Sous Vide Cooking Guarantees a Perfect Steak Every Time

Congratulations! Dry aging done! Your ribeye, striploin or sirloin is ready. Now it’s time to trim the “bark” off, cut it into steaks, and get ready to enjoy, share or preserve to savor over time.

Steak lover beware: Dry aged steak cooks faster than “wet-aged” steak. With the lower water content, there is none of the weep and shrivel to indicate doneness. Time has provided tenderness that you don’t want to unintentionally turn to shoe leather.

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The ultimate way to cook a steak is sous vide, under vacuum in a controlled temperature water bath. Once the meat has reached the desired temperature of the bath, the meat is cooked perfectly edge to edge. Polish the steak off with a quick sear on a grill or frying pan. This is the secret to a perfect steak.

Freezing dry aged steaks:
Dry aged steaks freeze very well with minimal impact on taste or texture. Because of the reduced moisture content, dry aged steaks are less susceptible than wet aged steaks to freeze damage that is a result of water crystal formation. Simply vacuum seal your dry aged steaks into vacuum/sous vide bags and place them in the freezer. For best results, thaw the steaks very slowly in the refrigerator and bring them to room temperature before grilling or cooking sous vide. You might want “hot tub” the steaks in lukewarm water for an hour or so before cooking so you know they are just right when you toss them on the grill.

Cooking dry aged steaks:
Dry aged steaks tend to cook faster than wet aged steaks because there is just less water in them to “bring to a boil.” The steak will reach doneness in much less time. So, keep an eye on those steaks, use a quick read thermometer, and pull them off before they reach temp to let the carry over do the trick.

Many chefs will quick sear the steak before vacuum packing with a pat of butter and some seasoning. When you sous vide this way, the flavors expand and penetrate the meat delectably. Sous vide cooking is your best guarantee of steak perfection—exact temperature, ideal texture, complete nutritional value and maximum flavor.

One great resource on the web, ChefSteps.com, offers a great visual guide to temperature and doneness. They also offer online video classes on how to cook perfect proteins and more sous vide.  Check out their Map of Sous Vide Cooking:

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The secret to a great steak is hidden in your fridge

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When we think of wine, images of rotting grapes don’t come to mind, but rather we imagine a noble drink that matures and gets better with time. Some of the finest cheeses aren’t spoiled or rotten, but rather inoculated with mold and aged to add complexity of flavor and texture. When it comes to meat however, most people believe that fresh meat is better. While that holds true for your hamburgers, chicken and turkey, it isn’t true for steak quality beef. A secret to a tender and flavorful great steak is aging.

In the old days beef was left hanging in barns for weeks to mature and achieve the flavor that makes steak that special meal that we crave. Dry aged steak is still the gold standard for beef. Because of high cost most beef today isn’t dry aged, but rather “wet aged” – left aging in ordinary air and water tight plastic bags.

Dry aging is the true way to extract the best texture and taste from a good steak. During dry aging, the enzymes inside the meat tenderize and transform the beef like fine wine. Dry aging is the ultimate form of aging beef, it tenderizes the meat, intensifies the beefy flavor and imparts the nutty, oaky flavor unique to the old fashioned dry aged steak. Top tier steak houses around the world serve dry aged beef. UMAi Dry® makes it possible for anyone with a fridge create the original slow food.

UMAI Dry, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company, markets a breathable plastic for dry aging beef and dry curing meat in your fridge. Yes, the one you open several time a day to get at your food.

The material, called UMAI Dry, releases moisture and allows oxygen to permeate creating the authentic flavor and texture of dry-aged steak or dry-cured meats like capicola, pancetta, bresaola. Have you ever imagined that you can make those yourself?IMG_9689
The material is sold as bags for application that requires a vacuum sealer.
The company sells its product mostly through their website right now, but is running a Kickstarter campaign to introduce their Artisan Meat Kits into specialty kitchen and grilling stores. The kit comes with a vacuum sealer and all necessary components to dry age 3 -18 lb ribeye or striploin steak cuts and dry cure 5 different charcuterie projects like capicola, pancetta or bresaola.

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UMAi Dry (originally called DrybagSteak) was started in 2009 by Thea Lopatka, a former teacher, interculturalist and expert on Japanese culture. The idea for the company was introduced to Thea by her college friend Igor Pilko, who is a packaging engineer. Thea grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota and is the daughter of Chicago-transplant parents who were avid gourmet food enthusiasts in the 60’s. Thea was introduced to dry-aged steak as a child, when her father would order a quarter of beef to be hung at the local gourmet supermarket, Byerlys.
When college friend Igor Pilko contacted her in 2007 and demonstrated the use of UMAI Dry to her, the flavor of the dry-aged steak brought back an all-but-forgotten taste from her childhood. Wanting to share this genuinely-aged beef flavor, Thea introduced the product to several restaurant chefs and received positive reviews. She started selling bags for dry aging beef out of her apartment in 2008, at the same time supporting her self by doing freelance Japanese interpreting for a local air conditioning manufacturer.
By 2010, the sales had grown and DrybagSteak moved to an office in Wayzata, MN.
In 2011, the company relocated to their current office in Minneapolis and in 2012 introduced dry curing applications for UMAI Dry material: UMAI Charcuterie and UMAI Salumi.

In 2009, Kansas State University conducted a study on the effectiveness of the UMAI Dry material comparing different aging times effect on taste and texture. A similar earlier study by Kansas State University, conducted in 2005, compared moisture permeable polymer material to traditional open-air dry aging. The basic results of the studies demonstrated that dry aging beef in UMAI bags resulted in taste and texture similar to traditional open air process.

Pancetta recipe – made in a home fridge

Pancetta is the original bacon. Amazingly enough it is a very easy thing to make at home.

This pancetta recipe is a classic example of refrigerator charcuterie that has consistent results and requires no special set-up.

The Roman legionnaires were snacking on this delectable meat candy in between battles.

This traditional pork belly preparation can be made either as a slab (stesa) or roll (arrotolata), as you prefer.

Here is the recipe we used:

Pork belly           (we used two 5 lb. pieces)               10 lb. (4.5kg)

Garlic, minced                      4 cloves

InstaCure #2   (0.25% of meat weight)   2 tsp (11g)

Kosher salt (3% of meat weight)   3/4 cup (120g)

Dark brown sugar                  2 tbsp (30g)

Black pepper, coarsely ground  4 tbsp (8g)

Juniper berries, crushed            2 tbsp (10g)

Bay leaves, crumbled               4 (4g)

Nutmeg, freshly grated             1 tsp (2g)

Fresh thyme                    4 or 5 sprigs

Here are some beauty shots of the end product:

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We started out with two 5lb pieces of pork belly that we bought at our nearby Whole Foods supermarket

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We ground up the spices and the curing salt together and rubbed the bellies with the mixture:

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We placed each belly into a Ziplock plastic bag and put in the refrigerator for two weeks

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After the two weeks we  washed off the excess cure and spices. Don’t mind the burn marks on our chef-trainees arms he didn’t get them making Pancetta.

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We rolled one of the bellies and tied it with butchers twine (say it with me) Arrottolata! and left the other one flat Stesa style.

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The bellies are ready to go into UMAi Dry at this point. UMAi Dry is a special membrane material that will allow the pancetta to age in our home fridge. We have done this pancetta a couple of times inUMAi Dry and each time the results were excellent and consistent.

UMAi Dry looks like a regular plastic bag, but it has magic properties of letting the moisture out and letting oxygen in, while protecting the meat and its surroundings from mold, odors and other undesirable things.

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UMAi Dry is applied with a vacuum sealer, but it is not a vacuum bag. All we have to do is to get the bag into the contact with the moist meat surface and it a few days, the bag will stick to the meat and it will age/dry perfectly.

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Here it is all sealed up in UMAi Dry and ready to go rest in the fridge for 6-8 weeks.

Yea I know, thats a long time, but all good things are worth the wait.

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Voila! 7 weeks later we have a delectable hunk of meat candy. Best served thinly sliced on a slicer we like the Chef’s Choice Model 632 slicer with non-serrated blade.

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Cold Smoked Salmon – a new method

Cold smoking salmon is a method that is often out of reach for most. The cold smoking set up involves smoking the fish at low temperature for a long period of time (like 2-3 days). Cold smoking imparts that coveted smoke flavor to the fish. Cold smoking allows the fish to dry and take on a prosciutto like texture.

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While visiting Montreal this summer we discovered a new more kitchen friendly method for creating an amazingly flavorful and delicious looking Cold “Smoked” Salmon. This method is also quite safe as everything happens under refrigeration and the fish is not exposed to high temperatures.

This recipe came from our friend Yan Garzon of

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The recipe for the cure was very simple:

500 gr of coarse salt
-500 gr of brown sugar
– 20 gr of spices of your choice (Montreal steak seasoning finely ground)
-sweet ground paprika (enough to cover de filet)
-10 gr of ground black pepper

One interesting thing is that the Montreal seasoning which is marketed mainly for steak, actually contains a perfect mix of spices traditionally suited for salmon:

Here is the Montreal seasoning recipe:
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp crushed black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp granulated garlic
1 tsp crushed coriander
1 tsp dill
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

We prepared more cure than was needed for this particular cure and did a little experiment creating four different recipes for Cold “Smoked” Salmon:

We did a cure in 4 different ratios of cure/fish by weight: 5%, 10%, 25% and 50%

The basic method was as follows:

Mix all of these together and keep in a Ziploc bag or Mason jar.
Method
1-cover the filet with some paprika that you sprinkle on it. Purpose is to get a nice red colored finish product:

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2-Use a big Ziploc bag to fit your fish filet, and you can cut the filet in 2 or 4 part, as you wish to fit in your curing bag and after in the UMAI DRY bags.

3-Weigh the fish and put in the bag two table spoons of liquid smoke, and 50% of the fish weight of curing solution also. (we made 4 batches of various ratios)

4-toss the bag and the mix evenly so it covers the flesh part

5-Put in the fridge for 7 days, and turn it every day.

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As you can see after a couple of days of curing the salt pulled out various amounts of water from the fish most being pulled out by the 50% cure ratio
6-After 7 days, take out of the ziplock bags and lightly rinse under fresh cold water, and dry with clean paper towel.

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7-Vacuum seal in UMAI DRY Small Charcuterie Bag and keep in the fridge on a open wire rack for about 12 days. The fish must be elevated to allow airflow all the way around it to allow moisture to evaporate through the bag.

The UMAi Dry bags are special bags that allow the fish to dry in the refrigerator. The moisture loss will develop a flavor and texture of cold smoked salmon. The UMAi Dry bags are used mainly in Charcuterie and Salumi applications for creating capicola, bresaola, pancetta in a home refrigerator.

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When the fish was fully cured and dried it has lost an average 35% of its original weight:

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This product is very shelf stable when refrigerated and can last a couple of months if vacuum sealed in regular Foodsaver bags.

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Sodium Nitrite – Is it a bad thing?

Much of todays society is focused on food “purity”. Many products today are marketed as “locally raised”, “sustainable” and free of many ingredients deemed to be undesirable.
One such ingredient is commonly referred to as “nitrite”. Processed meat products like salami, ham, turkey, etc. are boasting a claim to be “nitrite free“.
What is referred to as “nitrite” is actually sodium nitrite a salt commonly used in preserving meat and protecting the meat from growth of harmful bacteria know as Clostridium botulinum which can cause botulism a dangerous possibly fatal condition.

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A “nitrite free” product purchased in an American supermarket most certainly does contain nitrite, but not in its salt form. The manufacturers of these “nitrite free” products often use extracts of celery or celery seed, which naturally contains elevated levels of nitrite. The labeling laws in the US allow companies who use a plant derived form of nitrite to claim that their products are “nitrite free”.
One of the interesting details about the use of celery derived nitrites is that it is virtually impossible to control the concentration of nitrite in the meat precisely, since the levels of nitrite in celery can vary widely depending on its source.

By adding a nitrite salt such as Instacure #1 or Instacure #2 to your home made sausage you can control the level of nitirite in the meat more precisely and avoid over or under dose.
Instacure #1 contains 93.75% salt and 6.25% sodium nitrite and should be added at a level of .25% of the weight of the meat.
It is used for fresh and cooked sausages and hams
Instacure #2 contains 92.75% salt and 6.25% sodium nitirite as well as 1% sodium nitrate. It should be added to meat at a level of .25%. This curing salt is used in dry sausages and charcuterie meats that are aged longer than 2 weeks.
The sodium nitrate component of this additive breaks down into sodium nitrite. Sodium nitrite eventually breaks down through oxidation into nitric oxide in dry sausages leaving no trace behind.

Michael Ruhlman outlines the myths behind “nitrite free” labeling in his post: http://ruhlman.com/2011/05/the-no-nitrites-added-hoax/

5 Tips for making Dry sausage with UMAi Dry

To make good looking and good tasting dry sausage with UMAi Dry is not that hard. There a few basic practices to follow to ensure you get the very best results for your effort and patience.

Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Keep the meat cold: Slice the meat into thick slices (+/- ¾ in./1 cm) and partially freeze prior to cutting them into cubes for grinding. Keep the meat as cold as possible through each step of the process right until it is stuffed into UMAi Dry® casing. Keeping the meat cold (aka icy, nearly frozen) makes grinding and mixing easy as can be.  Frozen meat grinds out with much better definition. The ground meat will keep its shape.   The defined grind will also allow the spices and cure to distribute more easily and evenly, coating each individual particle. Finally. stuffing a cold sausage mixture guarantees an well-defined appearance to the finished dry sausage, achieving a classic salumi look.

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2. Grind large: Use a large hole plate when grinding the meat for dry sausage. Larger meat particles will allow faster, more even drying.  It will also give the sausage the classic texture of a fine salami. Smaller grind will take longer to dry and create a less defined texture.

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3. Use paddles or other tools to mix cure and spices into the ground meat :  If you use hands, you end up with frozen digits and sticky meat, making even mixing next to impossible. Wood, plastic or metal paddles will help keep the ground meat cold and help coat each particle with cure and spices for an even mix. Once the spices and cure coat the sausage particles well, you can use hands to knead the mixture until it gets stiff, indicating a stable mixture.

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4. Use a dedicated stuffer to stuff the casing: This is a lesson we’ve learned the hard way.  Hand grinders and grinder stuffer attachments will generally result paste like or doughy re-ground meat–very undesirable for a classic dry sausage. A dedicated stuffer will work more gently, preserving the structure of the meat.  The result is the well-defined particle pattern of classic salami.

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5. Ferment the sausage in a protected space with little air flow: Fermentation is one of the most critical steps in making dry sausage.  During this step the sausage should be prevented from drying. Fermenting sausages should be placed in an area with little to no air movement.  Rapid airflow can dry out the outside of the sausage preventing the outer surface from properly fermenting. As a result you may have uneven drying and poor appearance of the finished product. We’ve begun to use an oven or similar enclosed space. One sausage maker showed us how he rigged up a paper grocery bag umbrella-style to shelter the batch of sausages he hung to ferment.

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These are practices we’ve found helpful in our pursuit of making better and better dry sausage.  We hope they help you get the best results for all the time, effort and patience you will put into mastering the art of salumi!

UMAi Dry Introduces Dry Sausage Kit and Dry Sausage Casing Packet

The new sausage kit and sausage casing packet incorporate the UMAi Dry technology for making dry sausage using the UMAi Dry casing. The dry sausage kit includes: UMAi Dry casing 20 ft., VacMouse vacuum adapter packet, InstaCure #2, Powdered dextrose and Bactoferm T-SPX starter culture.

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Capicola made using UMAi Dry method by our customer Robin in Canada

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Finished Spicy Capocollo and Black Pepper/Juniper Berry Coppa using UMAi Bags. Delicious! The Chorizo turned out amazing using the sample Salumi UMAi casing. Hope to see Salumi UMAi casing/bags for sale in the future. Delicious and better than some commercially available Proscuitto in Canada.

Thanks again,

Robin

Making Prosciutto at Home with UMAi Charcuterie

Making Prosciutto/Prosciuttini at Home with UMAi Charcuterie
1. Dry curing boneless leg of pork with salt and InstaCure #2 for two weeks
2. Cutting it into Fiocco and Culatello
3. Coating with pepper and salt and curing for another week
4. Sealing it into UMAi Dry bags and drying it in the refrigerator for 3 -4 months.

UMAi Charcuterie – Creating Tradition at Home

A UMAi Charcuterie user testimonial

 

Here’s a neat story:

 

I have befriended a French national who was a professional butcher all his life.

He knows his way around charcuterie…he owned the butcher and charcuterie shop in his Alsatian town of Lembach, France.

It was a family-owned business that he worked in from his youth to his retirement about 12 years ago.

 

When I let him taste this bresaola…he nearly fell over.  How could he truly be tasting what he regarded as a complex process reserved for seasoned professionals?

As far as he was concerned, I was just a geeky computer nerd – he was flabbergasted on how I was able to produce this piece of heavenly-cured meat.

This bresaola, by the way, he knows as Swiss Bündnerfleisch or Viande des Grisons from his French motherland.

He charged me to make 2 more pieces…he was going to visit France in the coming months and wanted to share this with two chefs he has great relationships with and both of whom I’ve met and broke bread with on my journeys to Europe.

 

One was the Michelin Star-pedigreed Alsatian chef, none other than Fernand Mischler, longtime proprietor of the famed gastronomic hotspot of Alsace, the Auberge du Cheval Blanc

 

Second was Chef Pierre Weller, proprietor of La Source des Sens in Morsbronn-les-Bains – a wonderful upscale hotel, spa and restaurant.

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In both scenarios, he let the chefs have it…imploring them to taste this wonderful Bündnerfleisch he had obtained from a charcuterie in Switzerland.  They craftily cut the pieces, hoisted it to the nose, tasted it and they bantered back and forth reveling in its splendor.

They asked him what shop had made this…then he dropped the hammer on them!

It was his American friend who made it…they stood in utter disbelief.

 

Woohoo UMAi Drybag!

 

Feel free to use this as a customer testimonial if you wish…I am sold!

 

Jeffery

Trinidad, CO