The holiday season is upon us and, above all, that means spending time with family, reflecting on the blessings of years past, and enduring the horrors of dry, tough, stringy meat. Although I am fortunate to have great cooks as parents, many of my childhood memories of holiday potlucks were punctuated by the disappointment of a perfectly good beef brisket or plate of short ribs that had been annihilated into shoe leather at the hands of a well-intentioned friend or relative. The only saving grace was my high tolerance for the spicy, sinus-clearing power of horseradish sauce, which made the beef possible to gnash down, quickly chased by a cup of grape juice (or a clandestine glass of Manischewitz).
As is commonly the pitfall with Thanksgiving turkey, cuts of meat that are only cooked once a year often lack the care and improvement that come from frequent iteration. And although I’m perfectly happy to eat beef short ribs and brisket year-round (especially when barbecued), many family traditions reserve this cut for holidays and special occasions. The trick to preparing a tender, succulent piece of beef is to break down the significant connective tissue without overcooking the meat so much that it dries out; the physics at play are involved, and are often overlooked in the chaos of holiday preparations.
Sous vide techniques, however, make it easy to cook beef perfectly, every time. By holding the cut at a low, precisely controlled temperature for a very long cooking time, you can achieve both perfect doneness and fork-tenderness with no need for basting or fastidious thermometry. And, cooking sous vide leaves your ovens empty, so Aunt Jeannie has space to warm her casserole before the family buffet line forms.
At your next family gathering, up the ante by bringing a beef brisket or plate full of short ribs cooked perfectly sous vide. And don’t forget the wine, for the kids’ sake.
Scott Heimendinger, Director of Applied Research