I recently stumbled across some people that cooked food in a matter that I had never heard of, this method is called Sous-vide which is french for “under vacuum”. The idea behind this cooking method is to vacuum seal what ever it is you want to cook and then place the sealed food into warm to hot water and slowly and accurately cooking the food until it is done.
One easy to understand example of cooking food using this method if we look at a perfectly cooked piece of meet. Now I prefer my meet to be medium rare, pink on the inside. The trouble is if I use a thermometer to cook meet and I want the meet to reach 135° Fahrenheit. However, when cooking things cook from the outside in, so when the center of the steak reaches the correct temperature the outside of the steak will be over cooked. Sous-vide is a little different, instead of cooking the meat over a hot stove or oven you warm water to the correct temperature (in this case 135°) and then place the vacuum sealed meat into the water and leave it till the entire steak warms up to 135° take it out of the bag, sear it, and then you have the perfectly cooked steak.
Building a Sous-vide
I decided to look into buying a sous-vide machine but a machine costs to much for a couple of uses a year. I looked up several different types of these machines and they range from around 600 euros to several thousand euros. I decided a better idea would be to build one on my own, it did not seem that difficult warm water to a specific temperature. The one I built is not perfect but it worked quite well and cost me a total of 10 euros. The only thing I bought for this project was a electric water heater like the ones used to heat water for tea. I already owned a reflow controller that I built a while back for about $50.00 and I used this to measure the temperature of the water and switch on the power to the heating coil when the water dropped below a specified temperature.
Here is the heating element that came in a water heater. I took apart the water heater and unhooked the heating element for use in this system.
The reflow controller is here and I set it to the desired temperature before cooking.
The entire setup
Before the water was warm I put a little salt and pepper on the steaks I was cooking and then placed them in a bag. In order to seal the bag I put the ziploc style bag into the water up to the locking part of the bag, this pushed out all the air and then I locked the bag with no air in it. From here I turned on the system and waited for the water to heat up, then I placed the sealed meat in the water for about 60 minutes.
I don’t think this needs words
Here are some general guidelines to cooking times that I have found throughout the internet:
Beef and Lamb 1″ thick – 134°f for 1 hour
Beef and Lamb 2″ thick – 134°f for 2 hours
Bison – 134°f for 10 hours
Leg of Lamb – 134°f for 18-24 hours
Spare Ribs – 176°f for 24-48 hours
Flank Steak, Brisket – 134°f for 18-24 hours
Pork Tender Cuts:
Tenderloin 1.5″ – 134° for 90min – 6 hours
Baby Back Ribs – 165° for 8 hours
Pork Tougher Cuts:
Port Chops 1″ – 134° for 5 hours
Port Chops 2″ – 134° for 7 hours
Pork Roast 2.5″ – 170° for 24 hours
Spare Ribs – 170° for 12 – 24 hours
Chicken Breast, bone in 2″ – 146° for 3 hours
Chicken Breas, boneless 1″ – 146° for 1:30 hours
Chicken Leg/Thigh – 160° for 5 hours
Game Hen – 160° for 7 hours
Turkey Leg – 175° for 9 hours
Duck Breast – 134° for 3 – 5 hours
Fish and Seafood:
Lean Fish 0.5″ – Serving temp for 30 minutes
Fatty Fish 1″ – Serving temp for 40 minutes
Lobster – 140° for 45 minutes
Scallops – 140° for 50 minutes
Shrimp – 140° for 30 minutes
Root Vegetables 1″ – 183° for 1 to 4 hours
Tender Vegetables 1″ – 183° for 45 minutes
Firm Fruits 1″ – 183° for 1 to 2 hours
Soft Fruits 1″ – 183° for 30 min to 1 hour
Soft cooked in shell (fast) – 167° for 15 to 20 minutes
soft cooked in shell (slow) – 146° for 1 to 1:30 hours
hard cooked in shell – 160° for 1 to 1:30 hours
scrambled – 167° for 20 minutes
pasteurized in shell – 135° for 1 to 2 hours