I've been curious what all of the hubbub is about and keep getting email offers and propaganda from Sous Vide Supreme. A few months ago I finally got around to replacing my very ancient "Seal-A-Meal" (that seals but doesn't vacuum) with a Food Saver (that does both), so all I was lacking was a circulation pump or a Sous Vide Supreme or...?
Several here have talked about alternatives to temperature maintenance that range from slow cookers to jerry-rigged thermostats with electric roaster ovens. I prefer a simpler approach, so I put a good sized saucepan with a triple layer bottom on the slowest burner on my ceramic cook top, set it on low, let it heat for an hour, then monitored its temperature with an instant read thermometer for another hour. It was a steady 162F.
So then I went on the web and did more reading from people who have tried sous vide without an immersion pump. One article that caught my attention (I regret I didn't bookmark it!) was by a guy who attended a demo by Heston Blumenthal of sous vide cooking of chicken breasts. The writer said it was the most fantastic chicken he had ever eaten! So he went home and cooked up some home made method of temperature maintenance, I don't remember if he had a real "sous vide" vacuum food sealer or another method, but he cooked himself a chicken breast with no seasoning whatsoever, then seasoned it after cooking and said it was the greatest chicken he had ever cooked in his entire life! So I figured, "Why not?"
I thawed an IQF skinless boneless chicken breast and sealed it in a fresh vacuum bag and tossed that puppy in my 162F "water bath in a sauce pan." I was surprised that the chicken did not drop the water temperature much, so no need for a long recovery time. At just under two hours I took it out and punctured it with the instant read thermometer. 161F. All of the salmonella bugs (if there were any) were dead! And now I could taste first hand the chicken this guy said was the greatest chicken he had ever cooked in his life.
Well, poor baby! He must be a really bad cook. Not that the chicken was bad, mind you. It just wasn't close to the ball park I would call "Great." The texture was different than "normal" cooked chicken breast. It was very similar, in fact, to the Oscar Mayer round white meat chicken lunch meat you get in the deli section. Except this obviously wasn't assembled from bits and pieces. It was all one uniform piece. In fact, the flavor was very similar to Oscar Mayer's lunch box chicken, and why not? In effect, it cooked in its own juices, which intensified the chickeny flavor of the white meat. Even seasoned with salt and pepper, it was very Oscar Mayerish. So I sliced it against the grain and made a rather nice chicken sandwich. But hey, next time I want a chicken sandwich, I'll just pop open a pack of Oscar Mayer. It doesn't take two hours to do that!
Is my sous vide life over? I'm thinking! I'm thinking! I've looked at several pictures on the web of sous vide roasts of beef. Rib roast and other roasts. To be honest with you, I don't think that's my cup of tea. Or bullion, in this case. I rather like my standing ribs of beef almost red in the very center, then pinking out toward the sides. I've been eating roast beef like that for well over 70 years now, and homogenized milk is one thing, but homogenized roast beef is something else entirely! So by association, I would probably not flip out over a sous vide steak that is charred after homogenization. But people say the texture is phenomenal, so I MIGHT give that a try. Had I fallen in love with the chicken, I was really thinking, hey, why not pop for a Sous Vide Supreme and be done with it? But at this point I'm not entirely certain it would not end up in the garage keeping company with my very expensive pasta machine. There is room for it in that big old card board box. But I could probably find something more sensible to do with the money. Fresh truffles anyone?