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Sous vide for holding temps for service?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Like probably many of you on this board, I have a secret fantasy of one day opening up a bbq joint. In my particular deluded fantasy world, it's a mobile BBQ stand, more like a carnival concession than a food truck, but in a semi permanent location.

The one thing that's always bugged me (and plagues actual restauranteurs apparently, judging by the offerings in many bbq joints) is how to hold things like ribs and brisket at safe temperatures without severely impacting their quality. I've seen many methods from steam tables to keeping ribs in the fridge then heating on a grill. In most cases, the quality goes way down by the time they hit the table. In the case of the steam table, they tend to dry out. In the latter case, where the product is kept cold and quickly reheated, the norm is a very hot grill which chars the outside while leaving the inner meat lukewarm. Other options usually take too long to be realistically considered for food service.

Then I started reading about sous vide, the water bath method of cooking things in vac bags. It occurred to me that if one were to smoke ribs normally, then quickly bag and chill, they could be held almost indefinitely with no loss of quality. At the start of service, you could place whatever number of bags were necessary in a 140˚ water bath, then as needed, grab a bag, open it up, put the meat on a grill for a minute or 2 on each side just to firm up the crust and serve. Throughout the shift the bags could be replenished as needed, with of course some sort of provision for "first in first out".

Other than the obvious labor issues involved in bagging all those individual portions, and the cost of the equipment and bags, are there any other pitfalls I'm overlooking? Would a couple of hours at 140˚ in a sealed vac bag have any ill effects? Would the meat get mushy?

Thanks for any input!!

post #2 of 9

Interesting idea - it does seem a bit fidgety (lots of bagging, unbagging, on to the grill, etc.), but it would probably work.


There's a technique of resting meats in a beurre monté (butter that remains emulsified at higher temps) - that reduces the meat's temp and keeps it moist. I've tried to figure out if something like this could work for barbecue, but I just don't think it would...

post #3 of 9

There is a chef on here that has a sous vide set up and I had several PM's with him. There is a section at Auber instruments for a sous vide controller. Not too expensive either 

post #4 of 9

Interesting, I too have wondered how to accomplish this. I have reheated in the vac sealed bags many times but never tried to hold. 

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

My thinking is that if it's a 140˚ water bath, it's out of the zone but not actually "cooking" the meat past the level to which it's already cooked. I'd guess that connective tissue would continue breaking down, but I've heard tell of people cooking ribs sous vide for 48 hours, so I wouldn't think a couple hours would make it mushy. If you made the upfront expenditure of an a decent chamber vacuum machine, you could save a significant amount on bags. Since the ribs are traditionally smoked, I would think they'd taste the same, just not suffer the ill effects of long hold times.

post #6 of 9

Or you could skip all the Vac Pack, Bag and Sous vide machine expense, buy a large Alto-Shaam, set it to 140*, add foiled Ribs and go buy a New Smoker with the money saved...JJ


http://www.alto-shaam.com/product/pid/29.aspx                                 1200-UP_Simple_DO.jpg

post #7 of 9

I knew JJ would have the answer!

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the feedback guys! I guess the Alto Shaam would be easier, but I'm not sure how much it'd save. I think those things are 7 or 8 grand. The setup I'm thinking of comes in under $2k plus the ongoing cost of the bags for the chamber vacuum machine. For a small 2 man operation, part of the appeal of the vacuum bagging was to be able to do the actual smoking maybe twice a week and be able to serve food with no loss in quality. In addition, I was thinking it might remove as much of the "human element" as possible, so that once the food is smoked, the rest of the process is completely uniform no matter who is working the line. If the food is foiled and held in a refrigerator, then a warming oven, then finished on a grill, it's going to lose moisture. Consequently the quality of the product is going to be different depending on when it's ordered. If a guy orders ribs at lunch on Tuesday and really likes them, then brings a date in late on Friday evening and gets ribs that are still good but are just a little bit drier and not quite as good, he might not come back.

post #9 of 9

My step father just started cooking this way taste good but he cooks his food for days.

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