Sous Vide Details and Tri Tip

>> Friday, May 25, 2018

One of my nephews is a chef and used to work at Haven Gastropub in Orange, CA. While there, he came up with a recipe for pork belly that was absolutely amazing. He described a process called sous vide, where they would cook the pork belly overnight in a water bath. Then before serving, the pork belly would be briefly seared in a hot pan, just enough to add some a thin layer of bacon-like crispness to the pork belly. It was served on a bed of greens and the low and slow cooking process resulted in a delicious fork tender dish that practically melted in your mouth.

Sous vide cooking is pretty well known now, but when I first tried my nephew's dish, it was a process I'd never heard of. I looked into it a bit and saw that there were several sous vide cookers on the market but I was hesitant to lay out the cash for one. They're pretty basic and usually consist of a heating element controlled by an electronic thermostat/switch that receives a signal from a temp probe. There's also some means for circulating water to ensure even temperatures throughout the water bath. It doesn't take a genius to realize this is very similar to my HERMS setup and how I use it for mashing grain. So I decided to do a trial sous vide cook using my brew system and some beef tenderloin steaks. The results were amazing and not too long after that, I bought an Anova Precision Cooker. Now you may ask, why did I buy one when my brew system worked so well? Well the brew system was a bit of overkill for what's needed (too much water, too much cleanup, etc.) and sometimes certain spices can permeate the plastic bags used for sous vide. I definitely didn't want any beefy off flavors in my beers, so I decided to buy a dedicated unit.

The process is pretty simple so I won't go into a ton of detail. Plus there is a  lot of info on the Internet, so there's no need to regurgitate what's already out there. Basically, you season your food, seal it in a bag, then cook it in the bag in a water bath at a given temp for a given period of time. This usually means low temps and several hours cooking time. The end result is very flavorful, juicy, tender meat (although it's not just for meat). Additionally, because of the low and slow method and the precise temp control, you end up with perfectly cooked meat all the all through (medium rare at our house for beef). That's right, no tough, chewy, dry over-cooked meat.

As for equipment, I use a food sealer, but there are ways to do it with regular zip lock bags. For the container, I use a Coleman Party Stacker cooler and cut a hole in the lid so I can insert the Anova.  Then it's just a matter of filling the cooler with the appropriate amount of water, bringing it up to temp, then adding your bagged food and setting the timer. It's worth mentioning, after the cook you still want to usually sear your meat. I use a hot cast iron pan on my grill for this. This gives you the flavors associated with grilled meats (maillard reactions) and without it, it's closer to boiled meat.

So like my brewing and other food related posts,  I post this kind of stuff do that I make sure I do it The same way each time. It also helps if I decide I want to tweak things. So today I'm doing a tri tip with Santa Maria seasoning. I recently discovered a butcher shop near my house (Don's Meats) and I've been buying my tri tip there. The butcher is awesome and the meats have been great, plus it's always nice to support local businesses. Tri tip is great as a main dish, but we also like to slice it thin for sandwiches which is what we'll be doing with this one.

As described above, I sealed the tri tip in a vacuum seal bag then cooked it in my sous vide setup at 134F for 3 hours. Minimum time for this is about 2 hours and maximum is about 6 hours. I've heard too long in the water bath can change the texture for the worse, so I'd recommend shooting for something between 2 and 4 hours. It was then removed and seared on each side for about 1 min per side (flipped every 30 seconds). That's about all there is to it or chill out to be sliced later.
Seasoned, bagged, and ready for a bath

 Hanging out in the water bath

Right after adding meat, the temp only dropped 1 degree