Thanksgiving From Scratch: Viva Sous-Vide!

November 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm Leave a comment

Something to be thankful for...It might seem a little strange to cook a 16-pound turkey just for fun a week before Thanksgiving – but sure enough, we did it anyway.  In true Scratch Everything fashion, our mini Thanksgiving turned into a major food science experiment in the form of sous-vide cooking.

In Hot Water
Cooking sous-vide (french for “under vacuum”) involves vacuum-sealing food (or putting it in an air-tight bag) and immersing it in a hot bath of water to cook it at a low, controlled temperature so that the food maintains its integrity and comes out tasting moist and flavorful.

So how can one do this at home?  Well, it’s complicated.  First, you can’t just wing sous-vide cooking — you have to do your homework, because cooking at low temperatures can come with serious health risks if you don’t follow instructions.  It’s also an expensive hobby when it comes to buying equipment.

One option is buying a thermal immersion circulator – but new ones start at $1,000 and buying it used can be a little iffy since they were originally designed as laboratory equipment …  So Jeff invested in a cheaper option — a 40-cup rice cooker hooked up to an on-off temperature controller.

That's one big rice-cooker...Let’s Talk Turkey
To start, we bought a 16-pound turkey, which Jeff then butchered into manageable pieces that could fit into Ziploc freezer bags.  He created a simple rub of fresh herbs and butter, and sealed the turkey portions with the seasonings into the bags, releasing any extra air.  (He did the same with a mound of homemade stuffing.)

Jeff then placed them into a bath of hot water in the rice cooker, with the temperature being carefully controlled by the on-off controller.  A few hours later, we had delicious, succulent turkey.  But because you’re slow-cooking the meat and stuffing, it might come out looking a little lackluster.  Just brown the meat lightly in the oven or an a pan, and voila!  You’ve got Thanksgiving dinner.

Alright, I guess this isn’t a method that most of you are likely to try anytime soon … but when you get down to it, is it really any less absurd than deep frying an entire turkey? At the end of the day, I’m just thankful that I’m lucky enough to have access to delicious, healthy food every day of the year.  Happy Thanksgiving!


Entry filed under: Equipment, Preparation. Tags: , , .

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