If you stick your head into any classroom here at ICE you’ll see instant read thermometers crammed into the sleeve pockets of nearly every culinary arts student in the room. But peek into the kitchen of any of the nation’s top restaurants and you’ll see far fewer, in fact you might only find them tucked away in a knife roll somewhere, to be removed on the rarest circumstance.
Why the difference? Ego, mostly.
When cooks are first being trained, they must rely on thermometers to determine doneness of cooked meats. After you’ve sautéed 100 chicken breasts or grilled 100 steaks, you start to get the hang of it. You learn how a properly cooked piece of meat feels, you understand the time-heat ratio that leads to proper cooking, and it becomes second nature. You practice and practice and practice, so that before long you’re consistently turning perfectly cooked meats. No longer do you rely on a thermometer. It’s an archaic badge of honor. You’re confident in yourself and you’re ability as a cook; you don’t need anyone or anything to tell you when a piece of meat is properly cooked.
Don’t believe me?
Ask any experienced cook if they precisely follow the cooking times for meat in a recipe. The answer is no, they don’t trust them. How do they know that the pork tenderloin they are cooking is the same size as the one the recipe was written with. Were they at the same temperature before going in the oven? Do any two ovens cook exactly the same? No. Cooks trust in themselves, in what they know. That pork tenderloin will be done when the cook’s experience tells them it’s done. Don’t have the experience? Then it’s not done until the thermometer says so.
Trained chefs scoff at the times and temperatures provided in traditional recipes. So why in the name of Richard Blais do those same chefs blindly follow time and temperature charts when it comes to cooking sous vide? It’s time for chefs to get over their ego and return to what got them where they are in the first place. Thermometers. Sous vide cooking is a (relatively) new way of cooking. It’s a process that anyone who wishes to do it well must learn from the ground up; and just like learning to sauté or roast thermometers are part of that education.
As with traditional recipes the times and temperatures in sous vide recipes are a good guide; but until you learn how the meats you typically source cook in the sous vide equipment in your kitchen, thermometers are crucial for ensuring proper cooking. As we develop a sous vide education program here at ICE, thermometers are critical part of the curriculum. In fact, we are fortunate to have just received a new water bath from the Italian company Orved. This water bath, just the first or second such model in the US, has three built-in hypodermic probe thermometers. This integrated technology allows you to cook three different pieces of meat to different temperatures without having to set up three separate baths, and more importantly not having to buy three circulators!
Best of all, equipment like this allows us, here at ICE, to become more proficient in sous vide cooking and soon, very soon, we’ll be ready to share that information with you. Something we’re all very excited about. So tell us, what interests you most about sous vide cooking?