13 May 2010

Sous vide salmon

I confess, I've fallen in love with the idea of sous vide cooking.

Sous vide is French for "under vacuum", the least important part of sous vide cooking.  Basically, the idea of sous vide is that you're cooking at the temperature that you want the center of the meat to arrive at, and you're allowing it to come to equilibrium.  That means that you can't really overcook your meat.  Because even after the center of the meat arrives at that temperature, it can't get any warmer, because you've immersed your meat at that temperature.  What it requires is a setup whereby you seal your meat inside a plastic bag (under vacuum, to increase heat transfer) and drop it into a circulating water bath kept at the temperature that you want your meat to reach.

Dr. Ricky recently pointed me towards a cheap sous vide setup.  I decided to take it for a spin, trying out a quick-cooking protein first.  Salmon steak.

Salmon steak

The setup:

Sous-vide setup

A ratty old beer cooler, a meat thermometer, and some hot water. Fill the beer cooler with screaming hot water from the sink. Fix the thermometer probe in the cooler, and add water that you boiled on the stove top.  Add a bit, mix, add a bit more, mix.  For salmon cooked at medium, you're aiming for:


or 140.0 °F.  But close enough.

Meanwhile, prep the salmon.  I warmed it up to room temperature while I was tweaking the temp of the beer cooler.  Place the salmon steak into a large ziploc bag with 1 tsp of olive oil.  Close up the bag almost all the way.  Place a straw into the bag, and use it to suck all the air out of the bag, sealing it when you're done.  This is low-tech vacuum sealing.

Straw vacuum

Not bad, all in all. Drop the fish into the pretty hot (140.0 °F) water.

Beer cooler

Submerse the salmon in the hot (140.0 °F) water, and seal up the beer cooler.

Salmon in the sous-vide

I cooked this for 45 minutes, as the steak was over an inch thick.  But I kept a pot of water boiling, and half way through the cook, when the temperature of the water bath had dropped to 138, I added a wee bit more boiling water, stirred the water a bit, and closed it up again for the rest of the cook.

Forty-five minutes in, I opened up the beer cooler, and removed the bag from the water. Remove the steak from the bag.

Sous-vide salmon

That white stuff doesn't look super-appealing, but this is one *perfectly* cooked salmon steak. Look at the near flakiness of that steak.  Perfect!  Season with salt, pepper and a wee squirt of fresh lime juice.

Sous-vide salmon

The colour makes it look a tad raw, but the mouth-feel is cooked.  This is no sushi-salmon.  The texture is of a *perfectly* cooked salmon. And really, very little effort to guarantee perfectly cooked salmon. I'm a fan of this technique.  You'll be seeing more sous vide here on Indirect Heat.

Serve with a nice wine, some home-made bread and a quick steamed vegetable.


Served with:

Serve with

Post-script:  For future reference, I've discovered from discussions with Dr. Ricky and reading on the internets, that the white goop on the salmon was coagulated serum albumin that you can get rid of by pre-brining the salmon in a 10% saturated salt solution.  We'll try that and get back to you...

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