As self-proclaimed meat geeks, who better than us to bring out new ways to create scrumptious cooked meat products for everyone to enjoy. We’ve been playing with a new style of cooking for the last couple of years that is best called ‘Hybrid Cooking’. *shh…we think it may be the start of a new school of cooking, so we’ll keep it between us as we wait to get discovered*
Those of us who have spent time in agricultural locales think of hybridization as the process of combining two different plants or animals to get the best attributes of each. Contemporary vernacular generally means a car with multiple fuel sources. Proper definitions express these, and encapsulates the idea that we are bringing forward:
Hybrid: produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements. Having two different types of components performing essentially the same function.
Low & Slow is Sous Vide’s Middle Name
We all know that low and slow is an incredible way to get textures and flavors that cannot be achieved any other way. That is true of not just smoked meats either, as any kitchen will show with crock pots, roasting pans etc. One approach that has been used in commercial kitchens for decades and is rapidly gaining popularity with the home cook is using an immersion circulator to preform a ‘sous vide’ process.
The term sous vide first appears about 1986, but the idea is ancient. The process is to seal the food and let it cook in a temperature controlled water bath. The device called a Sous Vide keeps a set temperature for as long as needed to complete the cooking process. That way everything in the water bath gets to a precise temperature and stays there. We prepared all these recipes using Anova’s Culinary 500 Precision Cooker. We tested out the Anova’s accuracy when we conducted our instant read thermometer testing with a reference thermometer and it held the warm water bath dead on point within a two tenths of a degree.
A little background
Sous vide cooking actually has the same eons of history that smoking meats has. Thousands of years ago people would put eggs and hard vegetables into hot springs to slowly cook. And of course baked custards and such use water baths to maintain constant temperatures and regulate the speed at which they cook. So the concepts are not new.
Like smoking meats though, the technology has allowed us to take things to another level. Between the arrival of food grade plastics that do not impart flavor, and smaller electrical components to run the devices, the technology of the sous vide process has allowed it to blossom well beyond its roots.
Right up our alley
With most meats the sous vide process is very familiar to us. Season, cook at temp, and then sear to get a crust. Our hybridization of this takes the familiar smoking techniques and creates a similar process;
- Cold smoke with minimal internal temperature increase
- Rub or season and let marinade.
- Controlled cook with the sous vide.
- High heat to get a desired crust.
Trust us when we say this will elevate your cooking to a whole new level.
HYBRID COOKING: SOUS VIDE + GRILLING RECIPES
At SMG controlled cooking is our life blood, right? So shifting the way we do that is where it gets interesting. We’ll go over a number of recipes in this series of articles. One of them is for beef spare ribs. The sous vide portion is for 36 hours at 150 degrees. You heard that right, one and one half days, with a set and forget device that doesn’t even need you to monitor the fuel. Imagine those ribs having been smoked first and then cooked really low and slow. There’s the start of our hybrid process.
As we know from the science behind, say, smoked pork shoulder or brisket, the long slow cooking breaks down the collagens and connective tissues to give us the amazingly tender meats we love. The same science is at play with the sous vide. Incredibly, it offers the most precise control of the process that you will find. For example, restaurants will put a two inch steak in a sous vide bath at 120 degrees for two hours, it will come out perfectly rare and tender from edge to edge. Then a quick sear on their broiler and its ready to serve.
What made the sous vide so successful in the commercial environment is that you could now launch a fleet of steaks individually sealed in your controlled water bath. They all hit a precise doneness, typically just under medium rare. For group service, including banquets, this was a game changer. The combination of the complete control on the first step, a full cooking process that not only keeps the integrity of the steak, but actually improves it, is what makes this work. Then a quick finish with a sear for color and flavor and done. Perhaps the most consistent cooking technique available.
Cooking the same cut of steak but from different steer will react differently to being broiled to desired doneness, including shrinkage, drying out, etc. The sous vide step helps eliminate even most of that variable.
The question we get is why bother? After all, a steak done properly, seared at high heat, minimal seasoning and cooked to your favorite doneness is an awesome meal. All that is true. However, imagine getting any steak to have a great flavor, hit the mark on doneness and be tender and juicy every time. A filet or ribeye is pretty easy, but moving into your loin steaks you get more flavor while sacrificing tenderness. This process really will help you get the best of both worlds.
In this case we used grocery store T-bones, so predominantly a NY strip cut with a little tenderloin and of course the bone. These were not a choice grade but we got them to that level through this process.
Seal the steak for sous vide. Even with a vacuum sealer, when sealing a bone in product always put a second layer and seal again. It is almost guaranteed that a bone will poke a little tiny hole, which will let in a surprising amount of water when the whole thing is warmed up and soaking for a couple hours. We knew right away we had a hole with this batch, after sealing you could see the package taking back air.
Let the steaks cook in the sous vide bath for 3 hours. As you get near the end, preheat your broiler or skillet to a high temp. You will get a very nice sear with about 2 minutes per side. We did one minute, rotate 180 degrees, one minute, then flip and repeat on the other side to get those fun grill marks. Let rest a few minutes, then serve and enjoy.
Sous Vide Cook Times for Ribeye, Strip, Porterhouse and T-Bone Steaks
|Rare||120°F - 128°F||1 to 2.5 hours|
|Medium Rare||129°F to 134°F||1 to 4 hours|
|Medium||134°F to 144°F||1 to 4 hours|
|Medium Well||145°F - 155°F||1 to 3.5 hours|
|Well Done||156°F+||1 to 3 hours|
This is the most gratifying way to prepare a pork loin chop, or possibly any pork chop, that you may ever enjoy. We’re using 9-10 ounce chops, so they are a nice thickness, at least one inch. To make the first step easy, we are using a pellet smoker.
Take straight from the refrigerator;
- 4 pork chops, 2-3#s total weight
Cold smoke for one hour, preferably at a temperature under 150 degrees. While this is happening, make your rub.
Mix in a small bowl;
- 1-½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon granulated sugar
If you do not have a sealer, place the chops in a zip type bag and place in a bowl of water to force all the air out before sealing. Place this in another zip bag and repeat the process.
At this point you can freeze the chops until you are ready to cook them. The best part is that you can take them straight from the freezer to the sous vide and cook them up.
Now We’re Cookin’
Get your sous vide up to temperature, as we said 145 degrees for what we are doing. When at temperature, place your sealed chops into the water bath and set your timer for 3 hours. Add one hour if they are taken directly from the freezer.
Before the time expires in the sous vide, pre-heat either a broiler or skillet to a high temp. Remove the chops from the sous vide bath, and from their packet. Dry the chops and sear 1-2 minutes until nicely marked. Serve and enjoy.
Sous Vide Cook Times for Pork Chops
|Rare||130°F||1 to 4 hours|
|Medium Rare||140°F||1 to 4 hours|
|Medium Well||150°F||1 to 4 hours|
|Well Done||160°F||1 to 4 hours|
If you haven’t done a Spatchcock process before, it is an old timey name for a very specific way of prepping fowl to cook. Simply put, you remove the spine from the bird, split the breastbone and flatten it for cooking. It does look a bit odd the first time you see it, but it gives you a more even flattened meat that cooks very well together.
Because we are playing in the hybrid cooking arena, we will of course incorporate multiple techniques in this recipe. Step one, split and flatten. Step two is cold smoke for one hour.
Sticking with technique that has deep roots – Spatchcock and smoke so far – we are going to prepare a basting for the meat while it cooks in the sous vide. Heat your sous vide to 155 degrees
In a bowl, mix:
- ½ cube, 2 ounces, well softened butter
- 1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons dry basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ lemon, zest and juice
Sous Vide Cook Times for Chicken
|Juicy & Tender||150°F||1 to 4 hours|
|Juicy & Firm (Traditional)||160°F||1 to 4 hours|
Our friends at Thermoworks did a deep dive into safe coking temperatures that back of the safe aspect of these time and temps. Their article is based on FDA guidelines.
Their safety guidelines are great, and this recipe meets them easily. However, we may vary in opinion as to dark meat preferences. This recipe will give you very tender, extremely juicy dark meat with the slightest of pink hues to it.
Finishing the meal
The other result of this recipe is an incredible jus that comes out of the bag. We highly recommend that you reserve this after the sous vide process. Very easy, cut the corner of the packet, drain the juice through a strainer. Use it as part of your stock while cooking Risotto and you will have a wonderful meal!
The bird will section into four easy pieces, two light, two dark. Or break it down further depending on the preferences of your group enjoying the meal.
This is a wonderful way to use boneless skinless chicken thighs and get them flavorful, tender, juicy, and ready to serve in all kinds of ways.
As with most of our hybrid cooking meats, this starts with one hour of cold smoke. We want to avoid raising the internal temperature, which is problematic considering the thinness of the meat. So we take an extra step to cool them down rapidly. We chose to get them sealed and spend 30 minutes in the freezer, then proceed. You can also spread them out and put them in the refrigerator before sealing, then proceed. What we are working toward is avoiding the danger zone of a couple of hours at temperatures that can become less healthy, so please act accordingly.
But wait, there’s more
Or don’t serve right away. This is an item that you can find a multitude of ways to enjoy. They do make a great meal right off the broiler. They also made a nice hearty soup with rice, corn, caramelized onions, chicken stock, and a couple of tablespoons of barbecue sauce. We’ve diced them up and tossed them with pasta or served them cold on top of a salad, or inside a tortilla for a lunch wrap. With good texture and deep flavors, this is a great recipe to make now, so you have some on hand for future meals.
This recipe calls for lots of time. Not necessarily yours, the prep is actually pretty easy, but we run the clock to get a wonderfully textured tasty product. This is also a simple recipe that doesn’t clutter up with a bunch of flavors. Instead the goal is to just let the meat flavors shine.
Start with cold ribs from the fridge, put them in the smoker for one hour. Keep the temperature low, preferably under 150 degrees, this is not the actual cooking process.
For the rub, mix equal parts;
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper
Get your sous vide fired up with the water at 150 degrees. Because we are going to cook this for an extended period of time, we won’t need to let the flavors marinate together prior to using the sous vide.
After smoking, rub the rib meat liberally with the mix. Seal them either with a vacuum sealer, or in a double layered zipper bag. If using the zip style bag, place in water bath to push out the air, seal, then repeat the process with another zip bag.
As you near the end preheat your broiler to a high temperature.
Lamb is one of those meats that has such a depth of flavor to begin with that we can really play with peripheral flavors to make a good dish. It also is readily available with the hard work finished when you buy what the trade calls BRT; boned-rolled-tied.
We generally see imported lamb, which generally run smaller and milder in flavor. The difference can be as much as two pounds between domestic, average 7 pounds, and imported averaging 5 pounds. The size will only affect this recipe in the coverage of the seasonings, times and temps remain the same.
Sprinkle a medium coating on both sides of the meat with roughly equal amounts;
- Kosher Salt
- Dried oregano
- Dried thyme
- Black pepper
It is also easiest to get the last ingredients on the meat while it is in the sleeve. Using a long handled teaspoon, distribute as evenly as possible:
- 4 Tablespoons of minced garlic
Place a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on both sides and seal the packet. If using zip bags submerge the bag, with the meat inside, in a pot water to push the air out. Repeat the process with another bag. With longer cook times, double bagging is always a good idea. Using your vacuum sealer prep your packet, and here too, we highly recommend a double seal on each end just to be safe. Let it rest refrigerated for 12-24 hours.
Set your sous vide to 135 degrees and cook in the bath for 8 hours. This will put you toward the top end of medium rare. As a point of reference, here’s the general guidelines for temps and doneness for leg of lamb:
- Rare: 125°F to 130°F
- Medium Rare: 130°F to 137°F
- Medium: 138°F to 145°F
- Well Done: Above 145°F
Ingredient list recap:
- 5-7 Pound BRT leg of lamb
- Kosher Salt
- Dried oregano
- Dried thyme
- Black pepper
- Minced garlic, 4 Tablespoons
- Fresh Rosemary, 5-6 sprigs
This is a fun way to go because it brings together everything we want in the hybrid cooking process. The layers of flavor from smoking, citrus, seasoning and more, will make this a go to dish for you.
But that is one of the very cool things if you are new to a sous vide. We pulled three nice looking steaks, seasoned them with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, vacuum sealed them and put them in the freezer. When the time comes, they can go straight from the freezer to the sous vide, add 30 minutes to the cook time, and you don’t have to worry about thawing them first.
In a bowl mix;
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
- ¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano
Sprinkle this liberally on your steaks. Thin slice one lime. Put the steaks in your sealable bag, zip style or vacuum. Distribute the lime slices evenly on both sides of the meat. Seal them off and place in the fridge overnight or 24 hours.
Bring the sous vide up to 130 degrees. Cook the steak for three hours.
In the meantime, thinly slice;
- ½ white onion
- ½ sweet onion
- ½ red onion
- 1 orange bell pepper (remove seeds stem)
- 1 Poblano pepper (remove seeds and stem)
Have ready a mix of;
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon cayenne
- 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
- 2 Tablespoons canola oil
When the steak is cooked, cut off the corner of your packet and drain the juice through a strainer into a bowl or cup. Remove the steak, discard the lime, and cut the steaks into approximately ¼” slices.
Add the oil to the skillet, followed by the sliced onions. After a minute add the peppers, garlic, steak, seasonings, the juice of ½ lime, and the juice from the steak packet.
Let cook for two minutes or so. Serve with chopped cilantro and tortillas, and maybe some avocado and other typical garnishes.
Magic of Sous Vide
There are times this seems like a magical device, or at least it alters the laws of physics. Homemade Limoncello, a divine lemon liqueur from Italy, is a great example. Normally you throw the base ingredients in a jar and let it sit in the basement for 30 days while the flavors integrate. Not so with the Sous Vide. Using a high proof unflavored alcohol you can get an amazing product in just two hours, plus overnight time to settle out.
We made traditional Limoncello and couldn’t resist trying our hand at a uniquely American flavor, what we now call Key-Lime-n-cello. Traditionally you want to get the thinnest strip of lemon rind that you can. The white part, the pith, can impart bitter flavors, and many lemons have thick pith. We used a vegetable peeler to quickly get broad thin strips of lemon rind. Key Limes have a ridiculously thin skin so we cut them in half, squeezed some of the juice into the jar through a strainer and chucked them right in with it.
Ideally find the highest proof grain spirits available in your market. Luckily we could get Everclear which is available at 190 proof, 95% alcohol, for us. That is what this recipe is based on.
SOUS VIDE LIMONCELLO AND MORE
- Quart size mason jars with new lids
- Sous vide
- 2 quarts approximately, grain neutral spirits
- 6 mid-size lemons
- 10 Key limes
- 8 cups of sugar
- Filtered water
- Use a vegetable peeler or such to remove the lemon rind and place in one jar.
- Cut Key Limes in half, squeeze juice through a strainer to catch the seeds, place juice and squeezed fruit into the other jar.
- Fill each jar to within ½ inch of the top with alcohol and lightly hand tighten the lids. You want the air to escape as the jars heat up so do not overtighten.
- Place in sous vide bath 130 degrees for two hours.
- Optional; Remove from SV, tighten lid and let sit inverted overnight to clarify.
- Prepare heavy syrup. Boil 4 cups filtered water, add 8 cups of sugar, stir until dissolved and let cool to room temp.
- Pour your now flavored alcohol through a strainer into a mixing bowl.
- Do not be shocked. Adding water will cloud the Limoncello, a natural reaction to water meeting the oils. This is a personal taste step. We added 12 ounces of syrup to the Limoncello and 16 ounces to the Key-Lime-n-cello to reach a sweetness we liked. Carefully taste for sweetness, keeping in mind this is very high proof still. Add filtered water to double the jars original volume, then add one more cup. This will take you to about 80 proof, 40 % alcohol which is a standard level for most liquor.
- We bottled in pints. Enjoy served over ice, or mix with soda or iced tea. Enjoy!