Recently, I was challenged about the benefits of sous vides. The person insisted that sous vides changes the density of foods and while this may be true, it is not the first element that comes to mind. Then the husband challenges me to a cook-off, using meats and given it is nearby Parma, likely pig meat, which is an excellent regional meat. In preparation of the cook-off I promise to share some details and I hope he is reading my blog.
There is no doubt that understanding how an oven’s temperature works is a key element in any cook off. The dry bulb and wet bulb temperatures is key in using an oven. The use of vacuum and water vapor in cooking will help in more than one way.
The stall happens when cooking temperatures of uncovered meat stops rising and may even fall slightly before it climbs again. Most experts say this stall occurs when connective tissue in the meat softens and fat starts to render, but this doesn’t cause the temperature stall.
The stall clearly occurs as the wet-bulb temperature falls. The stall ends after the surface of the meat dries out enough that it gets above the wet-bulb temperature – 100 degrees centigrade.
The wet-bulb temperature rises as the uncovered meats’ surface evaporates, increasing the relative oven humidity. But then the humidity falls as evaporation can no longer keep up with the pace of the oven’s air. Unless you use vapor and or protect the meats surface (basting for example) the meat dries out. The yield curve is key to study in order to understand the critical cooking curve but I can assure you better results this way.
The temperature of any vacuum-sealed meat, in contrast, will rise more steadily to the oven’s set point over several hours. Any effect due to collagen or fat rendering would occur in both meats, but we see the stall only in the uncovered one.
Sous vide cooking is by far the best way to achieve the perfect cooking rate necessary for great consistency. If you prefer to barbecue for the smokey effect, that also works but you cannot achieve even meat consistency. Therefore the best method is in three steps: smoking the meat to impart the smoke flavor, followed by sous vide cooking to achieve the optimum texture and doneness and then simply color the meat with a high heat for the maillard reaction.