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Slightly futuristic cooking - Input Junkie
December 13th, 2009
03:12 pm

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Slightly futuristic cooking
Some time ago, I read a delightfully geeky chapter in Harold McGee's The Curious Cook (1992 edition) about poaching meat. There was plenty about the difficulty of finding a thermometer that read in the right range (about 132F, iirc) and using engineering info about heat transfer in flat triangles (iirc, a homogeneous cut of pork) to get the cooking time right.

Fast forward a decade and a half, and we have an NYTimes article about a home Sous Vide ($449) for cooking at exact sub-boiling temperatures. The process is slow but doesn't require nearly as much ongoing attention as most cooking does and can produce very good results, some of them probably not attainable by other methods.

Unfortunately, the first link just gives a sketch of setting up the business. There's nothing about why it's so hard to control temperature that tightly.

On the less expensive side, there's the Sous Vide Cooking Controller for $139. You supply the heating element, it supplies the precision. I don't know if it's as satisfactory for something like cooking a whole chicken.

Sous Vide (which means "under vacuum"-- the food is in a vacuum-sealed plastic bag while it's being cooked) backs up a notion of mine-- that there can be a lot of technological advance just by thinking about the science and engineering we already know. I bet there are lots of innovations as good as the invention of left and right shoes just waiting to be made.

I found out about sous vide from Noodle Food. I have no idea whether pasta should be sous vided.

A history of sous vide, with a little about compressing food (sounds like a good idea for watermelon, which I've always thought was too watery) and extreme freezing (get your decadent sour cream brittle on the bottom and room temp on the top).

And you can get a Molecular Gastronomy Starter Kit from ThinkGeek.

On the much less practical side, how to cook a turkey in 30 seconds: with thermite. Don't try this indoors.

I can't remember where I saw the link. I think the memory was burnt away.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:agrumer
Date:December 13th, 2009 08:22 pm (UTC)
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This page recommends cooking pasta sous vide as especially good for a buffet -- you can keep the food at optimal serving temperature for a long time without ruining it.

For just feeding one or two people, I've been absorption-cooking pasta. It's faster than the old boiling method I was taught, involves one fewer pot, and tastes better.
From:nancylebov
Date:December 13th, 2009 08:37 pm (UTC)
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Thanks. I will definitely try out the pasta recipe.
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From:dcseain
Date:December 13th, 2009 11:27 pm (UTC)
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My experience with absorption-cooking pastas is that it's no faster, but there is no pot for boiling, nor straining needed.
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From:agrumer
Date:December 14th, 2009 02:05 am (UTC)
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I no longer have to boil the big pot of water, which generally took longer than everything else put together.
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From:dcseain
Date:December 14th, 2009 02:13 am (UTC)
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Ah, overall prep time, not cook time, is what you were addressing. : ) My bad.
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From:agrumer
Date:December 14th, 2009 04:01 am (UTC)
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Time is time. It stands in between "Hmm, I'm hungry" and "Mmm, I'm eating."
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From:dcseain
Date:December 14th, 2009 04:10 am (UTC)
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Fair enough.

Like nancylebov, below, i oft make sauces from scratch, so the water heating time allows for the sauce prep, so both are ready together. Though i've been known to toss raw pasta in the sauce and simmer until the pasta is cooked.
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From:nancylebov
Date:December 14th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
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I use the boiling time for chopping vegetables and simmering them and for frying then simmering sausage.

However, I'm quite interested in getting better pasta, and I don't mind having one less pot to wash.
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From:whswhs
Date:December 13th, 2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
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I didn't know you followed Noodle Food! But I suppose it's not really that surprising. . . .
From:nancylebov
Date:December 13th, 2009 08:38 pm (UTC)
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I'd drifted away from it, but I happened to check in yesterday, and I might get back to more frequent reading. I found about about it because of GeekPress.
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From:anton_p_nym
Date:December 13th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
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Ha! I've eaten out of the sort of sous-vide bag shown in the NYT article; at Anticipation this year I blew the last of my travelling budget at Au Pied de Cochon the night before I checked out and they used a sous-vide bag and a Pasteuriser to give me a doggie-bag that'd survive the trip home. Most expensive boil-in-bag TV dinner ever, but man was it tasty.

-- Steve'd inadvertantly ordered an entree for two* so there was plenty left over.

* and boy was the maitre-d' embarassed; it was a new item on the menu and he'd recommended it to me. Still, t'was amazingly delicious. I regret nothing.
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