(Sweet Jesus, I made a Sous Vide machine!) Sous Vide Ribeye w/ Foie Gras Truffle Sauce

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I have always been a bit of a gadget nerd. Well, you could probably argue that I have been an all-over nerd this whole time and that an appreciation of cool gadgetry is just part of the package. Either way, my love of new nerd-toys has definitely extended into my kitchen.

As soon as I learned about Sous Vide cooking, I knew that I would eventually succumb and try to do this on my own. For those that are not familiar, Sous Vide (literally translated from French it means “under vacuum”) is the practice of submerging vacuum sealed food in a hot water bath at below-boiling temperatures for extended periods of time. This allows you to completely cook the food while retaining moisture and flavors lost in traditional cooking methods. The results are shockingly tender and perfectly cooked food.

The real magic in sous vide is the evenness of the cooking. For a medium rare steak (130-135°F internal temp) on a 450°F grill, you have to overcook the top and bottom edges to get the center of the meat to the right temp. But, when you cook a steak sous vide at 135°F for 4 hours, you get a beautifully even medium rare steak. Not pink in the middle with overcooked greyish edges, but a top-to-bottom sexy pink steak that melts in your mouth.

In professional kitchens and laboratories this is accomplished with expensive immersion circulators that can accurately maintain the temperature of a large volume of water to within +/- 0.1 °F. While prices on this kind of set up can go as high as $5,000 for a professional unit, many are available in the $1,000-$1,500 range. That is still a little steep.

I almost caved and bought a Sous Vide Supreme, the first complete sous vide home cooker that offers professional level accuracy (+/- 1.0 °F) for a more reasonable price range, around $450. That was still a lot for me to fork over for a machine that only performs one, albeit awesome, task.

SVSUPREME

The Sous Vide Supreme

I chose option C, which is to combine a temperature regulator with a slow-cooker. I have to give credit to The Alcoholian for my inspiration and direction here. I mimicked his set-up pretty closely, though I went with a different slow cooker. This whole rig ran me around $300, but I also got a pretty versatile slow cooker out of the deal, so I think it is a better value.

Auber Sous Vide Cooking Controller

Auber Sous Vide Cooking Controller

 My rig consists of an Auber Temperature Controller and a 7qt. Beville Slow Cooker.  I’m still working on the consistency, but stayed within 1-3 degrees of where I set it for this first run. The Auber is supposed to stay within +/- 1.0 °F, and I think some re-calibration may get me there.

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My temperature regulator from Auber arrived on Friday afternoon, and I immediately started making plans for Saturday. In addition to the slow cooker, I also needed to pick up a vacuum sealer. While you can make do with ziplock bags and a straw, you really need a decent vacuum sealer to keep out as much air as possible. Excess air leads to floating food bags and uneven cooking.

 First order of business? Steaks. Ever since reading Suburban Wino’s post about steak this week, I have been craving red meat and this was the perfect way to break in my new rig.

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I picked up some boneless ribeye steaks at the NYBS in Sandy Springs. I don’t usually pass up on their cowboy cut ribeye, but I had to sacrifice the bone due to space constraints. Plus, I won’t really be needing the extra moisture that leaving in the bone usually provides. The sous vide will take care of that.

Man Steak

Man Steak

Oh, and I sprung for a Wagyu ribeye for yours truly, ‘cause the extensive marbling should break down in the low and slow water bath wonderfully, and that’s just how I get down.

I went simple with the seasonings for the steaks. Partly because I usually do that with good steaks so that the flavor of the beef isn’t overshadowed, but also because you don’t need to go overboard with the seasoning when cooking sous vide. There is more natural flavor extracted from the meat and the seasonings you do use have much longer to penetrate. A light touch can go a long way. Don’t avoid seasoning the food, but be wary of some fresh seasonings (garlic, some fresh herbs, etc.) because the change in flavor can be too intense. At least, that is what I have heard. I intend to test that and I’ll let you know how it goes.

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I seasoned three of the steaks, including the wagyu, with just salt and pepper before sealing them in the foodsaver bags. The fourth got some salt/pepper and a splash of Dale’s steak seasoning. Some air was left in that one after the sealing process, so I had to weigh it down once it was in the bath.

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I put all of the steaks into the sous vide for 4 hours or so. They came out looking a little pale, but that is to be expected.

Fresh out da water

Fresh out da water

You definitely want to get some sear onto your meat before serving. This can be done on the grill, broiler, stove-top, or even with a blow torch. These got 2 min per side in a hot pan of rosemary olive oil to give them some texture.

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Maillard, reacting.

As you can see, the steaks are medium rare, all the way through. The end result was a steak that dripping with beefy flavor and was possibly the most tender ribeye I have ever cooked.

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I won’t even bother going into how much of a difference the wagyu made, because that would take too long and would probably just sound like bragging. But it was totally worth the extra $10.

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I also had some leftover foie gras from a while back, and it was high time to use it or lose it, so I made it into a sauce. I pretty much followed Brian Turner’s recipe to the letter, except that I added some truffle salt, and it went wonderfully with the steaks.

I’m way too excited about my new kitchen toy, so you can expect to see a lot of sous vide posts in the near future. I wonder if my friends will stage an intervention when they find me trying to sous vide blueberry pancakes at 4 AM?

Next up? Pork Tenderloin.

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9 Comments

  1. Posted January 11, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Hey there!

    Thanks for you kind words! It’s nice to have been an inspiration! What is kinda funny is that when my Auber unit arrived, I used the same type of thermometer to check it!

    • Posted January 19, 2010 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

      Yeah…my favorite part about how I found your site was the Sous Vide Supreme’s twitter account re-tweeted your ribeye recipe, and I noticed your post directly beneath it that basically states all of the reasons why your setup was better than the SVS. And I agreed! I guess those guys should pay more attention before linking to someone’s blog!

  2. Posted January 13, 2010 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Wow. I’m impressed and pretty much in awe of your dedication to the sous-vide cause. It’s like you’re having Christmas dinner in January! I’m jealous, but not really ready to shell out the money to make this happen. Your steak sounded absolutely delicious though – where the hell did you get the Wagyu?

    • Posted January 19, 2010 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Honestly, if you have a crock pot/slow cooker that doesn’t have a digital readout (i.e. just a nob or manual on/off switch) then the Auber controller should only cost you $150 and you are up and running. All of my friends that have eaten the food that has come out of my SV setup are all complete converts now.

      The wagyu actually came from this badass butcher shop in town…they occasionally get Wagyu in stock, and they are actually where I bought the grade A Foie Gras that I used for the sauce and for a previous FG post.

  3. Oliver Timonera
    Posted August 24, 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Can you make sauces using a sous vide machine? like for example a bolognese sauce. Could you email me the steps? Thanks.

    • Posted August 26, 2010 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

      Hmmm…I don’t have your email address…

  4. Roc
    Posted August 31, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    Looks nice… but I just made two sous vide setups for about $125 bucks… by searching eBay for mislabeled surplus immersion circulators that were being sold locally. Ka-ching! After a standard decontamination on each, have a Haake and a Cole Parmer now… Two Cambro 18 quart containers and both setups are excellent.

    I bet you all hate me now.

    • Posted September 2, 2010 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

      No hate. Good for you dude.

  5. Mary
    Posted October 15, 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Great job!
    I have similar SV rig but with sousvide magic controller from sousvidemagic.com. It has 2 x 4-digit displays and better precision. It comes in handy when I cook eggs at 64.3C.

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