The local supermarkets, perhaps encouraged by Nam Dae Mun, are now offering a more interesting selection of meats.

Buffalo sirloin.

I was curious about bison. Ted’s serves it, as did the now closed Ruby Tuesday. It tends to be tastier than beef, but in the portions shown, a bit expensive. 8 ounces of buffalo steak cost me about $6.80, close to 14 dollars a pound.

I prepped the steak in a traditional way, dry spicing before sealing in a pint bag. This went into the sous-vide pot for four and a half hours at 131 F. The result?

This was the most tender steak I’ve ever prepped by this method. Utterly delicious.

This is a topic, I’ll note, covered nicely on the Sous Vide Supreme blog, in a recipe supplied by Richard Blais, but my take on lamb as steaks is that you can treat them pretty much the way you would treat beef steak. This lamb was something of an impulse buy. I’m short of fresh herbs, so I made do with the powdered stuff I usually use on steaks these days.

I sealed the meat in a Food Saver bag. This isn’t necessary, a good Ziploc will do.

The steak was cooked at 130 for two hours, then 131 the remaining three. Note that with my setup (a PID controller), I have a peak temperature initially 2-3 degrees higher than my nominal setting. This steak peaked at 132 F. Afterwards it was spiced (kosher salt, cracked black pepper, garlic, onion powder, a little cracked red pepper)

then finished on the stove, 45 seconds a side at a high heat. With a red wine reduction, the final result looked something like this.

As a side, I tried a steamable edamame I found at the local grocer.

This product tasted better than it looked coming out of the microwave. Be warned.

Tried soon dubu again, this time with clams and some sirloin, and real home made soon dubu paste. The difference between home made and the commercial paste is pretty astounding. There are notable color differences, and all the futzing we did with flavor in the last batch almost completely went away.

Made with home made soon dubu paste.

One more chicken sous vide note: worked with a chicken breast at 146 degrees, starting from frozen, a breast that was frozen with three kinds of peppers, onion and garlic powder, and a little salt, and this was the best product yet. It was left in the pot for 1 hour, 50 minutes (1 hr 20m + 30m to defrost), and was uniformly juicy and flavorful. There was one ‘bad’ spot, a little bloody and I suspect near a vein of some kind. But otherwise, quite excellent.

I have an accuracy issue with my Auber temperature sensor, and it goes something like this. I have a separate thermometer, and when the Auber is first on, the rwo agree within a degree. As the Auber probe remains in the pot however, the difference in measurements increase, until after some time, I see this.

Pot equilibrated to a measurement of 144, a few minutes after adding chicken. Note the temp difference between the two probes. Who to believe?

So who to believe? I’m concerned the Auber is underestimating temperature, because of the beef color of cuts like this, which was supposed to be cooked at 130 to 132 degrees F.

Nam Dae Mun ribeye, sous-vide and plated. Cooked perhaps 4 hours at Auber nomimal 130.

The above, sliced. Does that look medium rare to you?

So yes, I’m looking into how to accurately gauge and calibrate temperature with this setup. I’ve also been playing with higher temperatures, in part so I can cook chicken, which is a substantially smaller portion of meat than some of these big steaks I’ve been eating.

Jimmy (@EatItAtlanta) tweeted before my experiments that he wasn’t happy with the meat near the bone of chicken cooked at 140 F. Since I’m using a PID controller, and it overshoots temp by 2 degrees during the first couple hours, then the kinds of temperatures I’m looking at for my setpoint are 2 degrees below the cooking point. But if it’s actually running 3 degrees cool, I need to compensate by 5 degrees. Does that make sense?

PID controllers overshoot and then narrow in on their target temperatures. That first overshoot peak defines the actual cooking temperature for my controller. In practice, I overshoot by about 2 degrees F. Image above from Wikimedia, and the PID controller article on Wikipedia.

The French Culinary Institute’s PDF on sous-vide recommends 1-2 hours for chicken at 65-66C (149-151 F), and that means the two Auber temperature settings I needed to test are 144 F and 147 F. So we tested those.

Nam Dae Mun chicken thighs. Note the price.

Spiced and sealed. I used cracked black pepper, red pepper, crushed red pepper (pizza pepper), some onion and garlic powder, and a dusting of poultry seasoning.

Cooked 90 minutes at 144 from room temp and plated. 2.5 hrs at 147 from frozen has a similar appearance. I prefer the flavor and texture of the hotter product.

Results? I liked my chicken better at 147 than 144. The looks are about the same at both, and at both, you really do need to trim off the chicken fat, because unlike frying, the fat that results from this technique isn’t much fun to eat. The chicken is amazingly juicy, and you might find it not cooked enough for your tastes. If so, just keep ramping up the temperatures until you’re happy with what comes out of the controller.

As for me, I need a better way to calibrate my device. I would like to nail a good medium rare on the steak side. For now, I have a useful working temperature on the chicken side.

There are cuts of meat known as restaurant cuts, because they are tough when not handled properly, but have plenty of flavor if cooked in the right way. Among these cuts are hangar steaks, flank steaks, skirt steaks, and flatiron steaks. The flatiron steak is well described here, and as the local Kroger has been offering this cut for 6 and 7 dollars a pound, I was curious how well it handled via sous-vide.

Kroger sells this steak in 1.5 pound sealed packs. I bought one, sliced it roughly into 4, vacuum sealed the meat, and froze it. This particular example sealed the most poorly; you can see some air in the pack. This will tend to make the plastic float. Just take the pack and shake it a little, once unfrozen, so the air pushes one end of the plastic up and the steak can sink into the pool of water. You don’t need total immersion, just temperature equalization, but in my case, a little shaking allowed the whole of the steak to go under water.

Five and a half hours later, 30 seconds of sear a side, some spices, and the steak looked like this. There was some chew, some mouth resistence, but no toughness. The steak was pleasantly tender.

Surprisingly tender, almost too tender.

It was a good meat hot, a better meat cold. It makes great steak sandwiches, when sliced about a quarter to half inch thick. But as much as I like it, I agree with the poster here that perhaps 30 hours would be a better time.

Most of my low temp gear arrived last Tuesday, and I used Tuesday night to calibrate it. Yesterday I did some steaks using the gear. One calibration run, and 4 steaks later, these are the notes that I have. I’m using an Auberge controller, and a Hamilton Beach 8 quart slow cooker as the base. Since the vacuum sealer hasn’t arrived, I’m bagging food in freezer Ziploc bags for now.

Auberge controller, 8 quart slow cooker. Socket has a circuit breaker.

Calibration with this setup takes about 5.5 hours. Yes, it is worth it to calibrate your device. By calibration, there are a couple steps you’ll want to do.

1) Take ice (plenty of it) and let it melt halfway into a large container. Place the probe in the ice water bath. Best to use meltoff water instead of adding your own, as ice-water baths with tap water won’t be temperature equilibrated.

2) Follow the instructions to calibrate PID parameters with a pot full of the amount of water you’ll use for cooking. In my case, it took perhaps 5.5 hours for the system to figure out what the correct PID parameters were.

With this setup, and in using a PID controller, as opposed to PD controller, there will be overshoot for a couple hours. In my experience, the overshoot is about 2 degrees, with it settling in to accuracy around the 3 hour mark.

In terms of safety, this is a pleasing setup. The water could probably hurt you if you immersed your hands in it for a length of time, but brief fingertip exposure to 131 degree water doesn’t hurt. You can easily handle the lid of the slow cooker without harm. The Auberge defaults to a timed setup. Once the time is met, the device shuts off power to the slow cooker. I made sure to plug into a wall socket with its own circuit breaker, so any electrical short would flip the socket breaker.

Steaks? One thing I have found out is that with a thin steak (circa 0.5-0.75″ thick), one minute of sear on both sides can easily turn that medium rare steak into a medium well steak. 30 seconds of sear per side after the fact preserves the cooking much better. Since steaks can go anywhere from 2-6 hours (I do not recommend cooking steaks for less than 2 hours), adjusting your controller to compensate for the overshoot seems reasonable.

2.5 hours with Auberge controller at 131. Mostly cooked at 133 for that period. 30 second sear each side.

Beer Advocate: I don’t know much about these guys, other than second hand exposure to the collateral damage they’ve done to people they’ve kicked off their forums (oh yes, and delete years of info these beer hounds have collected forum wide). Now, after decades of exposure to every forum “wizard” there is, many with serious delusions of grandeur, I have no tolerance for the self appointed dictator types. But as it’s their forums, and not mine, why am I mentioning this?

It’s because the Beer Advocate folks don’t stop at tossing people out of their forums. They then proceed to taunt the people they’ve tossed off their forums on Twitter. And in that lies the crux of the tale, the reason the generic food blogger needs to be informed.

Don’t go. Don’t get involved. Start a beer blog instead. You might get 1/100th the comments on your pages, but you will be read, and you will be much happier about your treatment. And if you have to do the forum routine, strongly consider Rate Beer instead.

One final beer note: The early months of the year, winter, tend to feature stronger beers, such as barleywines. Sierra Nevada comes out with Bigfoot, and Sam Adams comes out with Griffin’s Bow. I’m not a fan of extreme beers, but Bigfoot is worth some trouble, and I suspect Griffin’s Bow will be as well.