A Vacuum-Packed World Cup Opener!

So the World Cup is about to start. Thursday, June 12 is the opening game. We here at Vacuum-Packer.com, being a very international group and avid futbol fans, will be having an Opening Day bash.


The idea is to have a sort of Pot-Luck, where co-workers each bring in a little something to eat or drink for the group to share. One person may bring the soft drinks, somebody else a baked casserole of some sort – these things usually are not very good, culinary-wise. So I have decided to take it upon myself to try and elevate the food at this inter-office shindig by cooking something sous vide.

I am still working out what that might be, but I would like it to reflect a little bit of my preference in teams, and this is where I am a little torn.

Do I route-route-route for the home team, USA? Stay true to my Spanish/Mexican heritage, and to my time spent in Mexico? Perhaps I show some solidarity to the Clock Work Orange team of The Netherlands in support of our very good friends from Henkelman.

Maybe I sous vide ribs; finish them on the grill with BBQ sauce (U.S.A.!, U.S.A.!).

Add some quesadillas, corn and chistorra to the grill (Si Se Puede! Si Se Puede!)

We must quench our thirst…a cold Dutch brew…Heineken sounds “goed” (Wij houden van Oranje!)

From the ribs I would remove as much fat as possible and cut them into manageable size racks, vacuum pack them in the Boxer 35 Chamber Vacuum Sealer, after seasoning with my special blend.

Since they are pork ribs, we will cook them using our Pearl Fusionchef Immersion Circulator at 143ºF (61.5ºC) for 48 hours, to make sure they are tender and juicy. Due to the forgiving nature of sous vide and the cooking time associated with it, the ribs will be in the water bath ready when we are. Once the hunger grows to a growl, we will finish them on the grill.

I usually do a quick sear on both sides, then brush a thin layer of BBQ sauce on one side, through it back on the hot grill – sauce side down. Sauce the other side and flip…and repeat. I do this maybe four times. I am no chef, but I think it gives the ribs a very nice BBQ and char-broiled flavor, and I must say, very good.

Ahhhh…grilling some perfectly cooked BBQ ribs, drinking a cold Heineken under the warm Florida sun, with friends, in observance of the world’s favorite sporting event…you tell me a better a way to spend a Thursday afternoon.

Cheers! Salud! Proost!


Sous Vide – Chocolate Ganache at, Batch PDX

Not long ago I had the opportunity to speak with a good customer of ours, Jeremy Karp, an accomplished chocolatier in Portland, OR, who has been preparing ganache for truffles and bonbons sous vide.

I thought this was really interesting, and another great way to implement efficiencies in certain food preparation tasks utilizing the sous vide technique.

Using a Henkelman Jumbo 30, the chocolatier is able to pre-prepare, store and later use larger batches of infusion for his production of ganache. The beauty of sous vide is not simply the difference in the end product achieved, but the production planning possible when vacuum packing (i.e., extending the shelf life of your product without lose of quality), and heating or cooking your pBatch PDX logoroduct at very precise temperatures. Not to mention the consistency with which each and every batch, component or dish is prepared.

What do you sous vide?

Check out our favorite chocolatier’s delicious creations at: BATCH PDX

Chamber Vacuum Sealers: Lynx 42 vs. Boxer 35

The battle of choice between two superb chamber vacuum packers can sometimes be a difficult one. Some would automatically assume that this equipment is used “in back of the house,” kept in some back corner of the kitchen. After all, Henkelman vacuum packers, while well designed, are work horses.

However, as kitchens become more open, and the audience or diners, in fine restaurants enjoy viewing the craft involved in creating their plates of food, aesthetics becomes ever more important.

This is a side-by-side look at two stars from the Henkelman line-up of tabletop chamber vacuum packaging machines:
Lynx SeriesBoxer Series

Tale of the Tape

(Being a big boxing fan, I thought this illustration might be an effective way to measure up the two vacuum packers side by side.)

You will notice that the Lynx 42 is more expensive, but offers a longer seal bar (16.5 inches) and a variety of features not offered on the standard Boxer 35 unit.

For example:

Advanced Control System:
This control system comes standard with the Control Sensor (Vacuum by %); 20 program memory, a USB port to program settings on your PC, and transfer the information with a thumb drive. In addition, a Henkelman thermal label printer can be connected to the unit to print self-adhesive labels for your vacuum-sealed packages.
(The Advanced Control Systems can be fitted to all units, except Jumbo models).

Thermal Label Printer
The label printer automatically creates a self-adhesive label to be placed on the vacuum packed bag. The label can have information pertaining to the level of vacuum created, name of the product, date product was packaged, etc.

The Lynx Series of vacuum packers is built to be shown off. It’s sleek design and flat work top are perfect for open kitchens. The Lynx 32 and Lynx 42 are unafraid of the lime light or heating lamps, but the real beauty of the Lynx models is that they fulfill both fashion and function, staying true to it the Henkelman tradition of uncompromising quality.

The Boxer 35, on the other hand, is the most popular model in the Henkelman line-up. This is because of the economic price it is offered at, the strong Busch vacuum pump for the size of the chamber, and because we offer this particular model standard with the Sensor Control (Vacuum by %) option (usually an additional cost with other models). The value to our customers make these models of machine a sound investment. In fact, this applies to all models manufactured by Henkelman.

Bottom line, both the Lynx 42 and the Boxer 35 are exceptional vacuum packers.

Which vacuum packer will you choose?

(If you like the Lynx units, www.vacuum-packer.com, also offers the smaller version, Lynx 32 at a discounted price.)

Happy Vacuum Packing!

Behind The Vacuum – The Henkelman Story

This is the story of a manufacturer’s rise in an industry of food preservation and fine culinary tradition.

Founded in 1994 by Mr. Henkelman and Mr. Muskens, the company began a quick assent to become today’s leading manufacturer of chamber vacuum packaging machines. The two men, having roots in the industry and in the manufacture of chamber vacuum sealers, decided it was time for them to go on their own and do their best to elevate the products they knew so well. The two men were pioneers, up against the odds, motivated by their will to create a better vacuum packer.

The same year the company was born, Henkelman Vacuum Systems, successfully introduced newly designed chamber vacuum packaging models at the largest meat processing and butchery equipment trade show, Slavakto, in their home country, Utrecht, Netherlands.

The attitude that made their introduction a success – that good products can be better – permeates the Henkelman culture. Just as they proved nearly 20 years ago that they could do better, today’s team of engineers and market experts strive to better what already is considered among the best and most reliable chamber vacuum sealer. While not simple, they believe they can do this; and they have proven that they do. (See the Lynx Series of Chamber Vacuum Packaging Machines)

Through technological advances in design software and techniques from 2D to 3D, the experienced engineers at Henkelman have been able to create vacuum packing machines that provide optimal levels of functionality, hygienic design, and ease of maintenance and service, which are unparalleled by competitors.

While the quality of the chamber vacuum packaging machines produced by Henkelman B.V. is unquestioned, the level of service and manufacturing process is a source of pride and honor. A dedicated R&D department is constantly improving how machines are designed and produced. The thought they have given to how the machines are assembled at the plant in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, NL has optimized the assembly line in a way that ensures unbelievably quick lead times, and ever higher levels of efficiency and quality.

Henkelman B.V. currently employs 47 proud and dedicated professionals, sells their machines to over 100 countries across the globe, and extends the shelf life of food and non-food products everywhere they are found.

With the growing popularity of sous vide cooking in Europe, the Americas and elsewhere, chefs, both modernist and traditionalists, are turning to sous vide to solve and create. Like any tool in the kitchen, the chef must be able to rely on its perfect function day in and day out. Henkelman offers this solution to top chefs around the globe including 3-time winner of Best Restaurant in the World, NOMA, where you can find a proud, Boxer 42.
(Watch the Copenhagen episode of CNN series, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, and see if you notice the Henkelman double-sealed vacuum bags)

Henkelman Vacuum Systems continues to push the envelope with its enviable tradition of pragmatic, thoughtful design, while maintaining the highest levels of quality. While we, the many loyal customers, shall continue extending the life of our valuable products.

Please take a moment to take a look behind the scenes at the leading European manufacturer of chamber vacuum packaging machines, Henkelman B.V.

Masterchef UK: Professionals – Sous Vide

So, my wife and I enjoy watching cooking competition shows on TV: Top Chef, Chopped, Hell’s Kitchen, etc. Certainly, some are much better than others, but these fulfill our curiosity as food and cooking aficionados as well as our silly guilty “Reality TV” pleasures.

Recently, we came across, Masterchef UK: Professionals, on the BBC America channel. This has become one of my favorite cooking shows. Granted, the brits certainly do not have the flair for the dramatics like us Americans do, but for reality television the quality of the chefs and food prepared carry it very well.
masterchef pro
Something that took my wife and I by surprise was the frequent use of the sous vide technique in almost every challenge and cooking test. They used it to cook all types of proteins, of course, but also for preparing compressed fruit, vegetables, and even custards.

Once the contestants are whittled down to the finalists, they are sent to work the line at Michlin-starred restaurants, and be evaluated by the chefs. Conveniently, all of these kitchens used sous vide preparations, in some manner on their menu.

I was very pleased to see how normal the technique is in these professional kitchens. How commonplace vacuum packing and cooking under vacuum (sous vide) has been adopted despite it being a modern technique.

I Once Caught A Fish This Big…

Over the weekend my wife and I decided we were craving fish and decided to cook some up. Now, she and I have different preferences on most everything food-wise, but when it comes to fish we both love salmon.

We drove Sunday morning to the grocery store (Whole Foods) to get the best fish we could find, and found some good options. As you may have guessed we wanted to cook these ingredients sous vide, so we ended up getting salmon, sea bass, and cod.

We set the Pearl Immersion Circulator to 132ºF, and planned to cook all the fish for about 18 minutes. We were happy to see that this could be done in such little time compared to proteins like short ribs, which can take up to 48 hours, or more.

First up was the salmon. We vacuum packed the filet after slightly salting and peppering, and adding a sprig of thyme and some butter. We used the Henkelman chamber vacuum packer, Jumbo 30.


The results were extraordinary. The filet was perfectly cooked, completely moist, full flavored and delicious.


The next fish we decided to do was the cod. We vacuum packed this filet with some shallots, white wine, basil, lemon zest, butter and thyme.

Cod Mis En Place

Cod Mis En Place

While the results with the cod were surprisingly good, my personal opinion is that it could have used a bit more time over the 18 minutes, or been cooked at a higher temperature. I think it can be a bit more soft and tender.

Cod 1

Patagonian Toothfish?
For the third and last filet we sous vide Chilean Sea Bass. I have to say, this was the best out of the three. We vacuum packed the bass in coconut milk, kafir lime leaves, lemon grass, shallots and garlic.

bass juice

Vacuum packed with a Henkelman Jumbo 30


…and cooked it the same way. 132ºF for 18 minutes with the Pearl Circulator.

You can see below the results. If pictures say a thousand words, then my taste buds are the strong silent type – I was speechless…



This was a great experience, which my wife and I enjoyed thoroughly. If you have never had the opportunity to eat sous vide cooked fish or meat, you must.

Sous Vide…No Longer Trendy, Just Another Staple.

I subscribe to the magazine, Food Arts, because I was told by friends (chefs) in the biz that this was a good periodical showing trends in cooking techniques and equipment. It has articles on the up-and-coming chefs, as well as established well-known chefs, and the equipment and tools they use.

Since my business here is sous vide and vacuum packing, I thought I would go through some previous publications and articles which talk about different kitchen equipment and tools, and see if they mention sous vide equipment or if I notice any cool trends. Food Arts has a series of articles called, “My Favorite Gear.” I began with these articles.

Well, I found a lot chefs talking about sous vide, and the tools they use to accomplish cooking under vacuum. I went as far back as early 2008.

Shore Leave, March 2008. This article features Chef Ed Brown of Eighty One in NYC on the Upper West Side. The author writes about how the restaurant and the kitchen were designed, and mentions “predictable” cooking equipment the chef uses, and mentions sous vide as another technique he applies.

“…But he’s also committed to the slow gentle process of sous-vide cooking, which he has used since he worked with Alain Senderens in Paris in 1985. To that end, he has a large combi-oven that does regular, convection, and steam cooking or combinations of the three. Because the oven works on a computer, he can put, say, short ribs and aromatics into special food-grade bags, then program them to cook for 15 hours at 165°F. When it’s time to reheat the chilled ribs, they go into one of Yui’s innovations: an insulated sink with a cover in which you insert an immersion circulator, creating a built-in bain-marie.”

*Fusionchef offers combination units similar to this. Immersion circulators paired with different sizes of insulated stainless steel water baths.

A later article, My Favorite Gear, April 2008, mentions Chef Jamie Leeds of Hank’s Oyster Bar in Washington, DC. He talks about his time in France, “…When I worked in France, I did quite a lot of vacuum sealing, but it wasn’t until the machines got smaller that I started va­cuum sealing more here in the states. Now that I have this compact model, I vacuum seal all the time. When I travel to do events, I vacuum seal all my ingredients, which eliminates the need for bulky containers. It also saves me a ton of space in the walk-in, and it’s great for portioning out quantities for service. Vacuum sealing also helps to keep ingredients fresher longer, and it works great for certain cooking techniques like poaching fish in oil. It’s also just plain fun to use.”

*One of the best options for a small compact tabletop vacuum packer is the Henkelman Mini Jumbo.

The following year, Food Arts, published another article titled, “My Favorite Gear January/February 2009.” This time they quote Chef Frank Brunacci of Trump International Hotel and Tower in Chicago. He begins to speak about the restaurant side of the hotel.

“On the restaurant side, I can’t live without the…Thermal Circulator. It’s like the Rational [combination oven]–every piece of protein comes out the same. It’s ideal for breakfast when you do scrambled or poached eggs on a buffet line. For three hours they stay perfectly cooked, perfectly heated, and perfectly moist and fluffy. It takes all the idiot out of eggs. You just can’t beat that. We’re open for service about 14 hours a day, and the circulator is probably on for 15 hours. With practice you can really use both of these pieces to their full advantage and come out with a perfect product every time.”

*Check out the work-horse immersion circulators by Fusionchef for cooking sous vide

In the same article they also quote Chef Timothy Hollingsworth of The French Laundry in Yountville, California. He talks about preparing to cook in the world-renowned culinary competition, Bocuse d’Or. The chef primarily speaks about his combination oven (convection/steam oven), how it holds perfect temperatures, and how he uses it on full steam to cook sous vide. “At the Bocuse d’Or, I’ll cook custard and sous-vide vegetables.”

It seems to me pretty telling that professional chefs value the sous vide technique enough to use at the Bocuse d’Or. They cook sous vide, because of the quality and attributes obtained with the end product.

*I will point out the Chef Timothy Hollingsworth won Gold at the US Bocuse d’Or in 2008.

In the following feature of the same article, Chef Tony Maws of Craigie On Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts is quoted speaking about his quick chiller, which allows him to bring hot products down to storing temperature in very little time, and how this has helped is kitchen operation. “Another great example is our duck breast. After we brine, render, sear, and smoke, we can now chill it in minutes to prepare it for sous-vide. The blast chiller saves us a half day for that dish alone.”

This very accomplished chef is not talking about sous vide the way I do, filled with “a-ha” moments. Sous vide is simply another technique, another part of his repertoire. Just the way you should probably cook duck breast…

In a separate article of Food Arts, In The Dark About Eco-Gear, from April 2009, the author speaks about the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), and how this should affect the decisions we make when purchasing equipment, in this case kitchen equipment. A big factor to consider is, of course, energy consumption. He goes on to talk about hood systems and refrigeration, but gets to cooking equipment and talks about combination ovens, and how expensive they can be to always run in “full combi-mode”. He suggests using the sous vide method to save on energy. “Consider sous-vide methods in conjunction with other slow cooking processes to fully benefit from energy savings with combi-ovens.”

He goes on about why purchasing Energy Star rated equipment is beneficial even if the up-front cost is greater than the less efficient cheaper unit. What he doesn’t mention is the energy efficiency obtainable by cooking sous vide with an immersion circulator (see Fusionchef units at www.vacuum-packer.com), not to mention the incredible up-front cost difference in purchasing an immersion circulator versus a combination oven. Consider too the cost savings one obtains by purchasing in bulk and portioning in-house using a chamber vacuum packaging machine.

In another article, Arctic Arts, Science meets art on the new frontiers of freezing. Futurists David Arnold and Nils Norén, leaders of the kitchen and mixology vanguard, chart the icy terrain., the gentlemen talk about preserving the quality of products through the process of proper freezing – both freezing shortly after harvesting and in a very quick manner. As the title suggests, it pertains to freezing as the form of preservation and talks about fresh fish, foie gras and more.

They comment on the best processes to obtain and maintain foie gras, which on the preservation side includes rapid freezing and vacuum packaging. Of course, vacuum packaging helps in this regard with many products: fish, beef, lamb, duck, dry goods, and many many others…

*Check out the Jumbo Series of Henkelman Vacuum Packers.

In the article, My Favorite Gear, January/February 2010, Exec. Chef Martial Nougier of Sofitel Chicago Water Tower talks about his combination oven and how he just loves to cook sous vide, “I do a lot of sous-vide. It’s perfect for sous-vide. You use lots of steam, set it for 139 or 140, and the sous-vide is perfect for whatever I cook–rack of lamb, guinea hen, rabbit, duck, so many things. And we do everything for food and beverage.”

Another article, My Favorite Gear, January/February 2012, featured in Food Arts is written about a particular chef and kitchen, which the chef designed from scratch. He talks about the equipment he uses to keep the operation running smoothly.

In keeping with this theme, he talks about using circulators as a mainstay in his kitchen which feeds a major 150-room resort in North Carolina, The Umstead Hotel and Spa.

“We have at least three of these incredibly precise machines [immersion circulators] running constantly. I love to use our circulators for eggs, like for my crispy pork trotters with poached asparagus, glazed morel mushrooms, aged Sherry, and 62 degree organic local eggs. Eggs go in right in the shell; everything else is vacuum sealed first in our [vacuum packaging machine], which offers the most consistent vacuum, from heavy compression of fruits and vegetables to delicate mushrooms.
[Chef] Greene uses the circulators for vegetable cookery, rabbit confit, and his 48 hour short ribs. He has a dish on the menu now of vanilla spiced sea bass with fingerling potatoes, fennel confit, and lobster broth. The fennel is slowly cooked in vacuum with fennel juice, butter, salt, and herbs. We also use circulators to hold sauces at precise temperatures during service—for example, our coconut espuma served with butternut squash soup, curried apples, candied ginger, and macadamia nuts.”

Toward the end of 2012, Food Arts published another article from this series, My Favorite Gear, October 2012. This article quotes Charlie Palmer of Charlie Palmer Group, Aureole, New York City and numerous other restaurants coast to coast. While mentioning his range and plancha he says, “And there’s no doubt that circulators have changed the way we cook. I can cook items sous-vide without losing any of the tender fat and moisture. It’s how I cook anything braised or that requires moist heat now, especially short ribs and pork shoulder.”

In the next edition of the series released in 2013, My Favorite Gear, January/February 2013, the tools seem to have moved on from the actual immersion circulators and chamber vacuum packaging machines to the additional tools used to assist in the sous vide process.

In this article, Food Arts, speaks with restaurant designers and consultants rather than the chefs themselves. One in particular, Mark Stech-Novak, of Mark Stech-Novak Restaurant Consultation & Design in Oakland, California, suggests for small kitchens (tools that are well suited to the confines of a small kitchen instead of a big one) an iphone/ipad app for cooking sous vide.
“PolyScience Sous-Vide Toolbox app for iPad or iPhone: “Perhaps the coolest software for testing and proofing sous-vide cooking. No chef should be without it.”

So, if no chef should be without the sous vide app, it goes to reason that no chef should run their kitchen without taking advantage of the benefits derived from this special yet simple technique.

On another note, you certainly do not need a PolyScience unit to utilize the app. However, if record keeping for proofing, testing or for HAACP reasons is of interest, the only immersion circulator that records this data for you and can interact directly with your PC using a specific software comes from Fusionchef by Julabo. It is the Diamond Series of immersion circulators by Fusionchef.

I think it is pretty evident that sous vide is a technique which has proven over time to be very useful for any professional kitchen, big or small, fancy or not.

In the upper echelons of the culinary profession, these articles and comments by accomplished and successful chefs, seem to give the impression that the technique is quite familiar. I mean, it certainly is not something only practiced on the fringes of the culinary underground. However, being in the profession I am I still come across a lot of chefs and restaurateurs that are totally unfamiliar with sous vide, or that have never heard of the technique before.

So, while sous vide continues to set its roots and become part of the foundation in any operating kitchen, I will continue to spread the good word.

Sous Vide Short Ribs, My True Story…

In an effort to fully and completely document how to sous vide short ribs, I have created this blog entry, including pictures and videos, to describe in detail the steps and experiences one goes through throughout the process.

There are several blogs and sites that talk about this, and do a good job at it. They are what I based my first try on, but I found that little details were missing, questions came up that you don’t think to ask until you actually get your hands in the dough, and do it yourself.

I hope this serves as an informative document, but also an interesting read for those culinary aficionados, professionals and amateurs alike. This is a good time to mention that I am not a trained chef, nor would I say more of myself than that I enjoy great food and I love to experience different food.

The important thing to remember about sous vide is that it is simply another technique of cooking, the same way braising, frying, grilling, roasting or baking is. Sous vide is a technique which allows you to cook at a very low temperature. It permits you to cook at low temperatures for long periods of time. This is important, because this is how you are supposed to cook tougher cuts of meat, case in point, short ribs. The beauty however is that the sous vide technique is not limited to these tough meats, but all proteins, vegetables and even alcohol (see my comments and experiments on infusing alchohol); unlike other techniques, like braising, which are primarily used for cooking only certain ingredients.

As I mentioned, I am not a chef and I do not have a professional kitchen for my experiments. The following takes place in my humble home using the equipment available to me.

DISCLAIMER: I am the distributor of Henkelman chamber vacuum pack machines and Fusionchef thermal immersion circulators. This allows me access to the best, most reliable and industry proven equipment available. This is the equipment used at NOMA (voted best restaurant in the world three years in a row), and shown in the acclaimed culinary book, Modernist Cuisine. Of course, this spectacular selection of equipment is available to you through www.vacuum-packer.com, and to make it an easier decision for those on the fence, I will cover your shipping costs!

Sales pitch behind us, we move on to the meat of our purpose, the short ribs…

Day One: Where do you get Short Ribs…?
Since I leave the heavy cooking to my beautiful chef wife, I’ve never really paid attention to the options in the meat section at the grocery store other than your typical steaks, ribeyes, filets, and skirt steaks for my “famous” carne asada. (To illustrate this I once bought beef chuck steaks, which I grilled and later chewed on for hours…).

I went to the first place that came to mind, my nearest grocery store. The closest thing I found, prepackaged, were “back ribs”. I don’t know what these are so I asked the person behind the meat counter for what I was looking for, short ribs, and put my confidence in their expertise. The person working the counter was a young girl trained to weigh pre-cooked shrimp and responded to my request with a blank stare. Since it is important to me to get this right I decided to look for a second opinion.

Since I am in the foodservice industry business, I have been able to get a membership to Restaurant Depot, which is like the Costco for restaurants. I made the trip to the closest location and walked around their huge cold storage area and found exactly what I was looking for, Beef Chuck Short Ribs. The problem is that it comes vacuum packed in very large portions.

Well, I do have a vacuum packaging machine and bags – I’ll portion it down, vacuum pack and freeze it for another day, and just use what I need for this purpose.
RD image

For those that do not have this kind of option I suggest going to your local grocery store, they do typically have this cut. If you have no luck there, you may want to try a local meat market or latin grocer (Carnicería) and ask for what you are looking for.

Happy with my purchase I drove home to prep, or “mis en place” (my wife is smiling at this…). I opened the vacuum packed short ribs, took out a slab and cut it into three pieces. I left each piece with a bone. I cut roughly in the middle of each bone. I then trimmed the fat off of one piece, just to see what this will mean to the end flavor.

Short Ribs

Short Ribs


After butchering the large slab of short ribs, I began to vacuum pack them with the Jumbo 30. I used 8″x10″ Boil-In Vacuum Bags.

As you can maybe see in the pictures, I simply salted and peppered the ribs prior to vacuum packing.

Once vacuum packed, I filled my water bin (a plastic cambro bin my wife brought home from work, however any large pot, or bucket or any container large enough will do). I attached the immersion circulator to the water bin and programmed the Pearl (the basic Fusionchef immersion circulator) to 135.0º F.

The Trio: Henkelman Jumbo 30, Water Bin, Fusionchef Pearl Immersion Circulator

The Trio: Henkelman Jumbo 30, Water Bin, Fusionchef Pearl Immersion Circulator

Back of Pearl Circulator. Clamp to attached to water container.

Back of Pearl Circulator. Clamp to attached to water container.

Pearl getting to set temperature, 135.0ºF

Pearl getting to set temperature, 135.0ºF

Heated to a perfect 130.0ºF

Heated to a perfect 130.0ºF

Putting aside the fact that I sell this stuff, it is super important to use a chamber vacuum packer. Using these units is the only way you can really get a full vacuum (external units, at most, provide a 60-70% vacuum – not optimal), and a perfect seal, which is key to the sous vide process. Obviously, the seal is important, the vacuum bag cannot leak. But, a full vacuum is so important because you cannot allow any air bubbles to form. Air bubbles, minute as they may be, create an insulated section, and may allow the vacuum pack to float disallowing full submersion. But more importantly, an insulated section in the vacuum bag allows for inconsistent temperature distribution. Full vacuum, perfect seal: priceless.

So, I vacuum packed the short ribs with the Jumbo 30, and the Pearl circulator is holding the bain marie at a perfect 135.0º F. The moment of cooking-truth has come. I drop the vacuum packaged short ribs into the water bath and watch…nothing happens. The fully vacuumed ribs just sink to the bottom, and settle into their resting place…R.I.P.

At temperature...ready to go.

At temperature…ready to go.

One Last Look....

One Last Look….

The Drop.

The Drop.

R.I.P. At least for the next 48 hours.

R.I.P. At least for the next 48 hours.

A few observactions…
With heated water you have evaporation. Since this is cooking for a long period of time, evaporation is a concern. Luckily, Fusionchef offers combination units with insulated stainless steel bins with lids for this reason. As you can see in the picture I have a plastic cambro bin with no lid. Companies sell several solutions for this problem; I simply covered the bin with plastic wrap, which seems to work just fine. CAUTION: It is detrimental to all immersion circulators to run when the water level is too low. Fusionchef circulators have a Low Water Alarm, which sounds and turns the unit off when the water level is too low to protect itself.

Simple plastic wrap cover to prevent evaporation.

Simple plastic wrap cover to prevent evaporation.

Ok, back to the meat.
I dropped the ribs in and watched them sit in the water. The temperature reading fluctuated slightly on the Pearl display, but only by 0.1 degrees. And, well, I watched. I reminded myself that this thing is going to sit there for 48 hours! I am so used to seeing, hearing and smelling my efforts immediately. Not here my friends…patience is a virtue, patience is a virtue…I found myself checking on the ribs frequently – nothing seemed to change.

1 Hour after the drop.

1 Hour after the drop.

The morning after the drop, about 11 hours in. Some juices are flowing...

The morning after the drop, about 11 hours in. Some juices are flowing…

Plastic wrap cover is working. Temperature maintained as set on the Pearl.

Plastic wrap cover is working. Temperature maintained as set on the Pearl.

Day Two: Uh, Now What?
Ok, so day two has come, and well there is not really much to say or report on. They just sit there…

Here is a picture at the 24 hour mark…

24 hours into the 48 hr. Sous Vide Process.

24 hours into the 48 hr. Sous Vide Process.

Day Three: …It’s What’s For Dinner!
Today is the day the 48 hour sous vide cooking process ends, and marks the completion of my first attempt at cooking short ribs.

I am a little nervous how this will turn out. Of the huge amount of short ribs I bought at Restaurant Depot, I portioned a few good pieces for my wife to take to one of her collegues. The idea is for him to cook them in the traditional manner, as a classic braise. This chef friend of ours is a non-believer of sous vide, so I promised to send him a sample of my sous vide short ribs for him to try. I have no doubt he will give me his honest opinion, especially if he doesn’t like it…argh, chefs!

Important to note is that once the 48 hours is up, the ribs are not quite ready to be plated. You must finish them on the grill or a hot pan to get that nice char flavor (the Maillard reaction). This is the only reason for this step, you are no longer “cooking” the ingredient, you are simpling flavoring the end product.

I also plan to use the juices that released from the ribs to make a little sauce to accompany this yummy protein.

Yes, I know. I am no saucier and I’m sure my method leaves a lot to be desired and is probably cringe worthy. Nevertheless, I plan to carmelize some onion, add a bit of chopped garlic and through them in the pan I used to finish the piece of short rib. I will then pour in the juice from the vacuum bag and add a bit of red wine (a Spanish Garnacha) to deglaze. I will let it simmer a bit until my limited experience tells me, STOP.

*I don’t know why Garnacha, it just sounded good.

Cheap Spanish Garnacha for for the sauce

Cheap Spanish Garnacha for for the sauce

Ok, so at the 48 hour mark I pulled the vacuum bag of short ribs from the bain marie. I cut open the vacuum bag and placed the sous vide short ribs on a cutting board, keeping the vacuum bag with short-rib juice left in it for the sauce.

Pulled from the bain marie

Pulled from the bain marie

Fresh out of the vacuum bag

Fresh out of the vacuum bag

After searing and finishing the slab of short ribs, I started the sauce. A little worse than what I expected, the sauce was completed using the juices from the vacuum bag and the red wine.

My attempt at sauce...

My attempt at sauce…

Once the sauce was completed I placed the short ribs on the plate, and poured the sauce over them. As you will see in the second picture below, the cooked temperature of the meat is heavenly. If you enjoy a medium rare, you will appreciate the end result here. The very beefy, meaty flavor that you get from short ribs with the soft toothy texture you get with perfectly cooked prime rib. Honestly, the flavor was exquisite.

My final plate of sous vide short ribs.

My final plate of sous vide short ribs.

The final cooked temperature of my sous vide short ribs.

The final cooked temperature of my sous vide short ribs.

Yeah, that bite, from the above picture, was yummy.

Final Thoughts…
This was a really fun experiment. I learned a lot, and will change some things the next time I sous vide short ribs.
I feel it is necessary to point out that while I was able to cook the short ribs to the perfect temperature and served with the perfect texture, I failed miserably at prepping the product (trimming, cutting, seasoning), making the sauce for the short ribs, and final plating. These are the things that should be done by the deft hand of a trained chef.

The sous vide technique allowed me to cook the ingredient itself as good as, if not better, than I’ve ever had it before. It allowed me to obtain this without the years of training and real cooking experience required to acheive this sort of result using more traditional methods of cooking.

For professional kitchens, sous vide allows for a level of consistency rarely obtainable. However, the art of gastronomy goes way beyond the precise application of heat to an ingredient. So beyond it, in my mind, it is difficult to put into words and explain – how do you define art?.

Science definitely has a place in the kitchen, but without the art food just becomes fuel, albeit well cooked fuel.

For next time:
1. Trim off the fat prior to vacuum packing – salt and pepper trimmed pieces.
2. Learn how to make a proper sauce
3. Invite guests to enjoy your food

For those that are interested, below are the images of the braise our chef friend did in his kitchen. As you can see, his skills are much more…how do you say, better.

The cooking hand in the images belongs to Adam Hervieux, Chef de Cuisine at restaurant 3800 Ocean on Singer Island, FL.

Professional Mis En Place.

Professional Mis En Place.

Drop it like its hot...

Drop it like its hot…

Mire Poix and wine for the braising liquid.

Mire Poix and wine for the braising liquid.

Browned and Oh soo good...

Browned and Oh soo good…

Ready for the oven...

Ready for the oven…

This is what I need to learn…the sauce.

This is the sauce...

This is the sauce…

Dinner is done...

Dinner is done…

I will be enjoying this for dinner real soon.

Happy cooking everybody!

Let’s Drink to Sous Vide!

I had the incredible opportunity to live many years in Mexico City, D.F. where I learned a great deal of things, one of which was drinking. Since my drinking years were formed while in Mexico my favorite spirit was Tequila, but since I have been back in the states, and my palate has changed, I have become a fan of Whiskey, or Bourbon, specifically.

One night while sipping on Maker’s Mark a taste of vanilla appeared for some reason and I thought the combination would be nice. I tried mixing in fresh vanilla bean and then a vanilla extract, but I was never able to achieve the flavor I had imagined. I figured I just didn’t know what I was talking about – me flavoring Whiskey, ha!.

When I heard about infusing alchohol with the sous vide technique, the idea reappeared. Since I have the equipment I figured I had to try again. So here it is, I will be attempting three different infussions.

1. Vanilla Whiskey
2. “Old Fashioned” Bourbon (my favorite whiskey cocktail)
3. Jalapeño Tequila and Oak Smoke…

Flavoring alchohol is nothing really new, nor very difficult to do. But it can be time consuming. For example, it is easy enough to flavor Vodka with strawberries or cucumbers (which is delicious, by the way), by simply cutting the fruit and letting it sit in the Vodka for several days.

The sous vide process accelerates the infusion with heat, which is low enough to avoid evaporation or burning off of the good stuff, the alchohol…

The equipment I will be using for the experiments are:

Boxer 35 with H2O Sensor (Chamber Vacuum Packer)
Pearl Immersion Circulator
Standard 3 Mil Vacuum Bags (8″ x 10″)

I will be posting recipes and results in separate entries. Please check back and leave your comments. We’ll be drinking soon enough.


South Beach BBQ

I had the great pleasure of attending BBQ night (officially coined, Thrillist’s BBQ & The Blues presented by Creekstone Farms hosted by Geoffrey Zakarian) at the South Beach Food & Wine Festival in Miami this past Saturday (Feb. 23), and I must say I had a great time. sobe

I was invited by my wife’s boss, the Exec. Chef at the Marriott Singer Island, and they put me to work. I mainly helped plating the delicious sweet potato, pecan tarts with cinnamon whipped cream my wife, the Pastry Chef, made for the event. Of course, I was also the Quality Control guy and everything went out with my bite of approval ;). (We were representing the hotel’s restaurant, 3800 Ocean)

Overall the food was great, particularly the beef brisket taco from ToroToro, and a short rib chilli from another local restaurant I unfortunately cannot remember the name of. Nevertheless, they both merited several visits.

I was happy to see many of the restaurants and chefs bringing in their products vacuum packed, ensuring that all the masterfully cooked meat would stay moist and infused with the marinades and juices used to flavor. However, what I did not see was the use of Immersion Circulators.

It seems to me that re-heating and holding of certain products would have been easier if left vacuum packed and placed in a precise bain marie. The chefs would not have to worry about re-heating in pots and pans using portable stoves potentially burning or drying out the product. For serving, you would simply cut open a vacuum bag and fill the chafing dish.

The benefits of sous vide go way beyond just the textures and flavors obtained from the technique. It allows for better planning of production, mis en place, quality control, etc…

Please post any comments or thoughts about how you think sous vide could have benefitted or hindered working a festival like this.

I leave you with this picture of my wife getting a little too giddy with super Chef Geoffrey Zakarian.
Deana and Zakarian