Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Beer Cooler Sous Vide: Some Thoughts

Beer CatI might put up a more substantive post on Kenji's concept of Beer Cooler Sous Vide, but I don't think I have it totally perfected yet... so I thought I'd just throw out some advice/issues I've had so far. Tried it twice, both times just making burgers. I thought using sandwich bags and slowly immersing them in water to force the air out worked pretty well... though you probably get a tighter seal using plastic wrap like Thomas Keller suggests, it's a bit more wasteful. The biggest problem was that my cooler lost about 10 degrees by the end of 45 minutes. I used water that started over a 130 degrees, so the food was still cooked fine (120 degrees is rare)... but it's obviously not ideal. Now the cooler I was using is not very big, so maybe the initial addition of the meat caused the drop... but I made sure the second batch of burgers was at room temperature. However some of the comments of Kenji's post suggests that the top of beer coolers tend not to be insulated (mine does feel pretty flimsy and possibly hollow)... so I should have used a blanket on top to hold in some more heat... apparently home brewers use beer coolers for a similar purpose (making a mash tun) and drill holes and use expanding foam to make their coolers more effective. I'm not particularly handy, so I think I'll skip the latter solution, but a blanket is fairly doable. The second idea to combat temperature loss is "preheating" the cooler with hot tap water for 10-15 minutes, which is also suggested in Keller's piece.

Oh, so how were the burgers? Not perfect obviously...  but still pretty great. The best part being that they only take a couple of minutes to make after they've been cooked in the water bath, so it's much easier to bring together a meal with multiple moving parts. I'll probably have some more posts on this in the coming weeks as I experiment some more with perfecting beer cooler sous vide.