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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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/

Making modifications to Foodsaver

Richard who is an UMAi Dry user, came up with a solution to a problem that many UMAi Dry users face when trying to seal a large 16-22 lb piece of beef using a basic household vacuum sealer like this Foodsaver V2244. This solution allows the user to have more control over the sealing process. Here is Richard’s account:

I recently decided to modify my vacuum sealer so that I no longer am dependent on the automated sealing feature. The sealer I use for the Umai dry bags is a Foodsaver V2244, a pretty basic model.
This vacuum sealer has the pretty much standard controls. One button starts the vacuum and then seals automatically. A second button either stops the vacuum and seals the bag, or simply seals the the bag (for adding a second seal or making bags from the roll material). Some units have more controls, but all should have these two basic functions.
These sealers have a pressure switch which controls when the vacuum is stopped and the seal is made. The assumption from the manufacturer is that the bag has the small channels embossed into the bags which allows the air to escape. The Umai dry bags don’t have these, so occasionally, or more frequently even, the bags form enough of an air tight seal just beyond the unit to allow the pressure switch to actuate the sealing step even though there’s still air in the bag.
Remove, or disable this switch and the vacuum pump will run continuously until you press the seal button. This will allow you to take the time to massage the air out of the bag and make the seal when you are satisfied wit the degree of air removed from the bag.
Of course you loose the automated vacuum sealing feature and probably any warranty you had on the unit.
Removing the switch on my unit was quite easy. Once the unit was opened by removing the bottom there was easy access to the controls. There’s not much in these units. A vacuum pump, a pressure switch, some tubing, a small electric control circuit to time the sealing bar heater/pump operation.
On this unit there is a small tubing which runs from the vacuum pump to a “T”. From the “T” the tubing continues the the sealing chamber as well as a vacuum switch.
Now, here, there are two ways to disable the automation:
1. Remove the vacuum switch from the vacuum tubing altogether. This is what I opted for since this unit is dedicated to dry bags.
2. Add a toggle switch to the circuit which effectively removes the vacuum switch from the control circuit. The toggle switch would let you choose between manual or automatic vacuum/sealing. This may be a better (albeit more work) choice if you use the unit for regular kitchen duty as well as for the dry bags. Depending on the sealer and how the vacuum switch is incorporated it may require some soldering on a circuit board.

Of my unit preventing the switch from being used was simple. Since the tubing from the pump goes to a “T”, and there was enough tubing to to go straight from the pump to the sealing chamber – I simply removed the tubing from the “T” and connected the pump directly to the sealing chamber. The vacuum switch is still in the unit but no longer connected to the vacuum pump. When using the unit the switch never sees vacuum and so the pump will continue to run until you initiate the seal, or the pump overheats.

You still need the vac-mouse to keep some flow across the unit’s gaskets.

A lot of words for a 5 minute job, here are some photos:

V2244 Sealer before modification

V2244 Sealer before modification

Foodsaver V2244 modification tools you needFoodsaver V2244 internals before modification Foodsaver V2244 internals after modificationFoodsaver V2244 after modification

Brisket Dry Aging in UMAi Dry

For a long time we had questions about dry aged Brisket. Competition BBQ -ers swore that it improved the taste and texture of the meat.

Well time has come for us to find out for ourselves: Here is a typical 6.5lb brisket flat, which is a tougher and leaner brisket muscle.

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We broke it out of the Cryovac and sealed it into UMAi Dry:

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Put it into the fridge for aging. We gave it 3 weeks and at the end it transformed to this:

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We took it out and peeled back UMAi Dry bag:

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We then had a dilemma wether to trim off the hard bark or not. We decided to trim:

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Ou of the original 6.5lb. We had about 1 lb of moisture loss and .5lb of trim, so we ended up with a 5lb            21 Day Dry Aged Brisket. We used a Beef Q-Rub from the Wayzata Bay Spice Company.

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We rubbed on the spices and put it into a ziplock bag and placed it back in the fridge for overnight marination. The downstairs neighbor is a 6lb ribeye going for 60 days.

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A friend offered his Traeger grill in exchange for a piece of the action. We have never previously used a pellet smoker. We smoked with a blend of hickory and cherry pellets.

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We set up the temps on the grill to give us about 225F cooking temp:

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A big lesson was that the temp controls on a pellet grill were not at all like on your home oven. They wandered all over the place and you had to watch the settings to avoid flame outs and excessive pellet feed.

But this beast generated plenty of smoke:

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We took the internal temp to 154F (which took 3 hours) and then used what they call “Texas Crutch“, which is simply taking the Brisket off the grill, placing it on some aluminum foil and adding some liquid to help raise the internal temperature faster and retain moisture. In our case we added some apple juice and beef broth mix.

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For internal temp measurement we used a nifty gadget we discovered called iGrill thermometer that displays the temp on our iPhone remotely using bluetooth. We took the Brisket off the grill when the internal temp reached 197F. This took 3 hours.

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We then placed the foiled brisket into a towel and cooler for 1 hour to FTC (foil towel cooler)

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Then it was time for a party:

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This experience was very rewarding. The Brisket was very tender and juicy. Our “tasting panel” was very pleased with the results.

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!

Ever heard of backslop? A bit about starter cultures…

What is starter culture? A starter culture is a specific mix of micro-organisms that convert various sugars in the sausage mix into various organic acids. By doing so, the starter culture imparts a distinct flavor to the sausage, develops the color of the sausage, and preserves the sausage by creating an environment that prevents harmful bacteria from growing.  Starter cultures have one more very important function in sausage making:  the micro-organisms in the starter culture help in nitrate conversion and thereby reduce the levels of residual nitrate in the fermented dry sausages, making the product more wholesome.

Pure forms of starter cultures have not been around for very long since their production requires modern incubation and clean room equipment. The predecessor of the modern starter culture was a method called “back slopping.” Yes…, back slopping.  This is what the old timers called a process where part of the old already fermented batch of sausage was thrown back into the new mix. The already fermented product contained the necessary micro-organisms to start the fermentation of the new batch. This is also sometimes described as “spontaneous” fermentation. This form of fermentation in not utilized in industrial use in the US any longer, due to potential for contamination.

When we make dry sausages with UMAi Dry, we use the starter culture method to ensure consistent results. We recommend Bactoferm T-SPX European-style slow-fermenting starter culture because its fermentation temperature matches room temperature 65-70F. This is both convenient and matches the desired balanced not-too-tart flavor that we look for in our Italian dry salami.

Venison hard salami made with UMAi Dry casing

Venison hard salami made with UMAi Dry casing

 

 

Dry aging beef in UMAi Dry bag is real dry aging

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Dry aged Beef is a result of a process of dry aging: During Dry Aging the following happens:

  1. The word Dry means: Moisture evaporates from the muscle creating a mature beef flavor
  2. The word Aging means: Meat’s natural enzymes break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle thereby tenderizing it

Dry aging using UMAi Dry Bag accomplishes both of these goals as concluded by numerous scientific studies conducted by Kansas State University and Auburn University

http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Processing/Dry-aging-using-vacuum-packaging-provides-savings

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0309174009002484

The results from these studies has shown that Dry Aging using UMAi Dry Bags achieves the unique nutty, buttery Dry Aged Flavor and the texture tender enough to cut with a fork.

Dry aging has been typically done with half carcasses of beef hung in cold storage lockers for 14 – 35 days following slaughter.

The half carcasses were typically wrapped in cheese cloth like material to prevent insects and other pests from reaching them.  For most restaurants, households and food safety conscious people that type of dry aging is not an option today.

Subprimal steak cuts of beef, such as whole striploins (NY strip), 7-rib ribeye (bone-in or boneless) sections, top rounds (sirloin) can be dry aged in open air. However, in restaurant and household environments the need for special designated coolers, sanitation concerns, smells coming from dry aging beef, cross contamination of flavors and microorganisms make the open air process quite problematic.

The UMAi Dry Bag provides an isolated environment for the beef to dry age. There is no need for special coolers and special sanitation/cleaning. The UMAi Dry Bag provides the protection that most consumers desire in the Dry Aging process.

The Process of Dry Ageing in UMAi Dry Bag received the National Restaurant Association Food and Beverage Innovation Award in 2011.

UMAi Dry bags are sold successfully in over 70 countries worldwide.

So is UMAi Dry bags real dry aging? Try it out and judge for yourself.