I took the new Sous Vide Supreme (SVS) for a spin last night – or rather, all weekend, starting Friday night. As I wrote here, I’ve been cooking food sous vide for a few years using a fairly ramshackle, cobbled-together setup, but because it’s ramshackle and cobbled-together, I haven’t felt comfortable using it for long-duration cooking. Having acquired a piece of equipment that is far less ramshackle, I decided to test it out on one of my favorite cheap cuts of beef – the brisket.
There’s nothing better than a thinly sliced brisket, still a little pink, with the pockets of melting fat. If you’ve had brisket at a really good deli, you know what I mean. It’s been brined, so it’s nicely seasoned, and when you bite into it, you get the beefy taste, plus the fatty texture, and the salt. It also can be hard to achieve at home – braising often involves cooking at too high a temperature, and simmering can toughen the meat if executed improperly, even for a short time. Sous vide provides the solution, but I haven’t been willing to execute it with my cobbled together setup. With the SVS, though, it seemed possible – long cooking at controlled temperatures just high enough to break down the collagen into gelatin.
So I gave it a shot. I brined the brisket for about 24 hours in a 6% salt, 3% sugar solution (meaning 60 g salt and 30 g sucrose per 1000 g or 1 liter of water). When preparing the brine, I dissolved the salt and sugar in about 200 ml of water first, and simmered it, lid on, with coriander seed, peppercorns, thyme, and bay leaf, to infuse the brine. (Unlike surface aromatics, which only flavor the surface of meat, aromatics in brine do flavor the entirety of the meat during the brining process.) Then I chilled down the brine in the freezer before diluting with 800 ml of ice cold water. Why is this important? Because sous vide cooking takes place at a relatively low temperature, product should remain cold and below the pathogen danger zone (5C/40F to 60C/140F) as long as possible before use.
After 24 hours, I removed the brisket from the brine, wiped it dry, sealed it in plastic, and removed the air using the vacuum sealer. I placed the sealed brisket on the SVS rack and placed it in the SVS, set to 63C, and left it alone for 42 hours. When I removed it, I wiped it dry and seared it in a little butter for about 35 seconds each side.
The results were spectacular. The brisket was still pink inside, completely tender, beefy, and laced with pockets of warm fat. I was afraid the 6% brine might be a little salty but the beef was seasoned perfectly.
I have to give an enthusiastic thumbs-up to the SVS. It delivered.