Saturday, February 17, 2018

Sous-Vide "Clash of the Aphorist"

A little rant followed up with an experiment based on a subjective opinion.

I belong to a few Sous-Vide Food groups on Facebook and there seems to be a growing division concerning the proteins pretreatment before being cooked. You have advocates on both sides that are adamant about their technique. Some use science to back up their claim, but in the end it's about how something tastes. I'm not kidding either; people actually debate taste. They may call it something else to detract from what I think is so obvious. I've seen people, that are masters at debating, change an entire conversation to suit their perceived conclusions. The frustration for me is when the discussion pivots: the antagonist is skilled at debating so he does what politicians do he pivots. Since he cannot argue something that's unsustainable he changes the conversation. 

 To get on ones soap box and argue an opinion is fruitless and a waste of time. This argument or position rises to the level of religiosity and romance. The pretentious attitudes that accompany the debates are tiresome. Anyhow, to close out my rant I'll just add the following. The post you're about to read, (maybe) is based on conjecture and what I know/think to be true. 

Let's get this out of the way before we continue. Based on science, salt is the only thing that can penetrate protein....DONE...take a look at the following: The Secrets And Myths Of Marinades, Brinerades, And How Gashing Can Make Them Work Better by Meathead Goldwyn. I've read all his articles and all the links associated with this subject. In addition I have read a multitude of scientific papers, posts, and periodicals that assert the same thing. The above link is my favorite because it gets straight to the point, and makes it simple to understand. I agree whole heartily with everything he wrote. Anything added to a protein with the exception of salt, is mostly a surface treatment.

However, that being said, one cannot dispute an opinion. I don't care if you bring up taste, smell/smells or how our senses interpret taste. It's about what a person prefers (science be damned). I know people that swear well done steak is the bomb!! And even though that is crazy talk to me, I don't care. Just don't preach to me that it's the greatest thing in the world and everyone should like it that way. 

Over the years I have experimented with many of cuts of meat and many treatments. Here's a list of some of my experiments.  Do I do everything the same way? No I do not. In my opinion there are times I like adding herbs to vac bag and other times I do not. A good example would be my Turkey Roulade and my Deconstructed Rib-Roast. Mind you this is just two examples; I have many more. One thing is absolute for me I never SV any protein nekkid, meaning at a minimum I always add salt. I always dry-brine for a minimum of 6 hours too. Nekkid produces flavorless meat in my opinion. I have conducted numerous experiments using salt and give many examples why this is a good thing. 

The following is a blind experiment involving different proteins treatments. I used Hanger steaks because they are not to big and not to small. Steak #1281 grams treated with .60% salt, Steak #2289 grams treated with .60% salt and some seasonings. Steak #3284 grams was marinated with some fresh squeezed OJ, Lime, a touch of Soy, Fish Sauce and again some seasonings. The marinade by volume was very small. All contents were placed in a zip lock bag. 
Steak #4264 grams was nekkid.

All steaks received a 12 hour rest in the refrigerator. After the 12 hour stay they were Vac Sealed. The Bag containing the marinade was drained, meat dried off and vac sealed too. All the steaks will be Warm Aged at 104 ℉ for 90 minutes. After the elapsed time, boiling water will be added to the container to hasten the temperature increase to 128 ℉, which is the finishing temp too. All 4 steaks will be SV'd for 5 hours. The steaks will be cold-shocked and stored in refrigerator awaiting the next step. The steaks will be removed from the Vac bags and dried thoroughly. I will place a small fan on them to ensure the drying process. The steaks will be weighed post SV and post sear. The steaks will be brushed with melted butter and coated with black pepper prior to searing with the exception of steak #4, which needs salt.  

Post 12 hour refrigerator stay.... all numbered to keep track. #1- .60% Salt, #2- .60% Salt & Herbs & Spices, #3- Marinated , #4- Nekkid.

Review and Analysis- First let me address the obvious. This was a blind taste test. Secondly all the steaks were amazing. There wasn't a bad steak among them. I mean we ate them all and there were no complaints. 

Steak #1- Awesome!!!! Juicy and full of flavor. Unanimous everyone loved this steak. 

Steak#2- Just as awesome as #1. But here is the distinction. I believe the additional ingredients put if over the top for flavor. Ok you might be wondering why you couldn't achieve the same results adding the Herb & Spices post SV? Well you could but there will be a significant flavor difference. I've done it both ways and for some reason adding a dry-rub pre- SV brings about unparalleled flavor. I can only describe this as a sumptuous meaning all the flavors combine to make something unique. In my opinion if you add the same Herbs and flavors Post SV it will be a deconstructed flavor. It will still be incredible but just different. You would never know the difference unless they were side by side. 

Steak #3- It was delicious. The marinade was not bad at all. Everyone loved this steak too. No complaints at all. Maybe....and barely noticeable not as tender as #1 or #2. Maybe because of moisture loss? Now comes the kicker. The Herb & Spices were lost. Practically non existent in taste. Still damn good to eat though. 

Steak #4- Not as tender as #1, #2 & #3. It lacked flavor when compared to the other steaks. Just confirms my belief that pretreatment with salt is necessary. That being said still a damn good steak. 

The spread sheet above says it all.... I will leave the analysis to you. 

Now in my opinion if you want the ultimate steak you should combine Fish Salt with a Herbs & Seasonings. 

Conclusion- Don't let anyone tell you how to  think. Don't change if you are happy with your modus operandi. Be open to dialogue. Be open to trying new things. And most importantly don't be bothered or offended if someone does not take your advice. 


more Hanger Steak HERE

Here’s a caveat to herbs in the bag. Thomas Keller suggests (I believe one of his chefs) placing herbs (if you must or find a need) in a plastic wrap sachet. Place sachet (simple folded plastic) in the bag on both sides of the protein. The released juices will intermingle with the herbs and perfume the meat. Again this is only a surface treatment. If you’re expecting more than a surface treatment you need to lower your expectations... LOL. Placing herbs directly on the protein is not an optimum technique. All the posts prior to mine captured just about everything you would ever want to know but let me add one more thing. Herbs pressed up against the protein will most likely have a (undesirable) robust and intense flavor that is isolated. If the protein is huge and you add a twig or two (rosemary or thyme) the overall treatment will be small with an intense flavor where the herb made contact.

Some random thoughts by our friend and Chef Johnny James Gabaldon

what "nekkid" proponents fail to recognize is that some herbs have antioxidant properties. And while flavor may not penetrate deeply, herbs help to prevent the development of oxidizing off flavors. The results are two-fold, 1. "surface" treatment that lends to the overall flavor 2. Prevention of certain off flavors. In regards to surface treatment, I liken the minimal layer of flavor to fried chicken, the crust is very thin but still has a big impact on flavor. Ultimately, what works for you is what you should be doing, but imo if you're not seasoning in the bag, you're leaving a lot on the table (pardon the pun)

I had an epiphany last night. I drove my kids to Starbucks and waited outside while they got a drink. When they got back in the car they both smelled heavily of coffee. Neither one of them ordered a coffee drink. That smell brought on an emotional response from me. It smelled calming and soothing to me and I wanted a cup. My thoughts on seasoning and herbs in the bag are that regardless of how far they penetrate, flavor is flavor. At a minimum, I think everyone should be using salt before and during a sous vide cook.