Sous vide: the search for the perfect steak

nutrition-and-productivity-blog-22

The importance of safe cooking

What you eat is important for optimising nutrition. And how you prepare and cook it should not be overlooked either. Cooking is important for making food safe to eat and for enhancing flavour. But cooking done wrong will drain food of nutrition and even introduce harmful toxins. Cooking meats to high temperatures obliterates proteins, oxidises healthy fats to unhealthy species and generates toxins. Once such set of toxins are heterocyclic amines (HCAs), produced under high heat in red meat from reactions of sugars, amino acids and creatine. HCAs are well documented genotoxic carcinogens1-6.

So to keep your meat safe this means you want to use lower temperatures in your grilling, frying and oven cooking. One low temperature cooking methodology that is gaining popularity is sous vide. In this blog we’ll review the science of sous vide, my experiments with it and why I recommend it.

Sous vide – cooking under vacuum

Sous vide is a technique whereby ingredients are placed in a vacuum sealed pouch and cooked in water at low temperatures (50-60℃) for 45-60 minutes. It was developed at Restaurant Troisgros, 1970s France, as a way to prevent fois gras from loosing fat. Under conventional means, foie gras lost 30-50% of it’s fat content7. Sous vide not only locks in the flavours and nutritional content of vitamins and good fats8,9, it cooks meats to a high level of consistency throughout. Cooking under vacuum in water heats the meat 10 times more efficiently than grilling or roasting. With grilling, heat travels through the surface and cooks it to a higher level of ‘doneness’ than the centre. With sous vide, the temperature never goes high enough to char the surface.

Sous vide has until recently been the preserve of innovative chefs such as Heston Blumenthal. One of the requirements of sous vide is consistent heating of a water bath, which is difficult to do in a pan on a stove as constant monitoring and tweaking of temperature is required. Over the past few years, sous vide machines have come on the market enabling home chefs to cook perfect meals with ease. One device I’ve been experimenting with is the Anova Precision Cooker.

Enter the Anova Sous Vide

The sous vide Anova machine looks like a giant inverted light sabre. It’s essentially a heating element with rotors to circulate heated water, creating consistent temperatures.

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Weapon

There weren’t many instructions with the product, it was intuitive and quick to set up. The machine did make a continuous beeping sound for a bit but turning on and off fixed that (timeless hack for any piece of tech). The device has bluetooth and you can cook via an app (yes, cooking meat – there’s an app for that). Here’s how my cooking went:

  • Round 1: tuna. The first thing I cooked was yellow fin tuna steaks. The cooking didn’t go to plan. I was left with tuna steaks with some areas cooked well and some raw. This wasn’t an issue with the Anova machine, I had simply used bags marketed as sous vide bags which clearly weren’t sous vide bags (I did eventually come across good BPA free bags and recommend this brand, Sous Vide Supreme). Anyway this was a test run, so no sweat. And the tuna still tasted great as patchwork cooked / raw.
  • Round 2: salmon. Tried sock-eyed salmon fillets with proper sous vide bags. The salmon came out with a perfect texture. I didn’t sear as often recommended in sous vide recipes and it still tasted awesome.
  • Round 3: sirloin steaks. Now moving on to the steaks. Firstly tried the steak for myself. It was uber yum medium with a beautiful pink running throughout the meat. Diggity damn, melts in your mouth. Recipe coming up in a later blog.
  • Rounds 4: sirloin steaks tested on guinea pigs. So far, I’d only cooked for myself and was enjoying the results. The sous vide has capacity to cook for 8 people. Now it was time to let others try. I took the sous vide on the road and tested it at the home of some guinea pigs nice folk, five people in total. It was a success: Clean plates all around and questions on when I next come over to cook.

Why I love and recommend sous vide cooking

  • Protects the fats from oxidation. If you sear it will damage some of the fats, but probably still better than grilling at high temperatures
  • Set it and forget it – most dishes take 45-60 minutes to cook. Set up is as simple as putting a piece of meat in a bag.
  • There’s no issues of overcooking if you go over your cooking time. Well, maybe don’t leave it overnight.
  • This method of cooking creates a delicious consistency throughout the meat with no charring or uneven ‘doneness’.
  • Cook a large number of meats with ease.
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Steaktarian dining

That’s all for this week, thanks for reading. Happy cooking.

Paddy.

Have you got any sous vide recipes? Please leave me a comment below.

If you are interested in trying out a FREE 7-day meal plan you can grab a copy of that here. Just add your details and we’ll get that over to you. 

References

  1. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ijc.2910490408/full ‘Meat, cooking methods and colorectal cancer: A case-referent study in Stockholm’
  2. http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/canres/65/17/8034.full.pdf ‘Meat, Meat Cooking Methods and Preservation, and Risk for Colorectal Adenoma’
  3. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2009/04/15/ajcn.2008.27272.short ‘A prospective study of meat, cooking methods, meat mutagens, heme iron, and lung cancer risks’
  4. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/early/2009/04/15/ajcn.2008.27272.short ‘A prospective study of meat, cooking methods, meat mutagens, heme iron, and lung cancer risks’
  5. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Shelia_Zahm/publication/227877047_Risk_of_adenocarcinoma_of_the_stomach_and_esophagus_with_meat_cooking_method_and_doneness_preference/links/543fc0ea0cf21227a11b75da.pdf ‘RISK OF ADENOCARCINOMA OF THE STOMACH AND ESOPHAGUS WITH MEAT COOKING METHOD AND DONENESS PREFERENCE’
  6. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/11/9/801.short ‘Consumption of Animal Foods, Cooking Methods, and Risk of Breast Cancer’
  7. http://www.scienceofcooking.com/sous_vide/what_is_sous_vide_cooking.htm ‘What is Sous Vide Cooking?’
  8. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0924224496100273 ‘New research issues in sous-vide cooking’
  9. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X11000035 ‘Sous vide cooking: A review’
  10. https://www.sousvidesupreme.com/en-us/sousvide101.htm
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