Sous-vide cooking is intimately tied to cooking temperature, which should be the same as the temperature of the cooked food. In particular, temperature control is very exact. Unfortunately, there's a lot of bad information out there. My unit came with a temperature table recommending 75° for chicken breast. That's far too high; it seems that 63° might be better. And then there are chicken thighs, which prove to need more. Others again, like this one, seem to miss the point: “sous-vide” eggs cooked at 75° for 15 to 18 minutes, during which time they reach a temperature of 64.5°—maybe. That's what you do when you cook them for 6 minutes at 100°.
The information I've found so far is:
Douglas Baldwin's documentation, quite technical.
SousVide SUPREME™. Perpetrators of the egg nonsense above, but maybe not a bad start.
Jeff Potter's Cooking for Geeks explains a lot of the background. Not enough detail for temperatures (only one temperature for unspecified parts of “chicken”, for example.
Codlo's “Ultimate guide”. Too graphic, but the contents look interesting.
This page offers a free book in PDF form, but asks for a credit card number and a donation. You have to update the sum to 0, and then it goes away. The book looks usable, but I haven't tried any of the recommendations yet.
Dave Arnold's Sous-Vide primer, still incomplete.
My cooker comes from ALDI. It has some interesting design features. In passing, it's interesting to note a few quirks of the cooker. It has a timer, but it's not clear what good it is. Clearly it needs to come up to temperature before you can even start the timer, and it keeps that temperature regardless of whether the timer is on. So you don't need the timer to cook. What good is it? After it's finished, it beeps and turns off the cooker, but the water temperature stays relatively constant, so it doesn't stop cooking. I suppose you could consider it a marginal energy saving device.
I have found it completely useless. I don't bother turning it on at all (which requires setting a time; by default, it only cooks for an hour). With or without the timer, though, the unit will turn off after 24 hours, shorter than many recipes want. After that, you have to turn off the power, turn it on again and set the temperature again. It will overshoot the temperature by about 2° before settling.
The other oddness is the temperature display. When you turn it on you set the temperature, to the nearest degree, but when you turn on the heating it switches to a time display (static until you turn on the timer). To see the temperature, you need to press the “Function” button, and then it shows the temperature for a couple of seconds before switching back to the time display again.
But the temperature display is wrong! Or at least, that's the way I see it. Every time I tried, it showed a temperature of 50° or 51°, though the infrared thermometer showed 53°, and a meat thermometer in the meat after completion showed 52.6°:
So my best guess is that the temperature probe that measures the displayed temperature is not the temperature probe that controls the temperature.
These are values that I have established. Watch this space.
Beef filet: 60-90 minutes at 52°. Remove from bag, dry and leave to cool for about 10 to 15 minutes. Sear in a very hot pan until barely brown.
Roast beef: 6 hours at 52°. No need to sear?
Chuck roast. 24 hours at 56°.
Beef liver: 58° for an hour or so. Isn't very interesting.
Chicken legs. Codlo recommends 1.5 to 3 hours at 65°, but I've found this to be far too low. On 13 December 2015 I tried it at 75°, and subsequently grilled the meat. The combination was overdone. I'm not convinced that the combination of sous-vide and grilling is good, but maybe I should aim for 70° next time.
Fish: we've done trout at 47° and Tenggiri ( “Spanish mackerel”) at 50°. The trout tasted good, but was still partially translucent. The Tenggiri stuck to the bag and almost completely disintegrated, and I don't know if it's a good idea to cook it sous vide.
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