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I frequently cook sous vide at home--primarily for the sake of convenience. I have been generally satisfied with the results, and normally get tender and juicy meat.

One thing that bothers me, however, is the amount of liquid left in the bag when it's done. Even when adding nothing but, say, a steak, or a pork chop, patted dry, it is disheartening to see all the juiciness I could have had getting left behind.

A few weeks ago I saw notes from a class on khymos.org, where, in the context of a cook-chill-reheat scenario, Mr. Lersch relayed Bruno Goussalt's advice to cool in stages in order to maximize reabsorption. The reasoning seemed sound: "If plunged directly into ice water fat and gelatin can cause the juices to gel, thereby effectively preventing a readsorption of the liquid."

What I would like to know is how the same idea can be applied to the scenario in which the food is cooked and then eaten, without the chilling step. One idea I've toyed with is cooking to a target temperature (say, 155), then chilling to an acceptable serving temp (say, 130)

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Sounds like it warrants a rather interesting experiment... –  yossarian May 22 '11 at 13:28
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Nitpick: Adsorption is not the same as absorption. –  Aaronut May 22 '11 at 16:29
    
What I meant was juicinessification, but spell check picked that nit :) –  Ray May 22 '11 at 20:28
    
Haha - it's actually more than just a subtle difference though. The juices really cannot get reabsorbed in the sense of going back into the meat; the "readsorption" is depositing those juices onto the surface only. So even if we just call it juiciness, it is a different kind of juiciness. –  Aaronut May 22 '11 at 20:49
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It retains more of the liquid it already has as opposed to sopping up the surrounding liquid like a sponge. –  Brendan Jan 29 '13 at 20:44
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3 Answers 3

I've seen the same thing, and mostly just take it as an excellent excuse to improve my game with respect to gravies, au jus, and reductions.

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Gravy made out of the juices is awesome. –  yossarian May 22 '11 at 15:20
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up vote 3 down vote accepted

After reviewing a few sources, it looks like the key is getting the temp down to a spot where:

  1. It is hot enough for service
  2. Resorption is maximized

Looking a the graphs in this article on resting meat, it seems that after about 120°F (49°C), we get diminishing returns on the resorption, and it's still just hot enough. Down to 110°F (43°C), hardly any more liquid gets back into the meat, and it's starting to get a little cooler than I think I'd prefer.

In a sous vide situation, we can get the temp to right where we want in a faster and more controlled way that simply resting. The straightforward approach would be to drop it in a 120°F (49°C) water bath for a few minutes after cooking and before serving.

After forming my hypothesis, I took it to a non-scientific test with a chicken breast cooked to 155°F (68°C). I visibly noted the amount of liquid in the bag, then let it "rest" in a 120°F (49°C) water bath for about 10 minutes while preparing the vegetables. After all else was plated, I again inspected the amount of liquid in the bag and found it appeared to be noticeably less.

It's not clear to me how to evaluate the results in a more concrete rigorous way without the test itself interfering. So, all I can say is that there is at least anecdotal evidence in support of this technique.

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Further point to note. This started from a two-pack of pre-marinated individually sealed chicken breasts. One I cooked sous vide on Saturday, and served without resting. My wife noted it was tender, but slightly dry (I must have her spoiled, but that's another story). The second one I cooked and rested today, and she was oohing and aahing at how moist this one was. Personally, I found it to be quite a bit more flavorful as well, though that's a bit harder to tell two days apart. Numbers and charts are useful, but those are the kind of results I am primary interested in. –  Ray May 24 '11 at 1:14
    
Cook 10 breasts in separate bags. For five of them, pull from 155°F water, and weigh liquids immediately (e.g., dump liquids out of bag). For the other five, cool in 120°F bath, then weigh liquids. That's how you'd test it, I think. –  derobert May 8 '12 at 21:50
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Is it possible that your sous vide cooking temps are too high to begin with? Most meat starts to lose a significant amount of moisture at about 60°C (140°F) (according to Modernist Cuisine, Heston Blumenthal, etc.) so keeping temperatures below this to begin with may help.

For example, I cook chicken breast at 58°C (136°F) for 2.5-3 hours which is sufficient to pasteurise them. While there usually is liquid in the bag, the meat isn't dry or unpleasant at all.

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