for a few minutes, vacuum dried them again, then refried them at 190°C. They were brilliant. In hindsight, I realised these were effectively Heston Blumenthal’s world famous triple cooked chips writ large. I also microwaved some frozen peas.
For the gravy, instead of the usual instant mix, I sautéed a finely chopped shallot in butter, added some Cabernet Sauvignon (left over from the previous night’s meal) And reduced it to syrup, then added half a cup of chicken stock and reduced that too. When the lamb was ready, I poured the juices from the bag in too and reduced again. My best gravy ever!!!!
And all heating the kitchen far less than if I had put the oven on for two hours to cook it conventionally.March 23, 2019 at 3:48 am #888514
Part 4 – Other stuff.
Hi Suzanne, I have been rereading your questions and my answers. I have realised i have missed a few.
A. Ziplock bags: These tend to leak along the side seams AND in the corners. Corners are most common. Better quality (name brands/more expensive) tend to give better results but I have had first time failures with every brand I have tried. The “fill the bag and see if it drips” test tends not to be a reliable indicator either. As i freeze stuff routinely, I tend to remove as much air as possible using the water displacement method before putting it in the freezer. If it is still air free after a few days, the bag is nearly always good. If not I rebag the now frozen item in a “proper” vacuum seal bag.
B. Silicone bags. I don’t think you need to boil them between uses. As long as you clean them thoroughly, bacteria shouldn’t live on the silicone itself as it is not an organic (carbon based) material. If you are worried, maybe add a few drops of bleach to the final rinse water. As mentioned I re-use plastic bags a few times (though I have given up on Zip Locks). After washing out, I put them out on the clothesline for a day to get a good dose of ultraviolet. I appreciate that probalby wouldn’t work so well for you in your winters. :P
C. Pasteurised Eggs. Yes it works, but as with all things egg, it is very time and temperature critical. Too long or too hot and the whites go cloudy and don’t whisk as well. I have gone back to raw eggs and immediate use.
D. Water pressure closure. It works well. Not quite as efficient as the vacuum pump, but more than sufficient for most purposes. The bags need to be very flexible though. I still use it for delicate things like fish (I have been experimenting with low pressure on the Vaccum and it seem to work fine) and mince patties – Have a look at Kenji’s Sous Vide hamburgers. Brilliant. But lots of fiddle so I don’t do them often.
E. Containers. You don’t have to use bags. If there is enough liquid inside, then a jar will work well. I use small wide mouth mason jars for Creme Brulee and similar. Slightly larger ones if I am trying for a confit. It would probably work well for scrambled eggs too, but I have gone back to stovetop for that.March 23, 2019 at 8:20 pm #888515
As it happens, I was making yoghurt yesterday when my Anova One spat the dummy and announced “System Error”. Mad panic as I was also cooking Laura’s Mac’nCheese and that waits for no man, woman or child.
I handed the pasta over to Pam and quickly swapped the Anova units. Crisis averted and dinner was delicious too. Thanks again Laura.
This morning yoghurt was finished and fine. And I had a close look at the dodgy unit. There was some sort of matted material wrapped around the impeller. I removed it and a bit more caught in the other bits and have run a test. So far it looks fine.
Incidentally, Yoghurt is based on Laura’s IP recipe:
Heat whole milk from cold to 92°C and hold one hour. Cool to 35°C, adding a tablespoon or two of culture starter once the milk drops below 38°C, then maintain at 35°C for 12 – 18 hours until yoghurt has set. Mine was set in 12 hours.March 24, 2019 at 1:34 pm #888518
Spring break has started! Now I can relax and order this stuff. Greg, you’ve been more than terrific with your info and advice.
Yes, clothes lines haven’t been in business here since November. We had the most snow in recorded history by about 10 inches in my state this last February. Snow was piled in mountains in parking lots. Walking on shoveled sidewalks was like being a mouse in a maze with snow walls higher than my waist. People who pride themselves on their expertise and stoicism in extreme weather started whining. Now it’s melting fast. I can take off across a field. I feel like I can breathe again.
My Instant Pot Mini does an okay job with yogurt, although the best yogurt I’ve made was in a large jar mostly submerged in 110-degree F water with a temperature probe in a cook pot in the oven, essentially a sous vide setup without circulation. The probe would alarm when the water cooled by several degrees, and I’d switch on the oven for under a minute to rewarm the water, about every 1.5 hours. Worked nicely because the milk was warmed from all sides, and the yogurt had excellent flavor. But those wire probes had short lives, so I didn’t replace them, and maintaining the oven temperature manually was a pain.
The Instant Pot process for yogurt is convenient because it is set-it-and-forget-it, but the yogurt is warmed from the bottom only. So I put in cultured milk at 110 degrees and 9 hours later the bottom temps at 110 degrees and the top at 100 degrees (102 if I stack towels on top of the IP). You can taste that the yogurt closer to the top is underdeveloped, even though it has set up. Stir it up, though, and in a day or so in the fridge it is good enough. I decided not to fuss over it.
Incubating yogurt is the only job I give my Instant Pot. Why be bothered with stinky seals, slower operation generally, and a unit that dies prematurely, when a stovetop cooker works better and lasts forever? I can’t get my head around moving stuff a traditional burner does well enough — hard boiled eggs, reheating leftovers (microwave does it even better), and steaming stuff — as many do, to an appliance that has the lifespan of a mayfly. Hmm. . . end of winter rant?
Sous vide ball management
How do you efficiently corral the balls and keep them from escaping all over? I keep remembering a TV show from my childhood in which a Moose puppet (Mr. Moose) repeatedly tricked a human character (Mr. Green Jeans) into saying a trip word that resulted in a rain of ping pong balls bouncing and rolling everywhere. I don’t want to be Mr. Green Jeans with that exasperated look on his face.
“Sometimes the balls get into the [jawas] of the tongs.” This made me chuckle. Interesting how a made-up word from a blockbuster film ranks more probable in your autocorrect than a word in common English usage since 1375 AD.
I’m thinking I’ll try using a All-Clad soup pot. It’s got a stainless steel interior with thickish (about 4 cm) aluminum on the outside. Would you consider that to be insulated? After I finish a soup in that pot it stays hot for a long time with the lid off.
Mostly, I want sous vide for fish. Is it feasible to cook fish steaks in jars? And do frozen fish steaks — in bags — float?
Sterilizing silicon bags
I hadn’t thought of bleach for keeping the bags sterile. Very practical.
You said, “My 1000W original Anova uses less electricity than a lightbulb when averaged over a long cook.” This is a head scratcher for me. My wretched-at-physics brain would think, “Okay, 1000 watts, so the unit uses as much electricity as 10 100-watt light bulbs drawing power continuously.” That seems like a lot of electricity. What am I missing?
I need pasteurized yolks only. Just want to make mayo, not meringues. I’ll use the whites in an egg scramble. I do covet your very fresh home grown eggs, though. That’s another downside to living in the U.S.– salmonella eggs AND Trump. :-(
Heston Blumenthal chips a la Greg
You are having fun with your new chamber vacuum, aren’t you? Side pull or chamber vacuum, it’s all Greek to me. I don’t understand how it can dry stuff out. But your description of your lamb and chips (and peas) dinner strikes me as a kitchen gadget tour de force. Circulator, vacuum unit, pressure cooker, blow torch and microwave all in play. (Does the burner used for the gravy count?) Encore, maestro! :-)March 25, 2019 at 12:56 am #888520
The key word with the 1000W Anova is averaged. The heater unit draws 1000W when it is switched on, but the thermostat in the unit switches it on and off all the time to maintain temperature. Just as you do when you make yoghurt in your oven. Only the machine controls it so you don’t have to. The only parts running all the time are the stirrer fan and the control electronics. Even the display switches off after a while. Incidentally, you will find the sous vide will come very close to the all over heat your oven provides. And it will maintain that heat much more precisely. You may well find yourself retiring your IP altogether.
Sadly, our very fresh eggs are as thing of the past for now. Our last chook died late last year. We will get some more, but we want to do some travelling before we do. And for now, the cancer treatment is putting the travel plans on hold, but I have just gone on to a clinical trial of a new drug. That may free us up – ideally we will have three week slices for travel depending on how the drug messes with me.
Fish: it should be possible to cook fish in jars. You will need to fill the jar with oil, so they will end up confit. Or you could try water or stock in which case the result will be “poached”. Not sue if the fish will float or not, and don’t have any on hand right now to check. But if they do, just toss some ceramic pie weights in the bottom of the bag, or clip a bulldog clip on the outside so the bag will sink.
Aluminium is actually a VERY good conductor (Number four after copper – #1, silver – #2 and gold – #3). That’s why is is so popular for cookware. However, Stainless is very poor. That is probably what is giving you the effective insulation. Kuhn Rikon make a composite pot called a Duratherm which consists of a steel pot you cook in, and a separate insulated pot to drop the steel pot in to extend the cooking time. But for my money, a beer cooler works just as well if not better.
As long as the balls stay in the tub, they are well contained. When I want to take them out, I use a spider (A Chinese long handled cooking skimmer – I am trying to avoid links, so google “spider (utensil)”). Every now and then, one or two balls escape when I am pulling a bag out, but it is no big deal to catch them and put them back.
An extra 10″ of snow. My mind boggles. We have snow maybe once every two or three years. IT has been three since our last, and then it didn’t even settle. Just soggy flakes in the air.
Funny you should mention Salmonella eggs. There was news of an outbreak on a farm in Victoria on last night’s news. We don’t have a Trump though. So we only have to contend with the lesser of two evils ;) But normally, I don’t think twice about using raw eggs. Our food safety programs are second to none. That is why such an event made it to the National news. Id have have some gripes about it though. We are not allowed to have unpasteurised cheeses for example.
As for vacuum drying, if you lower air pressure, boiling point also drops. You you put liquid in a jar at room temperature, then pull a vacuum on it, it WILL boil. If the liquid is inside a potato, it will still hasten evaporation, and so dry the potato out faster. You can also achieve the same thing by putting them uncovered into a freezer. The dry air in there will dry the potatoes out too, just not as fast or effectively. Maybe not your overfull freezer though.
Side Pull Vs Chamber.
Side pull consist of a sealing bar (hot strip) and a cheap vacuum pump (think aquarium air pump). The air pump pulls the air out of the bag, then the heat strip kicks in to seal the bag. Because the have to pull the air over a permanently shut bar, the bags have to have channels in them so the air can get out. And they invariably have the bag at the side of the unit as the vacuum they pull is not very strong. Hence my name for them. They have two main advantages: 1. they are very cheap as they are mostly plastic; and 2. they don’t take up much space: Mine used to live in a drawer on the kitchen.. A chamber vacuum is a much bigger unit.m They have a well (chamber) (duh!) that the air is pulled out of. The bag is in the well, and so it doesn’t really matter what the bag is made of. They do use a similar heat sealing method so some sort of plastic bag is invariably used. Because the bag sits in a well, liquids can be used as it does not get sucked into the workings of the machine. Great for marinades and the like. They also tend to be better for delicate things as they have superior vacuum pumps that have adjustable settings.March 25, 2019 at 7:46 pm #888522
Yay! I just ordered the Accu Slim and silicon bags! I’m sold on the plastic balls, but they will be one less thing to return if the project goes pear shaped. No doubt I will get them shortly if all goes well. I’ll improvise meanwhile with aluminum foil and maybe a folded towel over it for my brief cooks. You can tell me if this is a bad idea.
You said, “the thermostat in the unit switches it on and off all the time to maintain temperature.” Yes, that’s what I was wondering. So insulation=less switching on=lower energy use. Got it.
I think we in the U.S. are allowed some unpasteurized cheeses if they are aged enough. I can buy — and have — some aged raw milk domestic cheeses. And I think some aged imported cheeses get through. But we have restrictions. I don’t see in local high-end cheese shops the sort of cheeses I saw in Paris that looked like some old bit that had tumbled out of a trash can. Maybe just as well. But a raw milk aged cheddar from grass-fed organic cows with apple wedges is a thing of beauty. I live in dairy country so a raw milk cheddar is more affordable than the $25/lb imported or domestic artisanal domestic cheeses that I sample at Whole Foods. (The best thing about Whole Foods is their cheese samples. You can put a few items in your basket, swing by the cheese counter, and be in cheese heaven without bartering your first-born child.)
Thank you for elucidating vacuum devices for me. I googled Polyscience ones: the 300 series one goes for about $750 here. Ouch! I’m crossing my fingers on the pricey silicon bags! Must be nice to have a vacuum device that works really well after two imperfect ones. It’s fun having the kitchen technology you want.
I tried a new minestrone recipe this morning. The preparation went smoothly, but the soup was just okay. Maybe it will improve overnight. Oh well, variety is its own reward.
Now that your very hot summer is behind you, I hope your travel materializes soon. Where are you and Peg wanting to ramble?March 26, 2019 at 7:33 am #888523
Pam. Not Peg.
Travel is looking less likely this year too.
Originally, the plan was to walk the Nakasendo Way in Japan LAST YEAR. The Nakasendo Way is the old toll road running through the mountains from Kyoto to Edo (Tokyo) at the end of the Samurai era. The plan was for an autumn (Fall) walk to see the maples changing colour. My diagnosis last year put paid to that so the plan was altered to this year. Then we realised that the Rugby World Cup was being held in Japan this year at the time we planned to be travelling. So we looked at alternatives. My Number two walk is the Witches Trail in Germany. This crosses from the old West Germany into East Germany and because of this quirk of history is one of the less spoiled regions in Europe. There are genuinely wild areas and more or less untouched medieval villages in the region. Of course, tourism has had its impact in the last thirty years or so, but it is a region largely unknown outside Germany. So hopefully it is not too spoiled. We kept the plan of the Autumn walk, but in this case to avoid most of the Summer tourists.
Until we know the details of my treatment, we cannot book anything. And even then, the side effects are a largely unknown quantity, so we are thinking of delaying until next year. 2020 has the Olympics in Japan, so the Harz Mountains (Witches Trail)
remains at the top of the list.
I am very jealous of your cheeses, even if you can only get a few “raw” Cheddars. Here even cooked cheeses like Parmesan and Mozzarella must be made from pasteurised milk. Sigh.
And yes, I got the 300 series PolyScience unit. Ouch indeed. But I am beginning to see more and more uses for it. and the FoodSaver Units I was going through every couple of years were costing me over $200 each anyway. And then the bags are more expensive too. I look forward to seeing your opinion on the Silicone bags when you get to play with them.
Foil will certainly help with the evaporation losses, and the towel will help insulation, but I anticipate much swearing at the fiddliness. Especially when you drop the towel in the “drink”.March 28, 2019 at 12:08 am #888528
The Accu Slim arrived in time for supper today!
Looking at the unit, the build quality looks excellent — quite solid. Supposedly the element cover on the bottom half comes off easily, but I haven’t figured out how, and nothing in the manual on it. The gripes about two things — the faint volume of the beeps and the hard-to-see print of the cooking times in the manual are valid. But everything else seems great. It heated and maintained temperature well and the user interface was easy to learn and use. The clamp fits my 5-quart soup pot nicely. I was pleased.
The silicone bags are larger and thicker than I expected, not nearly as flexible as plastic bags, but they seem serviceable. I tried one with a tail fillet of salmon. (My least favorite part of the fish, so good for learning.) I cooked it from frozen for about 50 minutes, but put it in during the warmup from 115 to 135 degrees F. Turned it down from 135 to 130 after 20 minutes after seeing excessive white protein coagulation. Will try 130 the whole time tomorrow, and maybe 125 the day after. The rest of the fish is an inch thick in the thickest parts, twice as thick as the tail.
Then I put it briefly in a hot skillet with olive oil and fish spice. The skin stuck to the seasoned iron skillet and the spices globbed up on the skinless side, not integrating well into the fish when flipped over on top of the stuck-on skin. The fish seemed overcooked, but tails are usually a bit chewy anyway. It was reasonably edible, considering I knew next to nothing about what I was doing.
How much do you increase the cook time for fish that is frozen? Any salmon or fish tips would be welcome.
Listening to the BBC, sounds like bad cheese news in France and heavy rain in parts of your country. It’s past bedtime here, so more on sous vide and cheese tomorrow.March 28, 2019 at 1:23 am #888529
Realized the rest of that side of salmon minus the tail was still softening up in the refrigerator, so had to portion out and put back in the freezer before it defrosted.
I struggled a bit with getting the fish to stay submerged once the circulator was running. I used a C-clamp to loosely secure the bag down from the rim of the pot about an inch, which helped, but the fish was still pretty close to the surface. I’m puzzling on this because I don’t think I can clamp the silicone as tightly as you would plastic, and binder or bulldog clips are pretty tight. Maybe a phone call to the bag company tomorrow is in order.
Your travel plans with Pam sound wonderful. Here where I live, Fall with deciduous trees turning is the best, but very brief, season for taking walks. I appreciate it because I grew up in evergreen forest with a sprinkling of aspen. No reds and oranges. I hope your treatment is friendly enough to allow your trip to Germany this year.March 28, 2019 at 1:28 am #888530
I cook salmon at 50.5°C (Just beginning to flake). I prefer it at 50°C. (still gelatinous) Pam prefers it at 51°(flaky).
50.5°C is about 123°F so I am not surprised you found the fish overcooked.
From fridge temperature, I go about half an hour. From Frozen , I allow an extra half an hour for defrosting. but as I have said before, time is not hugely critical for most things sous vide as long as what you are cooking has enough time to come to temperature.
For cooking times and temps, talk to me or Kenji. Chef Steps also has a “Map of Sous Vide” which does a great job of showing the relationship of time and temperature.
With those Silcone bags as thick as you say, you may need to add a few extra minutes. Also if they do not conform to the contours of the fish well, you will get areas that do not cook as well. Adding some oil will help overcome this.
Beeping appliances annoy me, so I would see faint beeping as a plus.
As for the cover, both the Anova One and the Precision use a bayonet system – push up and turn a bit, then pull down. So try that. The Nano has a non-removable cover – another red flag.March 28, 2019 at 2:02 am #888531
As a general guide to temperature, Set the circulator to whatever you want the final internal temperature to be, or maybe a degree higher (speeds up cooking, but makes timing more critical). what you cook will end up at that temperature edge to edge, and there is no need to rest as there is with conventional cooking.
If the fish stays close to the top of the water but still under, that shouldn’t be a big deal. The circulator uses a stirrer to ensure that all the water is the same temperature or very nearly so. If it worries you, weigh it down somehow: Metal clips, a spoon in the bag, pie weights, glass beads. Whatever you have to hand really – as long as it is denser than water and more or less inert.
I am not a big fish eater, but the few varieties I have tried all seem happy with the same 50°C setting or maybe just a degree or two higher. But I have never had success with searing it after cooking, so these days I tend to just add a sauce over the top. Pam is not a fan of crispy skin anyway – she always peels it off on the rare occasions I succeed. As for the spices, just sprinkle it on once the fish hits the plate.
It is raining hard up north. Two Cyclones (think Hurricane) hit the coast within a day of each other. They are now downgraded to “rain depressions” but as long as it is not a complete flood, the farmers will be happy. We live well south of it and are seeing sunny skies for now. The rain will probably come in a few days, but we will only get the tail end of it.March 28, 2019 at 5:53 pm #888533
Thanks for your timings, Greg. With your coaching, I am slowly starting to feel less like a clown in Julia Child’s kitchen.
The silicone bags rep directed me to a video of someone cooking pork for carnitas for two days. Made me wonder, why does anyone cook a cut of meat for days instead of hours? It sounds like most of your meat cookery has gone to sous vide. People rave about how tender pressure cooking makes meat in a relatively short period of time. Why have you opted to take longer to cook it using sous vide, other than the convenience?
Instant Pot told me how to take off the element cover off but then said doing so will void the warranty. The buzz online is that one of the pros of this unit is that the cover is removable for cleaning the mechanics. Best not get them mucky the first year, then. :-/
I will check out the Chef Steps “Map of Sous Vide” in the next couple of days. Are the Kenji timings you recommend at Serious Eats?
I’ll try the salmon at 125 F tonight (an hour from now!). I wanted to get the fish right before playing with simple flavorings. I’ll heat the fish spice mix in some olive oil and drizzle it on the finished fish, because the spices taste better cooked. May eventually go to searing the outside of the fish with spices before sous vide to roast the spices and get some browning.
Back to the bags: Because the silicone is less flexible than plastic, it’s a bit more fiddley to get the air bubbles out, particularly along the sides of the fish. I’m guessing that as long as the top and bottom surfaces are bubble-free, the sides are not a concern. I am finding the bags a bit large for single servings and the excess bag makes it more of a process to get most of the air out. We’ll see if I become more deft with them with practice. But I’ll also take a look online for smaller bags. Putting in something irregularly shaped like a spoon might make it harder to work the bubbles out, but will try it tonight. Also, the bag rep said clamp them as tightly as you like. So no fuss there.
More later.March 28, 2019 at 8:54 pm #888534
The fish was much better cooked at 125 F! I get the middle in that ballpark occasionally in my iron skillet, but only with vigilance and luck, so I’m pleased with tonight’s result!
I did manage to burn the spices in oil in the skillet when I got distracted for about half a minute. Oh well, the fish was great without them. It was great to tuck the fish in the pot and then turn my attention to preparing other parts of the meal in a relaxed way. The spoon in the bag was just the ticket for adding some ballast to the floaty fish and did not harbor air bubbles. I’m looking forward to trying simple (a couple of items stuck in the bag) recipes.
I should note Instant Pot also gave me some helpful answers to questions in addition to the one described above.March 28, 2019 at 10:05 pm #888535
I did a little digging around on Serious eats. I came across this:
I used DOT for . and SLASH for / to get around the moderation delay – I hope.
Laura’s issues are making that delay a little long
I mostly agree with what he has written, but I don’t add as much time as he does to cook from frozen. I must try his searing method though. The blow torch method I usually use doesn’t work for fish.March 28, 2019 at 10:20 pm #888536
Got this, so your link workaround must be working. I’ll take a look at this tomorrow when the day is new — I’m yawning my face off now. Your link sounds promising. Thanks again.March 29, 2019 at 12:59 am #888538
And thank you.
While poking around, I found a method for fermenting Dosa batter using a circulator. I will be trying that within a week. It is remarkably similar to my yoghurt method. Understandable really as they are both fermentation processes.
Dosai are what Crepe Suzettes want to be when they grow up.March 30, 2019 at 12:14 am #888541
I read your Kenji link on salmon today. Am excited to try his dry brining method. And appreciated his detailed timings and, as always, his rigorous testings. I’ll find a lot to play with in this article. And despite his abiding loyalty to his cast iron skillet, I noticed he sears his salmon in a carbon steel pan. Shocker.
Another great thing about this technique and fish is that I don’t have to worry about the belly flap, the tastiest part, getting over-cooked because it is thinner than the rest. I’d taken to cutting it off and cooking it separately. No need to fuss now.
I took the day off sous vide. I’d popped the other half of yesterday’s cook in the freezer for a few minutes to quick chill it, but forgot about it. So had to defrost it today, but it was still better than my usual.
Will follow your dosa-making with interest. I’d noted people use Instant Pots for this, but a circulator will no doubt be more accurate maintaining the correct temperature. Mostly I’m curious about what you will fill them with and if they stink while fermenting.
Your comment on dosas put me in mind of the summer after my junior year in college when I worked at a restaurant called The Crepe Shop, both as cook and as waitress. Most of my cook shift was spent making or filling crepes. For my waitress shift we had to learn about the wines on offer — my favorite was the Merlot rose, so much so that at the end of summer I bought a box of a dozen and tied it to the back of my bicycle to ferry home for potlucks. NO breakage. I still get chuffed thinking about it.
Crepe Suzanne grew up to move on from pale rose to full-bodied reds, but not in the dozens; from swirling crepe batter deftly to managing classrooms of feckless adolescents; and from setting out the apple and Cheddar and Jack cheese appetizers to acquiring a shocking number of imported cheese samples from cheesemongers at Whole Foods who have a lot of stamina for people like me. And I wasn’t a dosa last I looked. ;-)March 30, 2019 at 7:19 pm #888543
Now Suzanne, I would NEVER think of you as Crepe! :D
I do get wine by the dozen. But only because I maintain a website for a friend of mine. He does a Small Winemakers Tasting Dozen once a quarter that he delivers on a subscription basis. I get each dozen from him so I can photograph them for the website. Somehow he forgets to take them back after I am done. Somehow I forget to bill him for the work I do on the website. Which reminds me… I am part way through doing the work for this quarter. Job for the day…April 1, 2019 at 12:59 pm #888549
A few nights ago I tried Kenji’s dry brining method on salmon at 125 degrees for 30 minutes. (Last December I went a little crazy at a frozen sockeye sale, so salmon will figure heavily in my sous vide learnings.) It did seem a bit firmer and less watery with brining. It was great on the day cooked, but seemed to lack something as leftovers the next day. But then, no spices or aromatics were cooked with it, as I’ve been Spartan with flavorings to focus on how the fish turns out. I’ll try the spice drizzle again (hopefully, not burned) next time.
As I drove to work this morning over a river swollen to within a few feet of the bridge (it’s flood season), it occurred to me that, of course Kenji would use a carbon steel pan to sear sous vide fish. Why wait for cast iron to store heat and heat slowly when carbon steel will heat faster and you don’t need stored heat? Duh!
Can there be ANY gig as excellent as your wine photography one? Let’s see . . . one of these is real and the other two are not: discussing politics on the phone with Aunt Feliz until we are shouting, but not at eachother, and getting paid in Pyrenees sheep cheeses; laughing with friends to concoct angst-ridden tales for True Story magazine, which paid hundreds of dollars for them; or playing Scottish music for dancers and getting a juicy check and free bar for it. Hmm.
Well, actually two are true, and I would love to get paid in sheep cheese for doing something fun. But you have a really sweet deal. I’m guessing that whatever doesn’t suit your or Pam’s palate goes into a cook pot at some point, keeping the happy going.
I looked over the Serious Eats sous vide recipes and got interested in the one for turkey breast. And I’ll look around for a recipe for Arctic Char.
I had asked you earlier why, besides convenience, you had moved most of your meat cookery to sous vide. Well, I can see now that the convenience piece is just huge. I am so appreciating not being tied to a skillet several times a week trying to get my fish cooked right. Oddly, the minor bit of baby-sitting needed for my pressure cooker — mostly consolidated into Sunday mornings — doesn’t feel burdensome, but the weeknight fish was getting me down. So nice to solve this problem.April 2, 2019 at 8:07 am #888555
It is not just convenience. It is also repeatability. Yes you just drop a bag in the water and come back in an hour (or a day – depending on what it is) and the food will be cooked. But it will also be cooked exactly the same way. You want it medium rare? set the temperature appropriately and it will be medium rare EVERY SINGLE TIME. You like “well done”? fine. Dial in a different temperature, and you will get well done every single time. Just don’t invite me to dinner.
I mentioned I don’t cook fish often. The reason I don’t is that fish is expensive here. I can buy fillet steak (I don’t – there are more flavourful cuts) for less than I can buy a piece of salmon. Then, if I cook it conventionally, it goes from unbderdone to ruined in the blink of an eye. It costs too much for me to put the practice in to get it right every time. Sous Vide though, once I work out how I like it, I can repeat that result every time. And it doesn’t really matter if it is a thick bit or a thin one.
Oh and I tried an experiment tonight. Actually I planned it yesterday. I took a Chicken breast (skinless and boneless because that is all I can easily get here unless I buy a whole chook), seasoned it with salt and pepper and a couple of sprigs of tarragon. vacuum sealed the bag and left it to “marinate” overnight. Then I cooked it at 60°C for 60 minutes – nice and easy to remember. But it is 140°F to you. Not so easy. Then I took it out I dried it off, floured and egged it, and coated it in a mixture of Panko and Parmesan. Finally I deep fried (190°C) it for just a minute or so to crisp the crust – the meat was already cooked. Absolutely delicious. Better than most restaurant meals I have eaten. I served it with some chips (fries) and a simple green salad – a few lettuce leaves with a few roasted pinenuts scattered over it with some Kewpie Mayo and a simple homemade tomato relish. Actually I made two – one for Pam as well. The second one I also added a few drops of liquid smoke – that was great too, but the smoke was perhaps a little overpowered.April 8, 2019 at 6:05 pm #888602
Last week got crazy. So I’m reading about your last week’s cooks. Better late than never.
Your chicken breast experiment sounds great. You MAY invite me to dinner any time you are serving your chicken tarragon parmesan :-P Did sous vide cooking punch up the flavor of the chicken breast meat? I ask because a friend of mine is dieting and eating lots of poultry breast. Just having nicer tasting breast meat would be a step up.
Last Monday I splashed out on some fresh Arctic Char to see if sous vide made it more interesting. I almost never buy fish here in the Midwest that isn’t frozen. Fresh fish tends to be more costly, and it’s always a gamble how fresh it is. “Fresh” shellfish here? Forget it. I don’t like GI tract adventures.
I was really happy with the sous vide Char. So velvety and succulent. The next day I cooked the other half of the fillet on the stovetop as I had no lead time to sous vide. Overcooked it because I wasn’t attentive enough. I am so done with hovering over a skillet of fish.
Fish isn’t cheap here in the Midwest, either. Local lake fish tends to be polluted with mercury, and the rest is shipped in over a thousand miles from one of the coasts. So I stockpile frozen fish during the good sales. This is why my freezer is often stuffed.
We are having a break from cold weather here, so I started clearing some winter foods from the freezer this weekend. Sunday night I pressure cooked a turkey leg. Mirepoix of leek, carrot and celery, some garlic, thyme, sage and bayleaf, deglaze with white wine, crumble in some dried mushroom, then veg stock and turkey, strain the jus, and reduce when done. Served with potatoes and leeks. Turkey legs are so strongly flavored that a simple preparation works well, as long as the pressure cooker breaks down the tough bits. Makes good leftovers, too.April 9, 2019 at 9:44 pm #888605
I am not sure chicken breast meat has a lot of flavour to “punch up” these days. Flavour seems to have been bred out of chicken in the last few decades. Unless of course you pay $$$ for free range organic. Still the breast comes out juicy and tender as opposed to dry and stringy which seems to be the inevitable result from any other cooking method. As with fish, Sous Vide seems to be just made for this meat.
We our Parmesan chicken tarragon so much we tried it again last night. I suspect it will be going on high rotation. We will probably change up the herb mixes though. I have another pair in the freezer, one of which has some cayenne chili slices instead of the tarragon. They were the leftover bits of some chilies I was pickling. I use them as garnish on Thai dishes and I cook Pad See Ew often enough to warrant keeping pickled chili on hand all the time.
Never heard of Arctic Char. I am glad it worked out well for you, but I am not surprised. We are ever so slowly adding more and more fish to our diet now we can cook it consistently well. which reminds me – I have some smoked haddock in the freezer. Must get it out for a kedgeree in the next few days.
Turkey is another meat that is ridiculously expensive here. And the few times I have tried it (never cooked it myself) it has not been a happy experience, but the PC is probably the right tool for that particular job. I may try it next time I see it relatively cheap.April 13, 2019 at 12:32 pm #888619
This post will probably appear out of sequence because a longer previous one is still in moderation.
I have not heard of kedgeree with fish (or meat) before. Looked it up . . . okay, it is a British thing. I’ve made the lentil-rice version before and found it unexciting. Smoked fish and cream will upgrade anything.
So the experiment with pasturizing salmon using the Douglas Baldwin table (5 hours at 32 Friday for 1 1/4-inch salmon streak) was not something I will repeat. Despite the low cooking temp and prior brining, the silicon bag had abundant jus that one ideally wants left in the salmon, and the fish was quite firm, had inferior flavor, and was just edible. I suspected this would not end well and . . . there you have it. So, in the future I’ll rely on prior flash freezing for protection from fish parasites instead of long sous vide cook times. (I expected mushy fish, but the result was the opposite.)
No disrespect of Mr. Baldwin intended here. He says pasteurization in sous vide is for immune-compromised folks, which does not describe me, and is not recommending everyone else follow these tables. I am just cursed with an inclination to learn from experience. Also, in reading the Cook’s Illustrated website on sous vide, I noted they mentioned Douglas Baldwin works for Chef Steps, so I am quite content to refer to his tables as needed. Still getting my head around Who’s Who in the sous vide world.
And the fresh Arctic Char made according to his table was good. When I can manage to get to Costco, I’ll try to buy some char fillets before they defrost them, stash them in the freezer, and experiment with them at lower sous vide temps. For the time being, I’ll just avoid fresh fish until I know better what I am doing.
Also, will spend some focused time on the Serious Eats site, and then may bite the bullet and register at the Chef Steps site to learn more. (I resist sending my data out into the fraudiverse unless necessary.)May 2, 2019 at 8:38 am #888722
How are your adventures with the Accu Slim going?
(I have tried replying to this thread a few times, but it keeps crashing. Things seem more stable today.)May 5, 2019 at 10:48 am #888741
Hello again. Yes, recently posting has required some luck. I keep getting Service Unavailable errors. Oh well. I hope Laura is okay.
Since we last chatted, I’ve tried lightly searing cooked salmon under the broiler after sous viding it. Result: overcooked fish. I’ve tried searing the fish in an iron skillet before cooking, but since I don’t like to smoke my oils, the skillet wasn’t hot enough to sear rapidly. Result: overcooked fish. I see now why you’re not in the habit of searing your fish.
So here’s what I’ve been chewing on lately. I get it that cooking meat at low temperatures for longer times kills harmful bacteria about as well as the more traditional higher temperatures for shorter times. But what about parasites? Specifically, worms in fish. The Sansaire web page on cooking salmon cautions against undercooking fresh salmon and several other types of fresh fish:
“Some fish, like tuna, farmed salmon, swordfish, and freshwater fish are generally considered safe to eat raw, or cooked to any temperature you prefer. Other fish, including wild salmon, halibut, cod, sea bass and inshore saltwater fish are not. This second group of fish is susceptible to a parasite called an anisakid nematode (a tiny, disgusting worm). The best way to kill this parasite is to freeze and hold fish, but as most home freezers aren’t up to the task, we recommend buying fish that has been commercially flash-frozen if foodborne illness is a concern for you.”
I ask, for whom is foodborne illness not a concern? Does anyone, regardless of health status, think an episode of parasitic worm infection is not to be avoided?
The salmon I buy is commercially flash frozen, so no problem there. But the Arctic Char isn’t frozen. So my question has been, can you safely sous vide fresh fish prone to parasites at low temperatures, and how low?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Bad Bug Book, discusses parasitic fish worms and what they do to people. Not pretty. On the list of fish to be wary of undercooking for this reason are salmon and char. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) just says to cook all fish to 145 F for 15 seconds. I wish I could find a Government source that says you can kill fish parasites by cooking food below 45 degrees for a longer time, as you can kill harmful food-borne bacteria this way.
Douglas Baldwin implies that you can in his online A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking. Referring to his fish pasteurization tables, he writes, “While such a pasteurization will reduce all non-spore forming pathogens and parasites to a safe level . . .” Hopefully, “a safe level” of parasites is zero. (However, Dr. Baldwin does not recommend cooking anything lower than 130 F, so, Greg, he is not your sous vide soul mate.)
Since the Char I had a few weeks ago was fresh, I wanted to pasteurize it to kill parasites. So I cooked the thin fillet at 140 degrees F for an hour, in accordance with the Baldwin chart for pasturizing oily fish. The result was good enough, given that Char seems even oilier than King salmon, and harder to dry out. It turned out acceptably. And the Baldwin chart does give pasturizing options for lower temperatures and longer times, which I will try on Char another time. I just have to get my fish swimming 3-4 hours before dinner, which can be a big ask most days.
Does your MC boat anchor have something to add to this picture on sous vide and fish worms in its food safety chapter? [So nice that you acquired it, allowing others to treat you as a reference librarian! ;-) ]
Time to wrap this post up. As always, Greg, thanks for letting me pick your brain — and your books. :-)May 10, 2019 at 7:51 pm #888775
The boat anchor devotes about half a page to the Anisakid worm. What is says does not vary markedly from the information you cite:
“Cooking to 60°C for one minute will kill the parasite. or 15 seconds at 63°C.”… “Those temperatures however, are high enough to overcook the fish”
“For commercial retailers FDA recommends freezing and storing the fish in a blast freezer for seven days at -20°C (-4°F) or for 15 hours at -35°C (-31°F).”
“Anisakid infection occurs more frequently in species near the shore. Coastal fish are more likely to eat copepods that regenerate in seals and other marine mammals. Farmed salmon do not eat copepods and are therefore generally anisakid free, as are wild tuna and other deep ocean species”
“Wild salmon, however are especially prone to infection”…”Despite this alarming statistic, human anisakiasis cases are still relatively rare because most ingested larvae die or pass harmlessly through the intestinal tract”
They also state that the “human gut is sufficiently different [from marine mammals – the normal hosts] that the worms cannot mature so they generally die after a week or so in the human body. Such an infection can in the meantime generate quite a severe stomach ache”…” and in some rare cases “result in anaphylactic shock”
Personally not something I would worry about. Nor it appears do they. They seem more concerned about parasitic worms in vegetables, citing cabbage, watercress and spinach in particular.
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