Can we talk about sous vide?

The trend has grown to the point where half ass chef are using it and pushing the dishes. Ok if it’s done right it can be incredible but we have recently been to two separate places (Paso and OC, i know it’s not LA but I trust you guys to tell me if i’m wrong) that served the meat underdone in the middle.

First a large pork chop that had a lot of raw pork in the middle. When asked if that’s how it’s supposed to be they just say sous-vide 5 times and the incredible length of time that takes (to not cook the pork). Then yesterday it was a half chicken… and after a few carving cuts it was obvious that it was pretty red down by the bone, then we reached into the thigh meat and by the bone the blood was still liquid. When asked they tried to explain sous-vide again… yes… we get it… you bought a $160 circulator and just leave the half chicken in a bag for whatever the fuck hours…

So… isn’t the fucking point of sous-vide to provide low temp, long cooking whereby you bring up the temp of the protein so slowly that it evenly warms? Don’t they still have to bring it up to temp in the end to consider it done? Sure, if these animals had a name and came from a hippie commune pasture where they were hand bathed daily I wouldn’t mind but a lot of this under-cooked meat isn’t even pleasant to eat.

Or am I wrong and sous vide does mean med rare chicken and pork? If that’s the answer my stomach being upset disagrees.

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I’ve been using the sous vide technique for the last couple of years with a lot of success. There’s a bit of research that I put into each first-time experiment prior to execution. My favorite guide to sous vide is from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt from The Food Lab/Serious Eats. He’s got great explanations, photos, and details to each step he takes. He also provides step-by-step instructions for cooking done-ness for various proteins. It’s pretty thoughtful. Following a read, I usually select the right process for me and just execute. I don’t think it’s particularly hard. Perhaps some people are going at it on their own which leads to some execution errors.
I’ve been able to cook chicken (thighs), salmon, lobster, and ribeye. Vegetables are also fantastic. It’s worth noting that with the proteins, it’s highly recommended that you sear the meat in a hot pan or grill so you can crisp up the skin (chicken and salmon) or create a nice crust (ribeye) so you have lovely color and a textural contrast. You can also so the same with some vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.)
I will admit that I do not have the bravery to attempt medium-rare chicken or pork. I’ve cooked chicken to 150-160 degrees F and then a pan sear for about a minute each side. If I recall correctly the juices that ran when I attempted chicken were not entirely clear, but it was a long way away from blood…I think the juices were a very light pink-ish. I’ve not tried pork. Sous vide is really great for salmon.
You are right in that one of the benefits to sous vide is to slowly bring up the temperature to ensure that the protein is cooked right. But you also have to keep it sealed in the water for a certain amount of time. Cooking times vary for each protein type and size/weight. Mistakes can most definitely happen if the user isn’t timing it correctly.

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so are they both wrong that it’s not supposed to be served like that?

While I wasn’t in the kitchen with the chefs, that’s one reason why I would think that you got undercooked chicken and pork. There are some folks who say some breeds or types of chicken and pork can be undercooked (which can also be their rationale), I have a hard time subscribing to that line of thought because I fear the potential of food poisoning myself or my guests.
I’m not too sure what kind of product they are serving or where they sourced it from. I also don’t know their intention in the kitchen. I can only guess at this point. But I like to err on the safe side and use Kenji’s notes or instructions to guide my own cooking at home.

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Another problem is when chefs leave meat in the sous vide too long. The meat isn’t over-cooked, but the texture is off, too soft and lacking any chew.

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@Bookwich is right. Longer sous vide times can denature the protein and extract too much of the gelatin and protein out of the meat…resulting in mushy meat. This can also be another valid reason, however, you would only get the pinkness of medium-rare pork or chicken if the temperature was set too low.

FWIW Amazon has the Anova cooker for $55 off as their deal of the day today.

I don’t like meat cooked like that, for the most part.
Sous vide can be used as you describe.
It can also be used to reach a final temperature that is below the final temperature of traditionally cooked meats. The idea is that it is actually temperature AND time that kills pathogens/parasites. Usually, the final temperature is high enough to kill pathogens/parasites in a short enough span to allow you to ignore the time component. But one could reach a much lower temperature and maintain it for long enough to kill those pathogens/parasites.

That said, I’m not excited by what you’re describing.

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You cannot judge whether chicken is raw (or cooked) based on the color or the presence of blood. Have to do it by temperature, which if it was sous vide properly, it was cooked and safe to eat.


It is the direct result of younger chickens being sent to market.

Chickens commercially marketed are typically slaughtered between 6 to 8 weeks of age. Outwardly they appear fully mature, but their bones have not completely calcified. As a result, the bone mass is very porous. Deeply colored pigment from the bone marrow migrates to the surface and often is visible along the bone and the meat that is immediately attached to the bone.

Freezing of fresh chickens exacerbates the problem. The marrow expands inside the bones as the chicken freezes and eventually pushes through to the surface.

All that said, the meat still is perfectly wholesome, nutritious to eat, as long it reaches the requisite temperature, or about 160-165F.

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I guess I could start carrying around a Thermapop, in case I get queasy and uncomfortable at the sight of bleeding chicken on my plate. Science!

I’m generally not a fan of sous vide, except for a few things.

  • mashed potatotes
  • custard
  • poultry breast (white) meat

Everything else? Generally prefer dry conduction heating.

Sous vide just reminds too much of reheating baby formula. Ick.

i can’t make steak or pork chops properly. I was raised by parents that believed in meat being well done. Plus, I don’t especially like it, so I’ve never become proficient. My brother bought me an Avnova. My family and friends are grateful to him.

Custard? what kind?

Tres leches, creme brulee, pudding and even custard gelato.

I would fret over the lack of control. Would it work for chawanmushi, you think?

Of course.

One thing I learned form the Serious Eats guide that @attran99 referred to is that chicken and pork can be done at a medium rare temp for a longer period, and that kills the pathogens. Like slow vs. rapid pasteurization. That being said, I agree with you. I don’t know that I’ll ever get my head around medium rare chicken.

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thanks for the insight.

@ipsedixit What kind of potatoes do you use for your mashed potatoes. This idea sounds fascinating.

Sous vide is interesting when it can create dishes not accessible by any other method, e.g. tough cuts which normally cooked in stews (or roasted etc) will automatically become dry by the cooking method but with sous vide one can cook medium rare short ribs or truly medium rare steaks

Japanese yams.

Then I garnish the mashed potatoes with a dusting of furikake right after plating.

Miso gravy optional.