For my birthday this year, Cara gave me an Anova Precision Cooker so I could try my hand at sous vide. I was hoping for a man-ring or maybe some sexy underwear*, but alas, another kitchen appliance.
It seems like a neat tool, even if its motto should be, “All the food you like in six times the amount of time you usually need to cook it.”
For those of you unfamiliar with sous vide, it’s the process by which you place your food in a plastic bag — typically vacuum-sealed (but it doesn’t have to be) — and then place the bag into a bath of water. The water is heated to the desired target temperature of your food. Medium-rare steak, for example, is somewhere in the 130-degree area. So you set your sous-vide to heat the water to 130, put the steak in a bag, draw the air out of the bag, seal it, plop it in the water and leave the steak in there for about an hour or longer (depending on thickness). You don’t have to worry about overcooking with sous vide, so you get very tender meat that is uniform all the way through. Just take it out the bag and sear it and voila! With the Anova Precision Cooker, all you need is a tub and water. You don’t have to do it anywhere near the stove. (Is “That’s what she said” still a thing?)
But instead of farting around with steak or chicken or pork chops, I figured I’d jump right in and start with a suckling pig.
I’ve got a tub big enough and the Food Saver that my good friend Shawn Adamson gave us as a wedding present came with a roll of bagging material sufficient to create a properly sized bag. As for the pig, it turns out you can find anything in Brooklyn.
But here’s where the problems start.
Getting the pig into the bag and getting the bag sealed. The pig didn’t seem to mind getting a marinade massage (Pro tip: Just steer clear of his eyes and snout!), but all hell broke loose when I tried to cram it into the bag. That damn piglet wasn’t remotely cooperative with getting into the bag. The squealing upset the dogs and, I’d assume, the neighbors. (Pro tip: If you have a landlord who lives downstairs, be sure to try this only when he’s at work.)
But mama didn’t raise no quitter. Eventually, the pig was bagged and the bag sealed.
The size of the tub. Although I knew it would take forever to heat the water with the wand, I thought a bigger tub would be better. (Pro tip: You can cheat by heating water on the stove to get it closer to temperature faster.) I figured it would allow the water to circulate better. But the bigger tub also allowed the pig to thrash around like crazy. I don’t know why I was surprised. I’ve boiled crawfish and crabs before, and they’ve never been happy about hitting the water. Who hasn’t lost at least one crawfish that managed to vault itself out of the pot before you clamp the lid down? But there’s no lid involved in sous vide, sadly. I guess part of me thought since the water wasn’t actually boiling, the pig wouldn’t mind as much. But boy did it?! And I ended up with water all over the kitchen. All I can say is thank god I didn’t do this on the living room table so I could watch TV while cooking. (Pro tip: Even though you CAN sous vide anywhere in the house, you should keep it in the kitchen for just this reason. (Another Pro tip: Make sure your spouse isn’t home.))**
The sealed bag did restrict the pig’s movement some, but not as much as I would have liked. Maybe I need an industrial sealer. On the upside, I think the struggling did exhaust what little oxygen was still in the bag and he quieted down soon enough.
The mess. But before he finally quieted down and even though I’d removed any excess space in the bag, the pig managed to “leak” quite a bit. Thankfully, the bag held strong. Unfortunately, I had to throw the whole thing away.
Now look, you’re probably saying, “Duh, Ken. You have to clean an animal before you cook it like that.” But cooking is all about experimentation. You want to make the same scrambled eggs the same way your entire life, be my guest.
Besides, I thought maybe all the internal stuff would add flavor. It works with shrimp, doesn’t it? So why wouldn’t it work with a pig? Maybe next time I should purge the pig like people do with crawfish. But I’d like to avoid any harsh laxatives. Adding drugs or chemicals to the process defeats the whole purpose, right?
Anyway, if any of you have tried this and have had success, let me know!
*That’s a joke, yall.
** Ugh. Double parentheses. Do I even have the period in the right place on that one?