Tube Steak F'real




Introduction: Tube Steak F'real

About: retired chemist trying to stay out of trouble

This is a story about low-temp water bath cooking. Long a favorite way for chemists to precisely control their reactions, it has now been widely adopted in the culinary world as Sous Vide cooking. Recently the technology has been adapted for the home. And even more recently, the temperature control electronics have been boxed. Now those of us in tiny kitchens can attach a brain to a cheap crockpot. With very little effort or attention, we can all cook meat as perfectly as the most experienced chef. 

I discovered that this cooking process can also be used to mold proteins into fun shapes. So let's do it.

Step 1: Meat the Dork

You will need some meat, cling wrap, a crockpot, a temperature controller, a culinary torch, a functional kitchen, and a healthy appetite. 

This is my water bath cooker. I call it the Dork because the temperature controller is made by an outfit called DorkFood. (You can wire together your own with generic components from Amazon, but the savings are slim.) The heater is a $14 gallon-sized crockpot.

Together they use about 10¢ worth of electricity per day. Yes, I mean it will cook 24 hours for a dime. This is important in Florida because not enough heat is generated to ever make the kitchen uncomfortable. Together with the peerless results, it has become my favorite way to cook meat. If you like medium-rare roast beef, the Dork will give you beef at 132 degrees from stem to stern no matter how long it cooks. Maybe you prefer your beef at 133 degrees — you got it. Or whatever else you like. It's virtually foolproof. 

Step 2: Cylindres De Poulet

There is no possible way to get more tender, juicy, and delectable chicken. I cut the minor part of the breast off so that when reversed, it evens up the shape. 

Then the pieces are rolled together tightly in cling wrap. Four or five wraps makes a waterproof bag. Rolling with a little water on the counter or a silicone mat helps to pull the wrap tight. When the ends are twisted, it gets even tighter and a smooth cylinder develops. Overhand knots in both ends keep the wrap in place. Work them right down to the meat. You want tight.

Step 3: Set and Forget

I put the chicken in the Dork and go for a swim. It should cook for at least 2 hours to ensure pasteurization. (Check online sources for safe processing temperatures and times.) If I'm gone for 4 hours, it doesn't matter because the Dork keeps watch. It will never over cook and dry out.

Out of the water bath with tongs, I rapidly cool the bags in tap water. A lot of meat juice is released during cooking, but it's still in the bag. So I keep them overnight in the fridge to let that juice go back into the meat. Then I'll freeze or serve it. 

Most cooks will season the meat before bagging it, but I don't bother. Since nothing is lost, I have found that water bath cooking intensifies meat flavor.

Step 4: Beef Like Never Before

A warning: After experiencing beef cooked this way, you may completely lose interest in grilling. Say goodbye to expensive cuts, toughness, dryness, and tedium. I can drop a bag of frozen beef in the Dork and go away for the afternoon. Or a day. Or a weekend. When I fish it out, every bit of the meat will be perfectly medium-rare and fork tender.

I usually buy a great lump of the cheapest whole beef from a high-quality supplier. This meat tends to be very flavorful, but tough. The Dork fixes that. I cut away the worst of the sinew and fat. I don't put much care into this trimming, because it all gets simmered down to broth. After cooking at 132F for 36 to 48 hours, the remaining connective tissues are gelatinized. It's like butter. 

To get even more flavor, I induce the Maillard Reaction by browning the surface with a very hot culinary torch. Often the results don't escape the cutting board.

Step 5: Lilliputian Sandwiches

For a more indulgent luncheon, I'll mix meats and sauces. I bake 6 oz baguettes for these tiny sandwiches. Some yogurt dressing or creamy relish helps to glue down the meat. A squeeze of sauce and garnish like a maniac. 

Cheers from Sarasota.



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    19 Discussions

    I like your method for sealing the meat. Much more affordable than a vacuum sealer. Costco sells boneless short ribs that would work perfectly with this. Too bad I already froze mine.

    I finally ponied up the cash and got my Dorkfoods temperature controller, and am currently making eggs (the only protein in the house) and will stop by the store tomorrow for beef and chicken to experiment on this weekend. Thank you for pointing me in this direction ages ago!

    How do you recoil after freezing or the night in fridge? Back in the dork? Microwave?? Or?

    1 reply

    I, for one, would never recoil from such a thoughtful question. LOL Let's see how complicated I can make this.

    Re-Dorking fully cooked cold meat is too much trouble for me. My crock only produces 100 watts, so it would take too long. But it would be good as new.

    I generally use the cylinder shaping method on fish for direct service or for cold lunch meat. The half pound portions are just right for 2, and poof, they're gone.

    However, the cylinders can be re-thermalized without further cooking using several methods. Chicken can be rolled in a hot pan with butter to warm the center and nicely brown the surface. Anything can be torched or nuked, and gently warmed in a low oven or pan. It will never be as moist and tender as straight from the bag, but ...

    Some people are put off by perfectly cooked beef and lamb. Since a zero delta T water bath produces no color gradient in red meat, it looks artificial. Chefs often quickly blast undercooked beef in a very hot oven or salamander to serve a more traditional looking presentation. Sounds like more work than conventional roasting, but it helps them turn out a lot of plates in a hurry. You can do that too with leftovers, or for a dinner party where a home kitchen would be stressed.

    chicken blast.jpg

    *heads to amazon looking for a temperature controller*
    This is exactly what I need. Meats for the ages. Also, I'll be able to produce hamine eggs with impunity.

    3 replies

    Let's chat about hamine eggs. I would very much like to hear about your method.

    I can get an extraordinary smooth hard cooked egg in 4 hours at 145F. But it doesn't have a hint of Maillard browning. I'm told this won't begin until a day at 170F. So I was going to experiment with pressure cooking which can produce a true Hamine egg in an hour. Or so I've been told.

    Well, my technique has been lacking since i do not have good temprature control, but my feeble attempts simply by using a thermomiter and adjusting the dial on the crockpot have returned some decent results. I'm modeling my attempts after what i read on thepauperedchef (.com) which was the first result I got googling hamine eggs.(which states the ideal temprature at 154F not 145, but that may be a typeo on your part?)

    A temperature controller will give you exactly what you want with no effort. So you're in for a treat.

    I read the post you cited with interest. The author seems to be overcooking to get a hard egg, but undercooking to get a hamine egg. You will need to beat on that albumen much harder to get the browning and Maillard flavors of a hamine egg.

    I really do cook eggs at 145F for best texture and flavor. This came from the results of a blind taste panel hosted by Dave Arnold. (Cooking Issues)

    ahh the torch is brilliant. Thanks for the link to Maillard Reaction, too. I love the show Good Eats and the host usually gets scientific about the food, but I don't think they ever talked about the science behind this.

    1 reply

    You're welcome; thanks for commenting.

    I'm an Alton Brown fan too. He has mentioned the Maillard Reaction on a number of occasions, because he is such a name-dropper. It's enough to say that browning meat creates good flavor. The chemistry is extraordinarily complex and may never be fully characterized. So who cares?

    I use the Iwatani butane torch, which is highly regarded. Gas canisters seem to be available and inexpensive at Asian markets everywhere. A tip: blot the meat dry before torching. Otherwise the heat will make steam that will cook the meat at 212F instead of scorching the surface at 2300F.

    However, a revolution in culinary torching is on the horizon.


    So very true, and on more levels than you can possible know.

    Congrates for publishing triple digit Instructables.

    You're welcome, fellow Whovian. But I'm feeling a little guilty about this. There are a number of Instructables on building these temperature controllers written by very clever people. I just had one delivered, which seems pretty lame by comparison. But I'm constantly using it.

    My point was showing how this part of Modernist Cuisine can be compact, affordable, and useful. So if you enjoy tinkering with electricals, keep an eye on kitchen practicality.