“Sous Vide” | Brantford Chefs give away a TOP SECRET to succulent meat preparation

You have been waiting to prepare that special memory dinner to impress someone equally special. Here’s the scoop from several Brantford top Chefs and one local Techie/Foodie guy.

Have you tried Sous Vide? On-The-Lam, Brantford Club, Brantford Golf and Country Club and Devlin’s Country Bistro in Mount Pleasant are local establishments using this technique.

Sous Vide is sometimes callously referred to as boiling-in-a-bag. The literal translation is ‘under a vacuum’ as in a vacuum sealable plastic bag immersed into hot water. The bag must be ‘shrink-wrapped’ sealed because it is important to have the heated water touching all parts of it. ‘Immersion Circulators’ vary in size and features attached to a container maintaining the desired water temperature for as long as desired.

Cooking is the science of physics, called gastronomy. The rate and intensity of the molecules being excited by the heat is critical to the most fabulous outcome. Longer slower lower temperature cooking is one of the secret tricks many forget. Red Seal Chefs articulate their masterpieces based on: contact to direct heat (fire); conduction (placed on a heated environment like an oven grill, or the pavement of Route 66 during an Arizona summer); or convection (hot air circulating around the food).Cooking is the art of creating a culinary masterpiece that is delicious, mouth-watering, satisfying, scrumptious, moist and tender. Different cuts and courageous seasonings are more flavourful examples of style, but the principle still comes down to heating before eating.

Just a taste of sous vide prepared examples could include: cheesecake, lobster, crispy chicken wings, fajitas, thai pork, jerk pork, short ribs, flank steaks, rack of lamb, Crème Brule, brussel sprouts, halibut, salads, cookies, eggs benedict and ice cream.

Chris Devlin and his son Ryan at Devlin’s Country Bistro pride themselves in unique dining experiences whereby their patrons can take from a menu or determine gourmet dining expressions in advance. Sous Vide caters to delivering menu changes and responds quickly.

Scott Stewart, Chef/Co-owner of the gourmet ‘On-The-Lam’ restaurant on West Street, and the ‘Rope Factory’ catered event destinations in Brantford is famous for his incredible steaks done sous vide. Scott swears by this technique to bring a customer-first high quality product to the fine dining table. At a recent Rope Factory “Red Meat/Red Wine” dinner series event he had sous vide prepared pork chops, steak, chicken, veal tenderloin and duck breasts. Chef Scott offers that steaks prepared in other ways always have layers of doneness: outer crust well-done; then medium; and rare in the middle: sous vide will give you the way you like it throughout the entire cut. Granted, he sears the meat after cooking to create a couple of millimeters of crust sealing in flavour and adding aromatics and the desired grilled colouring.

Eric Wasylenky, Chef at the Brantford Club across from Brantford City Hall is also an advocate. The precooking of the sealed bag for 90 minutes tenderizes the selection: it is immediately thrown into an ice bath to ‘shock’ the meat and stop cooking; stored in refrigeration until the dining order is made; and then finalized for 10 minutes with desired style; and seared to suit the request. Those loving their steak ‘Chicago Style’ will love this approach… just add butter.

The cost of cooking this way varies considerably, which is why major restaurant chains hesitate to purchase commercial units across their franchises. An entry-level home immersion unit and vacuum bagging set-up could set you back between $200-$600 and up to $1000 with sophistication including bluetooth, while a commercial setup could easily range between $2000 and $10,000 to accommodate the size of their operation including additional refrigeration needed.

Jamie Stephens, a local music and comedy promoter and proud Home Chef swears by the method for chicken and steaks. He has a home immersion circulator, a device for sealing the food tightly in plastic wrap and a passion for experimenting in ultimate dining experiences. He even has an app. He can be out of town on business and need to change the cooking process so he goes to the app and through Wi-Fi gives new directions to alter the temperature or time to suit. Full disclosure, he had a breast of chicken immersed for me to taste. It was moist, flavourful and tender…delicious. And whether chicken or steak and regardless if there are two dining or ten, it is consistently a gourmet delight.

Chef Tracy Winkworth, owner of Liaison College Brantford and former restauranteur, ‘The Belworth House in Waterford’, says it is a natural next step from crockpot cooking. She refers to this as Sous Vide ‘Red Neck’ cooking style of putting a raw pea meal bacon roast in a vacuum sealed bag in a crockpot filled with water to achieve tender pulled pork with aged cheddar cheese, caramelized onions and a mustard BBQ sauce…to die for. She teaches the concept of sous vide broadening awareness of the diversity of techniques. She acknowledges that her taste buds still favour a charcoal grill for striploin and rib eye. She noted that ‘sous vide uses low and slow preparation to control the process and the consistency…ultimately to prevent screw ups’. Chef Eric agrees and suggests it is very forgiving should a Home Chef be distracted during dinner prep. Chef Scott feels it provides an every-time, every-cut perfect consistency in preparation for his clientele but would need more bath units to accommodate regular vegetable and desert selections.

I have, because of this research, found a semi-redneck version for my personal use. There are now less expensive versions at your local small appliance stores. They are a cross between a crock pot and a sous vide pot- two different applications and controls in one appliance. Apparently, my family now thinks I am some kind of chef extraordinaire sharing mouth-watering medium rare sirloin steaks flavoured with ginger stem marmalade and spices. Full disclosure, you simply raid the fridge for favourite flavours, seal and sous for three hours and sear on the BBQ for a couple of minutes each side.

Delish! Anyone can do it!

Try it for yourself at one of our local chef’s kitchens then hit Facebook “Sous Vide For Dummies’ to join a growing network of enthusiasts.

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