Brandon and I had been talking for months about a sous vide machine, a real water-immersion circulator, restaurant quality. The machine acts like a fancy slow-cooker. The product (meat, vegetable, etc.) is vacuum sealed and put in a water bath that is held at the exact temperature (plus or minus a tenth of degree) at which you want your meat to be. The bath circulates, slowly cooking the meat, allowing the fat to melt and the proteins to break down.
The sous vide machines that are readily available (around $300) don’t circulate, nor keep heat very well. By not circulating, the machine creates hot spots and the temperature varies from the top and the bottom. And because the meat isn’t perfect unless it is kept at an exact temperature, we couldn’t have that. But with both of us being in school and/or working for a startup, funds are not generally allocated for $2000 restaurant-quality sous vide machines. Enter: the engineering boyfriend. With a lot of researching (and worshiping of seattlefoodgeek.com) He purchased all of the parts off of the inter-webs and with the scent of burning plastic and soldering wires filling our apartment, a new member of our family was born.
These are the heating coils that are submerged in the water. It controls the water temperature.
This badboy is what controls the water temperature. Brandon tells me it is called a "thermo-controller." The green number is the temperature at which we desire the water; the red number is the actual temperature. 57°C = 136.4°F
The trashcan is only the container for the bath. It retains heat, which allows us to keep the water at an exact temperature, but that’s really all it does. The important parts are the heating coils and such that attach. And the machine is a multitasker (which is a must, considering our kitchen god is Alton Brown)! The tools can be used to control crockpots, toaster ovens, hot plates, etc. It ensures the perfect temperature.
The idea behind the machine is that we can cook a meet for as long as we want. There is no overcooking in this. Additionally, we can throw a crappy cut of meat – something tough, fatty, full of connective tissue – and by cooking it slow enough, it can come out tasting amazing. Currently we have some lamb steaks and a seven-bone roast sitting at 135.4 degrees. We’ll keep you posted.