This is part 3 of my on-going series playing with a Sous Vide Supreme. For those of you unfamiliar with sous vide, “sous vide” means “under vacuum” in French. The concept is basically that you cook your food under vacuum in a water bath at the exact temperature that your food needs to be cooked at. Since the water bath is only heated to your desired temperature, it is impossible to over cook your food*. Another appeal to sous vide is that none of the flavor is lost during the cooking process, since the food is kept in a vacuum bag during the whole cooking process. I will spend more time to talk about my experience with the advantages/disadvantages of sous vide and also maybe share some tips with those interested at the end of this series.
In the last post, I mentioned that carrots were next on the “to sous vide” list. But since I spent my friday evening doing something else… Saturday is a brand new day and I wanted some chicken. Growing up in HK, I ate a lot of ??? (poached chicken). On a trip to New York a few years ago, I saw that they were selling poached chicken already all covered in ?? (ginger-scallion oil), I thought I’d try the idea out in a sous vide machine. =)
Ever since I received the Sous Vide Supreme machine for this little project, I’ve been reading a lot of things all over the internet about everything sous vide. I came across “A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking” written by a Applied Mathematics Ph.D. student at the University of Colorado that has all sorts of information (even mathematical formulas!!) about sous vide cooking in it. In the chicken section, I read (emphasis mine)…
Traditionally, light poultry meat is cooked well-done (160°F/70°C to 175°F/80°C) for “food safety” reasons. When cooking chicken and turkey breasts sous vide, they can be cooked to a medium doneness (140°F/60°C to 150°F/65°C) while still being pasteurized for safety.
My first thought upon reading that was, “hmmm, I wonder if that’ll be pink…” Then came, oh ok, I better tweet this in case something happens to me…
For the chicken experiment, I wanted to test a few things.
First, I wanted to see if this “medium” chicken breast really is that much different than “traditional” chicken breast that we normally eat.
Second, I wanted to test the idea of not spreading marinade around the food (as mentioned in the comment section of the previous entry). Specifically, will the flavor be unevenly distributed if the marinade was not evenly distributed.
Third, I wanted to see if there’s any additional enhancement (taste/texture) through searing with a torch.
Finally, I am intrigued with the idea of the storage of cooked-sous vide food. I am reading a lot of things about reheating previously sous vide food*. I am specifically looking for strong flavors since the food will be kept with the marinade under vacuum for a few days.
I evenly applied the ginger-scallion oil on 2 of the breast and put them in the same bag (one is to be “seared” with a torch, the other will be the “control”), then put 1 of the chicken beast in a bag (marked with the X) and just dumped some ginger scallion oil in it without evenly distrubting the oil, then finally, I placed a breast by itself that I will eat a few days later.
According to the manual, the chicken breast should have been done in under 2 hours, but I left it in there for a little bit longer because I went to
watch the UT basketball game have a stroke… I came home to this…
As you can see, 146F chicken (24F under the “normal” recommendation) is not pink – at all. While I wasn’t expecting chicken sashimi, I was actually expecting it to be a little bit less done than that. For me, the texture was nothing revolutionary. I would, however, say that it was a very moist chicken breast. If I didn’t tell anyone that the chicken breasts were only cooked to 146F, I don’t think anyone would complained that it was undercooked.
As for the distribution of marinade, I find that unevenly distributed marinade made no considerable difference in terms flavor. I think this is generally because liquid escapes from the meat during the cooking process and escapes into the bag. However, one should probably take into account that this marinade has a little bit of liquid (oil, in the case) in it to begin with, which might have aided the unintentional distribution of marinade/flavor during the cooking process.
As for searing, while a quick run with the torch provides plenty of heat to give the chicken color but not enough heat to “over cook” the meat, I really don’t think “searing” does much to the taste/texture. However, I would say that visually, it’s definitely A LOT more appealing.
Looking for the result of the storage test?? I’m going to have to make that another entry, since it’s still sitting in my fridge right now. =)
*PLEASE be careful and consider food safety issues when doing this.