Almost every year I ask Santa for a new toy. As you may have guessed, my new toys always have to do with food preparation. This year Santa brought me a SanSaire Sous Vide
machine – technically called the SanSaire Immersion Circulator. I noticed them on Amazon and may have dropped a hint or two (in the form of a link to the site) so Santa would know I was interested.
I’ve been intrigued by the sous vide method of cooking for some time. I had seen them used on cooking shows and the results looked fabulous. Unfortunately the machines I saw seemed to be the size of small Volkswagens and cost almost as much. I resigned my self to sampling sous vide food at restaurants. And then I saw an article in some food related publication that compared the more realistic “home based” versions of the machines. After some research I decided I would ask for the SanSaire Sous Vide machine and Santa granted my request!
In the 11 days since Christmas I have used the machine three times – to cook a chicken breast, two filets, and two very thick pork chops. And I can tell you that the machine lives up to it’s promise.
The process is simple:
- Fill a pot with the correct amount of water.
- Attach the immersion circulator to the side of the pot with the clamp and set the desired temperature.
- Place the food in a zip lock freezer bag with a bit of oil.
- Submerge the bag slowly to force the water out of the bag – this is incredible to see!
- Cook for the amount of time required to reach the target finish temperature.
- Sear if desired.
My first attempt was a large chicken breast I was going to use for a dinner chicken and
avocado sandwich served on a croissant. In the past I have seasoned and sautéed the breast or I have poached it in stock. Neither method yielded a juicy, tender chicken breast. I set up my machine, put the seasoned the breast with chipotle chili seasoning and put it in
a zip lock bag. Away it went into the water bath. One hour and thirty minutes later I had a chicken breast that was cooked completely through but was
beautifully juicy and tender. With one success under my belt I decided to try a steak.
Everything I have read led me to believe that cooking a steak in a water bath would yield a tender, juicy piece of meat. I decided to use two pre-cut bacon wrapped filet mignons. I removed the bacon and seasoned the meet with salt and pepper. I put the steaks in individual plastic bags, sealed them as directed by the user manual – yes there is a user manual and you really need to read it – lowered them into the water bath and set the machine to produce a medium rare steak. About 75 minutes later the steaks were ready to come out of water bath. I was prepared for the appearance of the steaks as they came out of the pot. They were done perfectly but did not have the seared appearance that makes your mouth water. With about 5 minutes left on the water bath I began heating up my cast iron skillet until it was smoking hot. A quick sear on each side and the steaks looked great. The steaks were tender and juicy and the sear did not overcook the meat. Sorry – we were too hungry and the steaks looked too good – no pictures!
Yesterday it was time to try the pork chops. I had thick boneless chops cut from the center
loin. Once again I seasoned the meat, placed each chop in an individual zip lock freezer bag, added a bit of oil in each bag and lowered them into the water bath. I took the chops out after about 75 minutes. I used my cast iron pan to brown the chops. I was a bit too eager to eat and didn’t get enough of a
sear on the exterior of the chops but they were still really good. You can see from the picture how juicy the chops were after cooking and searing. I’ve made a note to allow more time to sear the chops than I did last night.
Next week I will be preparing coho salmon filets in the water bath. I anticipate the same excellent results.
Sous vide cooking does live up to the hype. There are a few drawbacks that may mean it is not for everyone. The biggest reason is time. Sous vide cooking takes a long time as compared to throwing a steak or chops on a grill. For items like steaks and chops you need to sear the meat to get that beautiful crust. SanSaire recommends you purchase their searing tool – essentially a blow torch,. I suggest you use a cast iron skillet. It takes a few minutes but doesn’t require the purchase of additional tools.
There are a number of upsides to using an immersion circulator. Unlike many of the sous vide machines the SanSaire does not require you to vacuum seal the food before lowering it into the water bath. As you slowly lower the zip loc bag into the pot the pressure of the water on the sides of the bag forces the air out of the bag and effectively “seals” the food in the bag. The food can remain in the water bath until you’re ready to heat. The circulator holds the food at the desired temperature with no degradation of the finished product. Imagine holding grilled pork shops or a steak for more than a few minutes after it has reached temperature!
Do I love my new toy? You bet! Santa also brought me a cook book with recipes for the larger Sous Vide machine. It doesn’t take much to adapt them for my immersion circulator. I see a lot of fun in the future!