Not many of the bloggers in my regular reading list talk about barbecuing with any frequency. Just Miguel at Gun Free Zone comes to mind, although I gather it's still pretty popular with most of the rest of bloggers and readers to eat barbecue.
The "401" reference is to first college courses in the senior year. This is not about basic barbecue, 100 or 200 level, that's pretty widely known; this is about a technique that I heard about from a competition barbecue master, a guy who has won barbecue competitions at several levels. It's a technique that's well known among chefs but not widely outside that world.
One day, while I was reading in a cooking forum, I found pictures he posted that referred to a "medium rare smoked brisket". He had pictures and it looked to be exactly what he claimed. The slices were clearly brisket flat, and the right shade of pink. Questions ensued and the answer emerged. It was sous vide cooking, commonly also called precision cooking. (Intro from one of the big names in the business)
Sous vide is French for "under vacuum" and the method is a way of cooking low and slow (like barbecue itself) that isn't barbecue. The recipe to be prepared is sealed in a vacuum bag and then immersed in water kept at a precise temperature by the small appliances that heat and circulate the water. The temperature of the water bath is typically held to within 0.1F for the entire soak. An oven thermostat, for example, maybe within 20 degrees. Maybe worse. For the desired finished appearance and taste, the meal is taken out of the bags and finished in some other ways. In the case of the medium rare brisket I saw, the brisket was vacuum sealed then held in 130 degree water for more like 36 hours (I honestly don't remember his details), then chilled and finally put into the smoker for a few hours to get the smoke flavoring and the desired bark on the brisket. By contrast, making a brisket completely in the smoker would typically be at least 16 hours, carefully maintaining temperature with
20 degrees by feeding wood into the smoker, then cooking the brisket to
an internal temperature of 203F. The brisket is "well done" by any cook's standards, not medium rare.
The usual technique, for something like a good steak, is to sous vide it for 1-2 hours at the internal temperature you like on the rare to well done scale, and then finish it with a brief sear in a hot pan. It's the only way you get a steak that looks like this:
Basically, since reading the post about medium rare brisket, I've been researching the technique and trying to see if I wanted to take the plunge and get into this. During the Cyber week specials on Amazon, I took advantage of a sizable discount (which I see is still in effect) on one. After missing out on a lower priced deal the week before.
Once it arrived, I tested it out to make sure it was working, and then went looking for a recipe for a smoked chuck roast. I found a couple, one that soaked 36 hours at 155 and another that soaked for 48 hours at 135 (private forum I can't link to). By last Friday I hatched a plan to start the sous vide soak at noon Saturday, soaking at 133 until today at noon, give it an ice bath to reduce the internal temperature and then smoke it three hours or until about 5 PM. Since this is the internet and "without pictures it didn't happen", this is the start of the process:
A few hours ago, right out of the smoker, and "pulling" a few pieces (pulled beef), it looked like this:
It kept a good pinkish color like a medium rare roast, got a good smokey flavor in the three hours it had and the texture was on the line between being good for pulled beef and a tender roast. All in all, I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. I've tried one chuck roast in the smoker before and it was a disaster compared to how well this turned out.
We can get into deep philosophical questions about "it's not really barbecue" if you'd like, but my take is it's not "classic" barbecue: so what? It's not relying on long periods of heat provided by burning wood (or propane or any other fuel or an electric burner in the case of my electric smoker); it mostly relies on an electric water heater with the burning wood (or smoke source) secondary. I've long heard that after the first few hours in smoke, the food isn't going to absorb any more. So if it's not classic barbecue and it's a different thing, fine. I'll play with the different thing.
With the caveat that I have never eaten Sous-nothing and the principle that if it tastes good, screw the rest, I have to say it looks like you are boiling meat dry and then smoking it...weird.ReplyDelete
Likewise, I've never tried this kind of cooking before, or had it anywhere, so this was a bit of a leap.Delete
You're not boiling the meat, it's sealed in a plastic bag, so water never touches it. All you're doing is bringing it up to a constant, low temperature that's tightly controlled. I cooked this at 133 and that's a long way from boiling. They say sous vide has been used for a long time, but the price was a barrier. The advance is these low-priced cookers aimed at the home user.
Lots of recipes at Serious Eats.
I've seen other barbecue websites talk about using the smoker in the same basic way. Take a thick, raw, rib eye steak, smoke it at a low temperature until the Internal Temperature is whatever you want, then pull it out of the smoker and put it on a grill to sear it. It's also done with the oven and a frying pan. For some reason, they call that "reverse searing".
Watch a dozen or so YouTube videos from "Sous vide everything" so you are not reinventing the wheel. Go to the video page:Delete
I hadn't searched for anything on YouTube for some reason, so thanks for the link. Watched a couple already.Delete
My neighbor lets me pick up hickory nuts from his yard each fall which I let dry in the basement. They are excellent for use in my electric smoker, just as good as hickory chips and last longer plus being free. I thought that I was the first to do so but now there others on the web who had done so...EAS.ReplyDelete
I never thought that hickory trees grew around central Florida, but a trip to Wikipedia tells me that there's a scrub hickory that's endemic to central Florida. Their range map leaves out the coasts, but maybe the local nurseries will know better.Delete
I have a live oak in the back yard and oak wood is fine for smoking. I'm also about knee deep in acorns from it and if they would make good smoke, I have a lifetime supply.
I've been thinking about giving sous vide a try. And I have live oaks and acorns aplenty.ReplyDelete
A quick check in a few places shows that live oak acorns weren't recommended for smoking. The most common argument was the shells are too thin to do much and the nut meat itself has too much tannic acid and gives a bitter taste.Delete
Too bad. We have enough acorns this year to build a 5 foot tall berm and hang targets.
Interesting, but would never fly in TexasReplyDelete
"Precision Cooking"......I like it!ReplyDelete
Now call it “Tactical Cooking” and start a new fad. Multicam aprons, anyone?Delete