I’m always looking at improving what I cook and how I cook it. In some cases, there are only so many ways you can do things…like scrambled eggs. That’s a pretty cut and dry cooking technique. However, other foods, like beef for example, have unlimited options when it comes to creating culinary masterpieces.
With beef you can grill it, roast it, pan fry it, slow cook it, sear it, broil it, smoke it, boil it, and so on. Different cuts turn out better if prepared in certain ways but in general, you can pretty much cook beef however you please.
Earlier this year I invested in a side of beef. It filled my entire upright freezer. I stared at some of the cuts wondering how I would prepare them. I typically stuck to cuts I knew and loved so I was really in for an adventure with various roasts and steaks which I knew nothing about.
Things were going well in the beef preparation department until I got to the chuck steaks. They were thin cuts so I figured pan frying would be ideal. Nope – the meat turned out tough even though I only cooked it to rare. Same thing on the grill. And when it was smoked. And when I tried slow cooking the steaks. That darn chuck steak was determined to make me loose some teeth in it! I never once made it through an entire steak because my jaw started hurting.
I had 20 pounds of chuck steak and another 15 pounds in chuck roasts. I just knew I HAD to do something with them, but what?
Enter, the Sous Vide.
What? You have no clue what I am referring to? Well, neither did I just a few short months ago. While I had heard of the technique, I didn’t know that this was the official name of a cooking method basically involving an extended water bath for foods. (More on that…hang on). It was Rasta Daddy who mentioned the product I am about to introduce you to. After I researched it, calmed my concerns about cooking my food in plastic, and reviewed gobs of recipes specifically for this cooking method, I decided that I needed to try one and share my findings with you!
Before we get to the recipe, let’s chat a little about the Sous Vide shall we? (Hint hint – it makes an incredible holiday gift if you have a home-chef on your list!)
What is Sous Vide?
Sous vide (pronounced soo-veed) is a French phrase that is often translated as “under vacuum.” Essentially, you are cooking food in vacuum-sealed pouches, submerged in a water bath held at a precisely controlled temperature. The end result? Perfectly cooked food. And yes, it really is that simple.
In fact, there are only four steps to achieving some of the best food you have ever made and eaten. You season your meal, you seal it up, you submerge and simmer it in the water bath, and you serve it.
Some dishes are slightly more complicated than that. Some meats requiring pan searing at the end to brown them. Some recipes require a bit of work on the front end to create a sauce or marinade. But in general, there is only about 30 minutes of hands on work.
What do you need in order to cook something using the Sous Vide method?
Well, you need a Sous Vide Supreme. Yes, there are other brands out there but I didn’t review those and I have used and fallen in love with my Sous Vide Supreme.
How does it work?
You can learn more here but in short, through the natural circulation created by the basic physical properties of heat and water, all the water and food in the bath reach the same temperature. The efficient heat transfer capacity of water ensures that no hot spots or cold spots exist once the target temperature is reached.
This is VERY different from traditional cooking methods, where you are exposing your food to temperatures much hotter than their final desired temperature. If you do not control the temperature correctly or if you cook it even 20 seconds too long, you can completely ruin a meal. (This has been my beef with slow cookers for years. They just don’t cook things uniformly and there are so many variations in the ideal times for cooking).
The beauty of sous-vide cooking is that since you are cooking your steak in let’s say a 140°F water bath to begin with, there is absolutely no chance your meat will ever get above that temperature. All you need to do is select what temperature you want to serve your meat at. As long as you give yourself enough time to allow the meat to come to that temperature, you can let it sit in the bath for as long as you want, with no chance of it overcooking, wilting, charring, getting tough, etc… This is particularly useful for tough cuts of meat (like my above mentioned chuck steaks).
So what was my experience with the Sous Vide Supreme?
Well, stellar pretty much sums it up. I hate, and I mean hate, learning how to use new kitchen gadgets but this sweet thing took me less than five minutes to figure out how to use. That included learning how to vacuum seal the food too. (Shocking I know. I had never used a vacuum sealer. That was Rasta Daddy’s domain.)
I was able to find tons and tons of recipes online, both from the Sous Vide Supreme website but also from other sites. I decided that for my “tester” recipe, I would use something straight from the Sous Vide Supreme site. I opted to try a chicken dish and choose their Super Crispy Chicken Thighs which was created by Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo. I have always enjoyed Michelle’s creations and knew that this would be a winner. And it was. It was EASY. It was DELICIOUS! And it saved me hours in the kitchen.
So instead of blabbering on, I would like to get you that recipe for the fabulous chuck steak I made. But before I do, let me just throw a quick little list your way!
Top 5 Reasons To Invest In A Sous Vide Supreme
1. It can save you money! You can purchase cheap cuts of meat that typically would be impossible to cook to perfection and well, cook them to perfection!
2. You will master the art of cooking grass-fed meats. Grass-fed meats require some finesse in cooking that grain fed meats do not. Grass-fed meats are leaner. Less fat = more changes of overcooking or tougher meat in general.
3. It is a huge time saver! The Sous Vide Supreme offers the fix-it-and-forget option of a slow cooker with infinitely better results. It also allows you to meal plan for weeks at a time. You can also make several meals or portions of meals in advance.
4. It is a green addition to your kitchen! This device will use very little electricity compared to most of your kitchen appliances. Once heated to temperature it uses about the same amount of electricity as a 60W bulb. It’s also very well insulated which means your kitchen won’t feel like a furnace when you’re cooking on a hot summer’s day. Also, there are very few dishes dirtied in this cooking process which results in less dishes to wash, which means saving water and dish soap, which is better for our planet!
5. Most importantly, you will cook healthier, more nutritious foods that everyone is guaranteed to love. Cooking food in a vacuum pouch means that all the natural juices and vitamins are retained. They aren’t boiled off or steamed away like in conventional cooking. Food cooked in the SousVide Supreme retains its color and form. You don’t need added butters and oils to moisten dry meat or vegetables anymore. Everything cooked with the SousVide Supreme is perfectly delicious on its own. Natural flavors are enhanced with this type of cooking.
Now, about that elephant in the room…
I can hear it now. “But Hybrid Rasta Mama, you said that the Sous Vide Supreme is earth friendly and healthy. How can that be? You are cooking in PLASTIC.”
Yes, I know. And I looked into this extensively. Trust me, my health cannot take ANY additional toxins so I am very careful about what plastic makes its way into my life. Especially for cooking.
You have all heard about BPA. Well the good news is that the cooking pouches created by Sous Vide Supreme do not contain BPA. They also are phthalate free. This is a big deal because in general, BPA and phthalates are responsible for leaching estrogenic additives (EAs) into food. This becomes a greater concern when you are COOKING food in plastic.
Dr. Mary Dan Eades , the founder of the Sous Vide Supreme, shares the following: “Our quality assurance testing on the plastics used in our cooking pouches involves stressing for 4 hours at boiling (which is never the cooking temperature in sous vide anyway) in migration studies using alcohol, olive oil, and distilled water in the pouches to simulate different types of foods that would be cooked. The results were that plastic components were not found to migrate into the food simulants even under stressed conditions.”
Dr. Mary Dan Eades is very well respected in the natural-minded community and I have no reason to doubt what she says. However, there has still been some concern that unless a manufacturer has developed the product specifically to be free of EA, no plastic or silicon product is truly safe. For me, I feel ok using the bags as long as it isn’t an every-day thing. But…
There is also the important matter of pollution and where all those bags go once they have served their purpose.
Well, not one to pollute the earth, I sought out an alternative to the standard vacuum seal bags. It didn’t take long to find the holy grail of sous vide cooking bags! Food-grade silicone bags, specifically this brand from my affiliate partner Amazon.
Yes, this adds a wee bit of time onto your total prep time but it isn’t bad. Since you can’t vacuum seal out the air, you have to work a bit to squeeze it all out. But once I got the hang of it, it wasn’t too bad. The silicone bags are also thicker than the plastic vacuum seal bags so cooking times will need to be adjusted but if you are leaving your food to cook longer than it really needs to, you don’t have anything to worry about. Also, the silicone bags are dish-washer friendly, reusable, inexpensive, and can be used for other purposes.
So that’s my earth-loving, toxin-avoiding solution to the traditional vacuum sealed pouches. But like I said, I’m not overly concerned about the plastic bags produced by Sous Vide Supreme.
Ok – onto this recipe. I think you will love it, especially because you can pretty much use any cut of beef for this. However, I chose to use chuck steak since it is a tougher piece of meat that can benefit from sloooooooow cooking.
Puerto Rican “Sofrito” Chuck Steak
Yield 4 servings
Chuck steak and it's finest! This slow cooking chuck steak emboldened with the flavors of Puerto Rico will soon become a family favorite.
- 2-3 pounds of chuck steak either in roast form or in 2-3 individual steaks
- 1/2-3/4 cups sofrito
Sofrito Marinade Ingredients:
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1 large green bell pepper
- 1 large yellow onion
- 1 head of garlic
- 20 recao leaves (optional since they can be hard to find. Most Latin and Asian markets carry them though.)
- 1 bunch of cilantro
- 1/2 cup olive oil or coconut oil (if using coconut oil I would opt for the refined version. Traditional sofrito doesn’t have that coconut flavor.)
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon sea salt (I love this one)
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- Juice of one lemon
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
- Slice the peppers into four parts. If using the aji dulce peppers, cut them in half.
- Peel and slice the onion into 8 parts.
- Peel and pull apart the garlic.
- Place peppers, onion, and garlic on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 20 minutes.
- Remove from oven and let cool slightly.
- Chop up the recao leaves and cilantro.
- Place ALL of the sofrito ingredients in a food processor or high powered blender and process until it looks like chunky salsa.
Puerto Rican Sofrito Chuck Steak Directions:
- Rinse your chuck steaks or chuck roast under cool water and pat dry with paper towels.
- Using a sharp tipped knife, make about a dozen tiny little punctures in the roast/steaks. You do not want a through-and-through puncture. Just barely nick the meat.
- Rub both sides of the meat with the sofrito mixture, using about 1/4 cup per pound of meat.
- Vacuum seal as per the directions on the Sous Vide vacuum sealer.
- Set your Sous Vide Supreme to 138 degrees F.
- Once the water has heated, place the roast/steaks in the Sous Vide Supreme. Let them have a nice water bath for 24-48 hours. I typically take mine out around the 36 hour mark.
- You can pan sear or quickly (1 minute per side) grill the steaks to get that nice “steak” color. This isn’t mandatory but most people aren’t used to the pink steak color.
Please note that this is the family friendly version. I left out the super-hot, fire in your mouth Aji dulce peppers. If you would like to use them and increase the heat, go right on ahead. This recipe makes enough sofrito for about 6-8 pounds of meat. I freeze the leftovers to use later.
The winners are as follows:
Sous Vide Package – Marie
Blendtec Package – Melanie M.
Fermenting Kit Package – Reiven W.
Excalibur Dehydrator – Peggy
Proteak Package – Megan J.
You will all be receiving emails from us announcing your win and letting you know how to claim your prize. You will have one week to claim your prize or another winner will be drawn. Please respond to the email you receive NO LATER than 11:59pm, Monday, December 1st, 2014.
The Epic Kitchen Giveaway is a joint giveaway brought to you by Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama, Amanda at Fresh Bites Daily, Jessica from Delicious Obsessions, Laurie from Common Sense Homesteading, and Traditional Cooking School by Gnowfglins. Please visit each of their sites for the opportunity to earn additional entry methods by commenting on and Pinning each recipe.
The Epic Kitchen Giveaway is open to U.S. Residents only. Enter to win from November 10, 2014 – November 24, 2014 (closes 11:59pm PST).
There will be five (5) winners (see giveaway item list below). To enter, simply use the Rafflecopter widget below. Winners will be selected via Rafflecopter and notified within 72 hours of the giveaway closing. Winners will then have 48 hours to respond to the email to collect their prize. If the winner(s) does not respond, another winner(s) will be selected.
The Epic Kitchen Giveaway Prize Packages Include:
1 Winner of the SousVide Supreme Demi Promo Pack in Black (ARV $504.93)
- 1 SousVide Supreme Demi in black
- 1 Sous Vide Vacuum Sealer VS3000 (includes 12 bags), 2 boxes of vacuum pouches, and the Easy Sous Vide cookbook.
Be sure to visit Hybrid Rasta Mama and grab her epic recipe for Puerto Rican “Sofrito” Chuck Steak plus a chance to earn additional entries.
1 Winner of the Blendtec Designer Series Blender (refurbished model) + Twister Jar (ARV $500)
Take your paleo food prep to a whole new level with the Blendtec Designer Series Blender (refurbished model) + Twister Jar. Once you use a Blendtec, you'll wonder how you lived without it. Make ultra creamy shakes and smoothies, rich sauces, and smooth nut butters in a snap with this powerful kitchen appliance. The Twister jar offers and added bonus allowing you to mix up thick, hard-to-blend items or single serve smoothies. I have this exact package and LOVE it more than any blender or kitchen appliance I've ever owned!
Be sure to visit Delicious Obsessions and grab her epic Vanilla Cardamon Macadamia Nut Butter recipe plus a chance to earn additional entries.
1 Winner of the Traditional Kitchen Culturing Package from Homesteader Supply (ARV $309.95)
The Traditional Kitchen Culturing Package includes 3 popular “kits” from Homesteader Supply. Using the Cultured Butter Kit ($49.50), you'll be molding 1-pound blocks of cultured butter (culture is included) with the beautiful hardwood maple, USA-made butter mold. The Fermenting Kit ($65.50) helps you create wonderful fermented veggies and more with Homesteader Supply's signature veggie starter culture, the Pickle-Pro airlock lids (that fit your wide-mouth canning jars), the handy hardwood Prepper Pro pounder, along with a copy of Wardeh Harmon's book, “The Complete Idiot's Guide to Fermenting Foods.” And finally, the Hard Cheesemaking Kit ($194.50) supplies everything you need to create homemade cheeses: the Ultimate Cheese Press, cultures, rennet, thermometer, cheesecloth, sea salt, and more. It's a dream come true for the traditional cultured food lover!
Be sure to visit Gnowfglins and grab her epic Cultured Recipe Round Up plus a chance to earn additional entries.
1 Winner of the Excalibur 2500ECB 5-Tray Economy Dehydrator, Black (ARV $200)
Dehydration is the healthiest, easiest, and most economical way to preserve foods. Load the trays and set the temperature, the Excalibur dries the contents of all trays evenly so everything's done at once. Dehydration concentrates the natural flavor, sweetness, and aromas of your food. Leaving you with a flavor that's far healthier than high-fat snacks and high-sugar candies that are filled with chemical preservatives. The Excalibur 5-Tray Economy dehydrator provides 8 square feet of drying space, and is perfect for families with small gardens.
Be sure to visit Fresh Bites Daily and grab her epic Homemade Sun-Dried Tomatoes recipe plus a chance to earn additional entries.
1 Winner of a Proteak Rectangle Edge Grain Cutting Board with Hand Grip and Juice Canal (ARV $101.64) and Proteak Natural Cutting Board Wax Tin (ARV $19.99)
Nicknamed “The Last Cutting Board You'll ever need” by Cooks Illustrated, this stunning rectangular edge grain chopping block is known for its durability and longevity. Teak's resistance to moisture and abundant natural oils make it an ideal wood for cullinary applications. This wood cutting board is not only spacious enough for large family parties, but the added hand grips and juice canal make this large carving board easy to move, and even easier to clean. Proteak’s wood carving boards are made with organic teak grown on sustainable plantations.
Maintain the beauty and function of your wood cutting board by oiling it with Cutting Board Seasoning Wax. Made with a combination of organic coconut oil, beeswax, and organic orange essential oil, this wood cutting board seasoning wax will seal and protect your cutting board, making it last for years and years. Organic coconut oil helps to condition and maintain the woods natural oil content and beauty, while the pure beeswax will help to seal out odors, stains and more- making your cutting board easy to clean.
Be sure to visit Common Sense Homesteading and grab her epic Easy Cranberry Walnut Pie recipe plus a chance to earn additional entries.