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Beef Ribs Cooked En Sous Vide - 135 F for 48 Hours

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These beef ribs were far and away the best ribs I have ever eaten. Not only did we fail to photograph the first batch because we ate them so quickly, they didn't even get plated because we ate them standing up over the counter. For breakfast. The meat is completely tender and fall-off-the-bone melted, while still being medium-rare. Sauces or seasonings would have detracted from the perfect meat flavor.

"Sous vide" is French for "under vacuum" and cooking en sous vide typically refers to vacuum packing ingredients, then cooking them under very strict temperature control. "Precision cooking" might be a more accurate term, but all gastronomical things tend to gravitate toward the French descriptions. When sealed in plastic, the aromatics cannot vaporize so flavors are more intense, and food can be cooked in water baths held at specific temperatures for long periods of time without the water soaking or otherwise changing the texture of the food. Sous vide is a food service technique that has been embraced by the world's best chefs, and with some equipment that is not outrageously expensive, you can duplicate some of their dishes.

My two favorite references for sous vide are Thomas Keller's Under Pressure and A Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking by Douglas Baldwin.

Here's the short form of the recipe:
Salt and vacuum pack as many beef ribs as will fit in your water bath (I prefer grass-fed beef).
Cook at 135 F for 48 hours.
Sear with propane torch.
Eat immediately - sharing is optional.
 
 
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agusv1 month ago

Hi! first I just wanted to thank you for this article, it's great and I learned a lot with it. I made my own "sous vide" machine with these items:
1) a simple Hamilton beach crockpot
2) this PT100: http://www.ebay.com/itm/350620081148
3) this PID: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005NGL4KG/
4) this SSR: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B005KPIX9A
5) and a few cables and outlets

I still haven't cooked the ribs, I've been just testing the "machine" I made, and the problem I'm having is that when the PID turns off the crockpot at 135 F, it keeps heating up the water (probably b/c of residual heat) up to 137.5 F. Then, when it turns on again at 135F, it keep losing heat down to 134.3 F. The first time I tried the residual heat brought the temperature up to 140F, and I "solved" it by opening the lid of the crockpot a little more.

So, my question is, can I cook the ribs even if the temperature fluctuates a little? If not, do you have any idea on how to fix this? Thank you!

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bwims2 months ago

Most people who write books on sous-vide (including Baldwin) warn against a "propane flavour" and recommend butane-only torchers, in particular the Japanese Iwatani available from Amazon at $27 or so. You guys are lucky, here in the UK it costs a lot to buy one of these. I've never tried using propane, but since I'm the only one in my family who can taste the chlorine in our water supply and even taste the stainless steel in my Klean Kanteen (I wouldn't use a plastic water bottle!) I wasn't going to risk it. If I can't taste butane, then no one can!

You folk who want a thick burnt crust - the Iwatani will do it.

bobdog8 months ago
I've been wanting to try sous vide for a while. Right now I cook my steaks very low and slow on the grill. Finishing them with a weed burner works great! It does char veggies a bit too much though. Yes, I really do use a weed burner.
lamachine3 years ago
One caution on this method (which did work exactly as advertised). This turns just about any cheap, tough cut of meat into something very similar to prime rib. Juicy, perfectly cooked, intensely flavored. All good things for prime rib lovers, but (imho) beef ribs should have a nice crust, and be gnawed off the bone. As Eric notes, this meat literally falls off the bone. Broiling before serving with a nice BBQ sauce helped, but all who ate agreed it lacked that "Ribs" feel. FYI, the juice and meat from the ribs makes an excellent ragu sauce mixed with a tomato base.
I agree, a blowtorch of this size can't produce enough heat to really finish the outside of the ribs.

You can also finish these on a very hot grill or cast iron pan for true full-flavored meaty crust. Hit the outside with the seasoning of your choice, then sear or grill at VERY high heat just long enough to finish the exterior.

cooldoc canida2 years ago
I happened to have a small George Foreman grill on my counter when I was doing my first sous vide test and I simply had it ready and hot, threw the stake on it right out of the bag... pressed down... and... Viola'! You can even "sear" it and then turn it 90 degrees and "sear" it again for that cross-hatched look that you normally have to pay $$ for in fancy restaurants. ;-)

Seriously, it is fast and easy, especially if you are serving several steaks at once, like for a large group of guests.

One other thing... there are several good water bath controllers out there for about $150 or so... and in my opinion they are FAR better than the sousvide supreme "appliances"... they have a more specific thermal range and you can use them in anything from a crock pot to a rice cooker! My favorite is the controller made by a great little company in Canada called "sous vide magic"... the guy that created the business is an engineer so he prices his products like one... (i.e. - great prices on solid electronics).
I completely concur with Cooldoc's recommendation of the "Sous Vide Magic" controller.

I use my mother's old electric roaster oven that holds 19 liters of water. The roaster oven, the Sous Vide Magic controller, a cheap aquarium pump and a roaster like this one: http://www.amazon.com/Rival-RO180-18-Quart-Roaster-White/dp/B000G0HPEI/ref=sr_1_43?s=kitchen&ie=UTF8&qid=1333645160&sr=1-43. It goes for $20 on Amazon and got a 4 1/2 star rating. Your total cost comes in at less than $200 and you have a capacity almost double that of the "appliance."

What's not to like?
jeff-o4 years ago
I'd be tempted - as you mentioned - to pop the ribs onto a propane grill set to High for this final step.
Yep- this works perfectly- just don't forget them!
Over the last couple of weekends I built a souse vide temperature controller out of an Arduino, a thermocouple, an outlet with a relay (There are Instructables on doing that.) and some various electronics. It cost me about $80 and was a lot of fun to build. Once I get the schematics on the computer, I will put up an instructable.
ewilhelm (author)  dustinandrews3 years ago
Please do post an Instructable!
In the best tradition of instructables I will show you how to turn $90 worth of electtronics and 40 person hours into a rough version of something you can buy for $120. :) I have some photos, and the schematic is coming along. I have the parts to build another one, so I will take notes and photos as I go to make a good instructable.

Have you considered doing your big souse vide in a stock pot that's on a portable stove heating coil rather than a big rice cooker? You could just hook your PID controller to the burner, put the pot on top, and souse vide away. You wouldn't have good insulation, but you would have plenty of space.
I love the 90-40-120 comment! LOL!

I am sure that you already know this but there are several good water bath controllers out there for about $150 or so... and in my opinion they are FAR better than the sousvide supreme "appliances"... they have a more specific thermal range and you can use them in anything from a crock pot to a rice cooker! My favorite is the controller made by a great little company in Canada called "sous vide magic"... the guy that created the business is an engineer so he prices his products like one... (i.e. - great prices on solid electronics).
I bit late for a reply, but the instructable is here: http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-programmable-thermostat-with-Arduino/

I even got the cost down to to about $70.
ewilhelm (author)  dustinandrews3 years ago
I now use a giant rice cooker. You can see it on Twice-Cooked Sous Vide Sea Scallops.
Done and done. http://www.instructables.com/id/Make-your-own-programmable-thermostat-with-Arduino/
FrozenStar4 years ago
Looks awesome! I need to try this but I need to get a vacuum sealer and a temperature controller first :(
FYI, before you buy something expensive... there are several good water bath controllers out there for about $150 or so... and in my opinion they are FAR better than the sousvide supreme "appliances"... they have a more specific thermal range and you can use them in anything from a crock pot to a rice cooker! My favorite is the controller made by a great little company in Canada called "sous vide magic"... the guy that created the business is an engineer so he prices his products like one... (i.e. - great prices on solid electronics).
Ev4 years ago
I have a question. Can a regular plastic bag work with all the air squeezed out? I have boiled omelettes in Hefty bags for 20 minutes, so they should work in 135f?
ewilhelm (author)  Ev4 years ago
Before I had the vacuum packer, I was experimenting with ziplock bags, and had pretty good success.
ziplock bags and straws to suck out the air work well
pjamestx3 years ago
It looks like an Auber controller, maybe this one.
tsdguy4 years ago
This controller doesn't seem to be for sale at the eBay listing linked in the article. Can someone recommend a subsitute?
Phoghat4 years ago
Psst, over here, don't blow my cover. I used to work in a steak house. Ever wonder how they serve 100's of steaks a night, rare, medium well? We used to have them in temperature controlled water baths , temperature corresponding to doneness. when the order was placed, remove corresponding steak, remove from zip lock bag and slap on a 500 degree grill for searing on both sides. Yell Order up! I have to go now, don't try to contact me.
As long as it tastes good, i don't care if the chef kept them pressedbetween his knees.
Hahaha
sounds a nice tip for me. but.... i never cook...
evilhelm4 years ago
WHAT?? Is there a 'good' version of me?? What is this, some kind of joke?
l8nite4 years ago
yes, i suppose you should cool it before sticking it in plastic but if you were going to cook it right away it wouldn't need to be cold. I know that when cooking a big chunk of roast beast in a crockpot/slowcooker I sear it on high heat or the charcoal grill before cooking, the taste then permeates the whole thing. I would imagine it would do the same thing in the bag, if you then used your torch trick it would recrisp the bark/crust
l8nite4 years ago
Wouldn't searing the meat before vacpacing work?
ewilhelm (author)  l8nite4 years ago
I've tried that and it works, but getting the seared meat smell fresh right before eating is preferable, in my opinion. Also, it's easier to vacuum bag items that are cold, so if you do sear before bagging, you really should cool the meat back down. Thomas Keller is very specific about only bagging things cold in his book.
bishophicks4 years ago
I've played around with sous vide a few times. I used a deep saute pan and a kitchen timer with probe thermometer attachment. I plugged the probe's cable into the timer/base and tossed the probe into the water bath. I cooked salmon that I had vacuum sealed with our Foodsaver. I heated the water to the desired temperature (130-135F) and set the stove to low. I regulated the heat by half covering the pan. I set the thermometer to sound the alarm if the temperature went above 136F. I cooked the salmon for 30 minutes and it came out perfect. The next time I cooked salmon I had to "hold it" for an extra 15 minutes while the rest of dinner finished and it was still perfect (because it doesn't go above it's finish temperature). I also made steak once - cooked at about 135-140 for 2 hours, then finished 1 minute per side in a cast iron skillet. It was a relatively cheap cut of meat, but it came out incredibly tender and perfectly cooked. I already owned all the equipment I used. I just wanted to play around with the concept without spending any money. Nothing in my set up would allow you to leave the food unattended for more than 15 minutes - it's not precise at all, but I still got decent results.
westfw4 years ago
Do any local restaurants cook this way? Sounds like something I'd like to try out "done right" before trying to do it myself. (It also sounds like something a restaurant would charge and arm and a leg for...)
ewilhelm (author)  westfw4 years ago
If you've been to even a moderately fancy restaurant, it's likely you've eaten food cooked en sous vide and not even known it. Here's an Oakland Tribune article with some local restaurants: http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4176/is_20061025/ai_n16802491/
robotkid2494 years ago
Looks goodd.
troyml4 years ago
Isn't this sitting within the food "danger zone" of 40-140 F. Therefore potentially harmful?
ewilhelm (author)  troyml4 years ago
You bet the food is sitting in the danger zone! Even more so when I cook sirloin at 122 F for 30 minutes. Read up on how and why this works in either of the references I mention.
It was pretty much inevitable that this would be linked...

canida4 years ago
Just had some of these for breakfast - incredible as usual, and eaten over the counter. :) Where's that industrial-sized cooker?!?
zachninme4 years ago
Those look amazing.
Interesting technique... are there any other cuts/animals that work well? Too bad it requires (relatively) special equipment... the time doesn't seem that bad if it's cooking on its own. And the searing at the end w/ the torch was clever... it didn't seem to penetrate deep at all.
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