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September 8, 2022

Brioche Bread PBJ

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Peanut butter and jelly (or jam) sandwiches are icons of American childhood. In fact, the average American kid eats more than 1,500 PBJs before graduating high school and will consume almost 3,000 over their lifetime. The PBJ is a perennial favorite in school lunches and after-school snacks because it's delicious, quick, simple, and cheap to make. But it can be so much better with homemade brioche bread!

If you were like most kids, the sandwiches you grew up on were made with highly-processed, store-bought bread that was...unremarkable. Let’s be honest; the bread was just there to help get the jelly and the peanut butter into our mouths.

Well, it’s time for the PBJ to get an upgrade. Our Brioche Bread PBJ uses a rich, buttery bread that makes the perfect complement to the sweet and nutty goodness inside. And all of it—the bread, jam, and peanut butter—can be made at home fresh from scratch.

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BRIOCHE

The star of this next-level PBJ sandwich is the brioche bread.

Brioche is made with eggs and butter, which puts it in the family of breads called viennoisseries, along with baguettes, croissants, Danish pastries, and sweet rolls. It’s so delicious that it’s practically a dessert sandwich! (In fact, this brioche dough can also be used to make mouth-watering doughnuts.)

A word of warning: before you tackle brioche, we strongly recommend using a stand mixer. Brioche dough needs to be kneaded a lot. The butter and egg yolk fat that give brioche its rich flavor also interfere with the ability of yeast to make the dough rise, so the dough is too sticky and thick to be kneaded by hand unless you’re looking for a major workout! Don’t even try using an electric hand mixer or you’ll risk burning out the motor.

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Ingredients for Brioche (makes 1 loaf)

  • 6 oz. water
  • 1.2 oz. milk
  • 0.5 Tbsp yeast
  • 0.9 oz sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 10 oz. bread flour
  • 1 oz. all-purpose flour
  • 0.75 tsp salt
  • 1 oz. melted butter

Instructions for Brioche:

  1. Add flours, sugar, yeast, and salt to a mixing bowl with a paddle attachment.
  2. In a separate container, mix the milk, butter, and water. Stir and add the eggs. Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients in the bowl.
  3. Mix on first speed until combined, then continue mixing on 2nd speed for 20 more minutes or until the dough clings to the paddle and the sides of the bowl are clean. Check the consistency of the dough. It should still feel a little bit tacky and have a smooth, glossy surface. You may have to add a little extra bread flour if the dough is too soft.
  4. Flour your hands, then place the dough on a lightly floured flat surface. Shape the dough into a single loaf or, if you want to make bun-style sandwiches, divide the dough into six equal parts, then roll each portion into a ball. If you want to give your brioche loaf a weave or other decorative design, place your covered dough in the fridge and let it chill until it can be handled easily. Then you can shape in into whatever beautiful design strikes your fancy.
  5. Place the dough into a greased loaf pan or, if you want roll-style sandwiches, divide it into six even dough balls and arrange them on a greased cookie sheet. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place as the yeast does its magic! In 1-3 hours, the dough should at least double in size.
  6. To give your brioche a gorgeous golden sheen, beat one egg and brush the egg wash lightly over the top of your dough.
  7. Bake at 350 F for 10 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 8-10 minutes or until golden brown and firm.
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FREEZER JAM

The jams we make take advantage of the natural sweetness of fresh fruits that are in season. Practically any berry or fruit will do, so feel free to experiment!

Ingredients for Jam (makes 2-3 cups)

  • 8 cups fresh fruit—cleaned, seeded, and peeled
  • 2 cups granulated sugar (Depending on how fresh and sweet your fruit is, you’ll want to use between 1/4 and 2/3 cup of sugar for each pound of fruit.)
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice (Fresh lemons vary in acidity, so it’s best to use bottled lemon juice.)

You can add pectin, but fruits already contain pectin naturally and will gel on their own. Add pectin if you like your jam to be thicker. (But if you add pectin, use a higher temperature to cook your jam so that the pectin will activate.)

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Instructions for Jam

  1. Place fruit, sugar, and lemon juice into a large pan. Heat on medium low, stirring to prevent scalding.
  2. Continue to reduce jam until desired consistency is reached. At the right consistency, foam will stop forming on the surface of the jam. The best way to make sure your jam is done cooking is the frozen plate test.
  3. Cool before use. Unused jam can be placed in labeled containers and stored in freezer or fridge. If you use glass jars, make sure the jars are heated or the jam is cooled before it’s poured into the jars.

Pro Tips: You can speed up the cooking process by using high heat, but you’ll need to stir constantly. Mashing the fruit in advance will also cut down the cooking time which also preserves more fresh flavor.

For peach jam, add 2 tsp cinnamon. For apple butter, use apple juice and add 1Tbsp cinnamon, 2 tsp ginger, and 2 tsp cloves, then simmer and puree.

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PEANUT BUTTER

You probably won’t save any money making your own peanut butter versus buying it at that store, but if you’ve come this far making homemade PBJs, don’t you want to go all the way?

Besides, our peanut butter is simple and delicious. A word of caution though: we recommend using a food processor, not a blender. Grinding peanuts into butter will heat up a machine’s motor, and most blenders aren’t up to the job.

Ingredients for Peanut Butter (makes 2-3 cups)

  • 2-3 cups dry roasted peanuts (Don’t use more than 2 cups of peanuts unless your food processor is 7-cups or bigger)

Instructions for Peanut Butter

  1. Make sure that peanuts are roasted and their skins are completely removed. Also remove the hearts of the peanuts, those tiny nubs between the two halves of the nut. They have a slightly bitter taste.
  2. If you want your peanut butter to be chunky, place 1/3 cup of peanuts in food processor and pulse into small pieces. Set peanut pieces aside.
  3. Place remaining peanuts into processor and run for 1 minutes. Do not add water. Scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula. Repeat this process until you reach the desired consistency.
  4. Pay attention to your food processor’s motor. Don’t let it overheat! Give it a break as often as needed to let it cool down.
  5. You’ll see your peanuts turn into a powder, then a dough, and then a paste. Don’t worry. Roasted peanuts will release their own oils, so be patient. Eventually, you’ll end up with smooth, creamy butter!
  6. Once your butter is fully processed, you can add a pinch of salt to taste.
  7. If you want even creamier butter, you can add a little vegetable oil to your processor. If you want your peanut butter chunky, remove your fully-processed butter from your food processor and gently stir in your peanut pieces from step 2.

Pro Tip: Some people love to add 1 ½ tsp honey. Or you might want to experiment with adding a little cocoa powder and powdered sugar. It’s your peanut butter; you’ve earned the right to go wild!

Best wishes for the new school year and all the school lunches ahead.

Eat well!

August 30, 2022

Full-Service Catering: The Culinary Crafts Mission

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Last Saturday we catered a gorgeous wedding at Midway, Utah’s beautiful River Bottoms Ranch. During the photo shoot, one of the brides was having trouble keeping part of her dress in place. The planner had forgotten to bring fashion tape, so she approached a member of our team and asked him if, by any chance, he might have some tape to help fix a dress.

“Like this?” he offered, producing a roll of fashion tape.

The planner was stunned. “Why do you have that?” she marveled.

He smiled. “We try to be ready for anything. You wouldn’t believe the things we’ve seen.”

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It’s true.

As Utah’s top full-service caterer over the past 35+ years, we’ve handled everything from wardrobe malfunctions to faulty plumbing to venue kitchen equipment that stopped working in the middle of service. We’ve weathered scorching heat and sudden snowstorms, dealt with misbehaving pets and misbehaving guests, helped moms with fussy babies, cleaned up messes, and met more emergency deadlines than Dinner Impossible.

Being ready for surprises is part of our job.

In fact, if you look inside one of our emergency kits you’ll see evidence of the surprises we've dealt with and the lessons we’ve learned over the years. Safety pins and bobby pins, fire extinguishers, feminine products, gaffers tape (even better than duct tape), sunscreen, breath mints, batteries, jumper cables, dryer sheets (great for repelling bugs), needles and thread, hair ties…the list goes on.

And, of course, you’ll also see plenty of those universal necessities: towels. (Douglas Adams wasn’t wrong.)

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Full-Service Catering

Being ready to handle any contingency is part of what makes us different from many other services that are called “catering” nowadays. Unlike food catering (where a restaurant or other company prepares the food, drops it off, and maybe helps serve and clean up afterwards), full-service catering covers every aspect of your event from planning and set-up to final take-down and clean-up. Hiring a full-service caterer means that, no matter what issues arise, you can relax knowing that it will be taken care of, and your day will go off without a hitch—or at least, if there are hitches, your guests will never know about them.

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Our team has put out all manner of metaphorical fires over the years. We’ve scrubbed dance floors on hands and knees, shoveled guests out of snowbanks, and even thrown ourselves in front of sprinklers that turned on suddenly in the middle of a garden party. But the way we see it, full-service catering is about more than just being ready for emergencies. It’s a philosophy that governs what we do and but why we do it.

The Alfred Ethic

In the movie Batman Begins, Michael Caine’s character, Alfred, delivers a line that captures the essence of what we strive to be. At a low point in the movie, Batman/Bruce Wayne turns to his family’s butler and asks, “Why do you give a damn, Alfred? It’s not your family.”

Alfred replies, “I give a damn because a good man once made me responsible for what was most precious to him in the whole world.”

We feel a similar responsibility every time a client asks us to cater their corporate event or private party, or a couple hires us to handle their wedding. We are acutely aware that they are placing one of the most important days of their life in our hands, and we do everything we can to honor that trust.

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In the entryway of our Pleasant Grove offices, next to the Best of State medals and trophies, hangs a reminder of why we do what we do at Culinary Crafts.

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Whether we find ourselves getting grass stains out of a dress, retouching a guest’s hair, accommodating a guest’s dietary needs, preparing food boxes for the hungry couple to take home, or literally diving into the deep end of a pool to retrieve something a bridesmaid dropped, we try to be ready for anything because taking care of people is our mission. It’s what we love. Being a full-service caterer means doing what it takes to make sure our clients succeed and their visions come true. More than the awards, what makes us proud is the service we give.

Because to us, even if you’re not family, you’re family.

August 10, 2022

Top Tips for How to Involve Pets in Your Wedding

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We love the growing trend—especially among millennials—of making pets part of the wedding celebration. After all, weddings are a time to be with family and loved ones, those who bring you joy and smiles, right? For those of us whose pets are bona fide members of the family, it doesn’t seem fair to leave them out of the big day just because they might drool a little and beg for scritches. At the same time, if you’re going to bring a pet, you need to keep your guests (furry and otherwise) comfortable and safe. Here are our top tips for how to involve pets in your wedding celebration.

Check the Rules

Before you sign with your venue, find out whether they allow animals. If they do, ask about any extra fees or rules for pets, as well as accommodations they can make for your four-legged friend. Can you bring your pet to familiarize her with the venue prior to the event? Is there a small space to the side where she can be taken if she gets tired, thirsty, or overstimulated?

Also, ask your planner or caterer about any state, county, or municipal laws regarding animals at social events. In Utah, for example, pets are banned from public common eating areas, but there are workarounds. With a bit of planning, you can avoid any health or safety concerns.

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Assess Your Pet

As much as we love them, some pets don’t do well in the excitement and bustle of a wedding. A crowd of strangers, a new environment, a lot of noise and heat and waiting around on a leash…for some animals, weddings are a nightmare! Don’t put your pet (or yourself) through anything she can’t handle.

Determine Your Pet’s Participation

If your fur baby isn’t up for a full day of socializing, there may be other meaningful ways she can take part in the fun. Including pets in pictures is a great idea; you’ll always treasure those precious mementos. Depending on your pet’s temperament, you may also want to let her walk down the aisle or make her your ring-bunny, flower kitty, or mutt of honor. If attending the ceremony is too much to ask of your animal companion, consider other ways to make her presence felt. We’ve seen adorable likenesses of a beloved pet represented on save-the-date cards, signage, napkins, Chasing Tail beer cozies, party favors, and even the cake!

Receptions, though, are a different matter. The noise, congestion, and distractions of the reception are too much for any but the best-behaved pets.

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Give a Heads Up

It’s important to give your guests fair warning that there will be a pet on the premises. Some guests may need to plan in advance in order to deal with allergies or fears of animals.

If you’re going to want pictures of your pet at the wedding, make sure you communicate that to your photographer and videographer well in advance. (It’s a good idea to ask whether they’ve worked with animals before and how they plan to get the kinds of shots you’re looking for.) Don’t forget to warn your florist too, since certain flowers, plants, and pesticides are toxic to pets.

Arrange for a Handler

Do not make the mistake of imagining that you can personally take care of your pet at your own wedding. Trust us: you will have way too much going on to be able to give your four-footed friend the attention she will need. Arrange with someone you and your pet trusts to watch her throughout the event. Provide your handler with clear instructions as well as any supplies or treats your pet may need. If your little darling will be there for more than a couple of hours, it might be considerate to trade off the handling duties between more than one guest. Just make sure that there’s never any uncertainty about who is responsible for your furry guest.

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Prep Your Pet

If your venue allows it, take time to visit the site ahead of time with your pet. It’s especially helpful for dogs to get a chance to sniff around and get comfortable in the new place. If your pet will be playing a role in the ceremonies, give her and her handlers a chance to practice. The more you can reduce anxiety and distractions by planning ahead, the better for everyone. This includes introducing your pet to any other animals that are invited to the event. Be sure to let your pet time get accustomed to any special wedding attire (decorative collar, tuxedo, tutu, etc.) you may want her to wear.

And speaking of prepping your pet, make sure you’ve left yourself time for any washing and grooming your little diva will need to be looking and smelling her best.

Anticipate Hazards

Weddings were not designed with pets in mind, so think about any potential threats to your furry and non-furry guests. For example, some wedding foods are unhealthy or even toxic for animals: alcohol, chocolate, fried foods, fatty foods, meat with bones, coffee, grapes, and ice cream, to name a few. Make sure no well-meaning guest has a chance to poison your pet! Before the dining starts, it’s probably best to send her home—the pet, we mean, not the well-meaning guest.

Assess how your pet is likely to handle the attention of rambunctious children and adoring guests. Even animals who love to be petted may have their limits.

We mentioned that some flowers are toxic to animals. Lilies, for example, can be lethal to both cats and dogs. Daffodils and azaleas are also no-nos.

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Be Ready with Plan B

Pets can be unpredictable, especially in new situations. Make sure you and your handler(s) know what to do if your pet suddenly turns sick, gets scared, or refuses to cooperate. Will someone be ready to pull them aside or take them home?

No matter how much you plan and prepare, animals will be animals. But isn’t that why we love them?

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July 26, 2022

Recipe of the Month: Sous Vide Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce

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Whether you’re already an experienced sous vide chef or you’re ready to try out your brand new sous vide superpowers for the first time, here’s a fantastic recipe for you to try: Sous Vide Eggs Benedict with Hollandaise Sauce.

On one level, eggs Benedict is a super easy dish. Put Canadian bacon on a toasted English muffin, top it with a poached egg, drizzle it with Hollandaise sauce, and you’re golden! But every chef knows that it’s not that easy. With traditional poaching methods, it’s tricky to get eggs with the right combination of smooth, firm whites and creamy yolks. Hollandaise is even trickier; if you use too little heat, the sauce won’t thicken, but if you use too much, it will “break” and leave you with a goopy mess. Making eggs Benedict may be simple, but making it right has always been notoriously difficult.

Until now.

With a sous vide immersion circulator, you’re guaranteed perfect eggs and fantastic Hollandaise sauce every time!

Ingredients for Hollandaise Sauce (makes four generous servings)

  • 85 grams egg yolk (approximately 5 large egg yolks)
  • 40 grams champagne vinegar
  • 25 grams shallots, minced
  • 60 grams water
  • 20 grams lemon juice
  • 3 grams salt
  • 150 grams butter

Instructions for Hollandaise Sauce

  1. Fill a pot or other heat-resistant container with at least four inches of water. Attach your immersion blender and set it to preheat your water bath to 167°F.
  2. Heat vinegar and shallots in a small saucepan until you’ve reduced liquid by half.
  3. Strain to remove shallots. Save the remaining liquid reduction.
  4. Brown the butter.

    Pro Tip: “Brown butter” is butter that has been heated just enough that its milk solids have turned brown. For a demonstration of how to brown butter, see here. With its nutty flavor and fantastic smell, brown butter is a chef's favorite little secret. You can make countless good recipes even better just be substituting it for regular butter! Try it over pancakes, in chocolate chip cookies, or in just about any recipe that calls for a butter-based sauce.

  5. Pour the brown butter, yolk, water, lemon juice, vinegar reduction, and salt into a ziplock bag. (No need to vacuum seal this bad boy!)
  6. When water bath has reached 167°, lower the bag into the water until the ingredients are submerged but the top of the bag is above water. Attach the top of the bag to the side of the container with a binder clip to hold it in place. Don’t let any water get into the bag. Leave the bag in the sous vide water for 30 minutes.
  7. Pour the contents of the bag into a blender and blend until smooth. This step ensures that the sauce will be silky smooth.

Ingredients for Eggs Benedict (makes four servings)

  • 2 English muffins, halved
  • 4 slices Canadian bacon (you can substitute thick-cut ham, steak, prosciutto, crab, or a protein of your choice)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 T chopped chives or parsley
  • Hollandaise sauce (from recipe above)

Instructions for Eggs Benedict

  1. Pour at least four inches of water into a pot or heat-resistant container. Attach your sous vide immersion circulator to the container and set its temperature to 167°F. (Since the eggs and Hollandaise sauce cook at the same temperature, you can prepare them simultaneously in the same water bath.)
  2. When the water bath is at 167°, carefully place four large eggs into the bath. Leave them for 12 minutes, then remove them carefully with a slotted spoon and place them in a dish of ice water.

    Pro Tip: The best method we’ve found for “poaching” eggs is the sous vide method used by America’s Test Kitchen: you can find step-by-step instructions here. It’s not really poaching, of course, because the eggs are cooked inside the shell, but it’s simple, foolproof, and guaranteed to give eggs exactly the texture we want.

    This approach cooks the eggs at 167° for 12 minutes, which is much hotter than most eggs Benedict recipes recommend. Trust us, by cooking at a higher temp for a shorter time you’ll give the whites the perfect firmness without overcooking the yolks. Usually when you cook sous vide you set the temperature to exactly what you want and leave it—it’s practically impossible to overcook. But setting your temp to 167° means that you’ll need to pay attention and take the eggs out at 12 minutes or else they will overcook.

  3. Fry your bacon in a pan over medium low heat. Carefully remove the bacon and set it on a paper towel to absorb excess grease. Scrape the pan clean, but leave a little bacon grease in the pan.
  4. Toast the muffins in the pan, allowing them to soak up some of that blessed bacon goodness!
  5. Assemble by placing your bacon on the muffins, carefully cracking your eggs and placing them on the bacon, and topping the whole glorious thing with your Hollandaise sauce and a sprinkle of chives or parsley.
  6. Serve up your sous vide eggs Benedict and amaze your family and friends with your sous vide ninja skills!

Enjoy, and eat well.

July 11, 2022

How to Cook Sous Vide and Why You Should Start Now

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With Amazon Prime Day approaching, this may be the perfect time to take the leap and learn how to cook sous vide at home.

If you’re not familiar with the term, “sous vide” (pronounced soo-veed) is a method of vacuum-packing food in a plastic bag and then cooking it submerged in a hot water bath. When sous vide cooking was introduced to the American public in 2006 on the TV show Iron Chef America, people didn’t know what to make of the funny-looking tools. The show’s commentators called them “nice toys.” Little did they know that sous vide would prove to be a game-changing advancement in the culinary world.

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At Culinary Crafts, we’ve been cooking sous vide for a decade, but it’s only recently that the method has started making its way into people’s homes. For a long time, the equipment needed to cook sous vide was bulky, overly complex, and prohibitively expensive. A single sous vide machine cost upwards of a thousand dollars, so sous vide cooking was pretty much restricted to top-end restaurants and caterers. But now that affordable, quality sous vide devices have entered the market, home cooks can start enjoying easy, precision cooking with perfect results every time.

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How Sous Vide Works

It’s simple. Put water in a pot, plastic bin, or any other container that can hold hot water. Insert an immersion circulator, a thin device that heats the water to an exact desired temperature and circulates it throughout the container. Place the food you want to cook in a plastic bag and squeeze out the air before sealing the bag. Then submerge the vacuum-packed food in the water and leave it alone to cook. What could be easier?

Why Cook Sous Vide?

At first glance, sous vide might seem like a fancy variation on boiling or poaching, but sous vide offers major advantages over any other cooking method.

  • Control
    Traditional methods like grilling, boiling, baking, or broiling force you to rely on a certain degree of guesswork when it comes to cooking temperatures, but a good sous vide immersion circulator will hold your food precisely at your target temperature. That kind of control means that there are things you can do with sous vide that are otherwise impossible.
  • Taste
    A big reason why Michelin-starred restaurants rely on sous vide is because of the incredible taste it produces. Trapped in an air-tight container, food stays in its own juices, so there’s no chance for it to dry out or lose its beautiful flavors. Even pork and chicken breasts come out juicy, tender, and delicious every time. In fact, sous vide is so good at concentrating flavors that you need to be careful to reduce the herbs or aromatics you would normally add to recipes because those flavors will be intensified during the sous vide cook.
  • Convenience
    For a home chef, the ease of sous vide cooking may be one of its biggest advantages. Much like a slow cooker/crockpot, you can “set it and forget it.” However, even a crockpot will dry out and burn food if you forget it for too long, but with sous vide, it’s virtually impossible to overcook food. As long as you set it to the right temperature in the first place, your food will not overcook, even if you forget about it and go on vacation!
  • Nutrition
    Because it’s protected from contact with water, air, or high temperatures, food cooked sous vide retains more minerals and nutrients than with any other cooking method.
  • Consistency
    Sous vide cooking guarantees that you can get the same results time after time. Not only that, but the food you make will be cooked consistently throughout. For example, with traditional cooking methods, a “medium rare” steak will be medium rare only at its center. The outer edges of the steak will be well done. With sous vide, you can achieve a steak that is medium rare (or any other level of doneness you want) all the way through, from edge to edge.
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    What Are the Downsides of Sous Vide?

    Honestly, now that immersion circulators are affordable, there aren’t many downsides to cooking sous vide. One, arguably, is Time. Because sous vide cooking uses lower temperatures, it takes more time for your food to cook. You cannot “whip up” a meal using sous vide. Just as with a slow cooker, it’s a tradeoff between time and convenience. But all you have to do is plan ahead, get your sous vide cooker started in time, and then wait. There’s no danger of starting your sous vide cook too soon because the method is very forgiving. Your sous vide cooker will continue holding your food warm, safe, and ready until it's time to eat.

    The other possible disadvantage to sous vide is that it does not brown food. For some meals (particularly meats like steak), most people like to have a bit of char on the surface, but sous vide will not do that. However, there’s a simple solution: a reverse sear. Once you’ve brought your steak to the right doneness all the way through, remove it from the sous vide bath. Heat a pan as hot as you can make it, and pat your steak dry. (Surface moisture is the enemy to a good sear.) One by one, place each edge of the steak to the pan just long enough to get a good char.

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    What Kind of Sous Vide Cooker Should I Get?

    There are two general types of sous vide equipment: water ovens and immersion circulators. Water ovens are all-in-one sous vide systems where you pour the water into the machine, set your temperature, and let it heat before dropping in your vacuum-packed food. Besides being more expensive, bulkier, and harder to manage, water baths also have another disadvantage. They don’t circulate the water as they cook, which makes for less consistent results.

    For cooking most kinds of food, we recommend an immersion circulator. There are lots of good circulators available, so even though we really like the Breville Joule and several of Anova’s models, the best bet is to do a little homework and decide which immersion circulator gives you what’s most important to you.

    Here are factors you should consider:
    • Price. Unless there are specific special features that you want to add, you should be able to get a very good immersion circulator in the $100-200 price range.
    • Temperature Consistency. Arguably this is the most important factor to consider since precise temperature control is the main advantage of sous vide cooking.
    • Ease of Use. Some models have controls you can set by pressing a few buttons manually while others are controlled through an app on your smartphone or other device. It’s a matter of personal preference which is better, but read user reviews on how much trouble a particular model is to program before you buy. Also look at the attachment mechanism; some models are difficult to attach to various cooking containers.
    • Heating Time. How long does it take for a model to bring the water up to the target temperature? Remember that the water temperature will drop slightly whenever you add your food, so it makes a difference how long it takes to recover to the target temperature.
    • Pump Capacity. This is a measure of how well the circulator moves heated water through the container. The more water it moves, the more consistent your temperature will be, and the better results you can expect.
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      What Other Tools Do I Need?

      Cooking vessel

      Practically any vessel will do—a deep pan, a ceramic slow cooker pot, even a beer cooler—as long as it can hold enough water. We recommend a clear plastic storage bin because they’re sturdy, they let you see what’s going on inside, and they have plenty of uses when you’re not cooking.

      Plastic bags

      These can be (1) single-use or resealable vacuum bags, (2) reusable silicone bags, or (3) ordinary freezer bags. Vacuum bags give the most reliable seal, but they require you to buy a pump or vacuum sealer. Silicone bags are eco-friendly and can be reused ad infinitum, but their thickness makes it a little harder to get an air-free seal. This problem can be (mostly) solved by using the water displacement method and by adding weights so the food will be completely submerged. Plastic freezer bags are easier to work with, but they tend to break at temperatures around 158°F or higher.

      Ping pong balls?

      You’ll also need a way to prevent your heated water from evaporating away during long sous vide cooks. Some specialized sous vide cooking containers come with lids designed for that purpose. Or you can always just cover your container with plastic wrap. We have found that covering the surface of the water with floating ping pong balls is surprisingly effective at slowing evaporation and cutting down on the energy bill.

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      Binder clips

      If you aren’t sure that the seal on your bag will stay completely water-tight, you can use binder clips to attach your food bag to the side of your cooking vessel. This will leave the food completely submerged while the seal of the bag is safely up above the waterline. If your food floats, you can use the clips to attach a weight to the bag. Submerging the bag completely ensures that the food will cook thoroughly and evenly. (You can accomplish the same thing by adding food-safe metal ball bearings in the bag.)

      Pot lid organizer

      Finally, if you will be sous viding several bags at once, you may want to buy a pot-lid organizer that will fit in your cooking vessel. By holding the bags apart from each other, the organizer will allow each bag to be completely surrounded by the hot water, cooking evenly and completely.

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      What Should I Cook First?

      Once you’ve taken the plunge and bought a sous vide cooker, there’s a whole world of foods to try with your new-found superpower.

      A good way to familiarize yourself with the advantages of sous vide cooking is to try out foods that are often challenging with traditional cooking methods. For example, tough cuts of beef can be difficult to soften up without overcooking and drying out, but with sous vide you’ll find that they pose no challenge at all! Alternatively, certain meats are notoriously easy to overcook, but you can delight your family and amaze your friends with perfect sous vided chicken breasts, pork, or veal.

      Perhaps the best way to flex your sous vide muscles is with a dish that is a touchstone of chefs’ skills: perfectly cooked eggs Benedict with Hollandaise sauce.

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      Keep an eye on our site for ideas of must-try sous vide recipes.

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