Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sous Vide Pork Chops

Ah, pork, I gnawed you well.

Do you remember back in the day when your mom cooked every piece of pork until it was as dry as shoe leather Probably because she was afraid of it?

There are some cuts of pork that are perfectly happy being cooked for a long time. Like ribs. Or shoulder. A long, slow cook results in fall-off-the-bone tenderness. But other cuts ... not really. They just get dry and chewy.

Nowadays, pork-cooking recommendations have changed. Pork no longer needs to be incinerated. It can be a little bit pink. Even the USDA says that 145 degrees is safe, and chefs are setting that threshold even lower. While no one's advocating rare pork, pink is preferable.

And here's the deal about temperature safety. It's not just about the highest temperature that the food reaches. The time that the food is at a certain temperature also makes a difference. So, a lower temperature for a longer time has the same effect (as far as safety) as a higher temperature for a shorter time. It's just like pasteurization, where milk can be heated to 161 degrees for 15 seconds or it can be heated 280 degrees for 2 seconds.

When I got some pork chops from Frontiere Natural Meats, they seemed to be the perfect candidates for sous vide cooking.

It turns out, I was right. These chops were fantastic. Okay, it was good meat to start with, but sous vide was a great technique for cooking them.

While cooking something using sous vide can take a looooong time, like the 72-hour short ribs I made a while back, that time is mostly unattended.

If you're sous vide cooking for a ridiculously long time, you might need to add some water to the pot as it evaporates, but other than that, you just let it go. Since we're not talking about unattended fire, the risk of something going horribly wrong is pretty low, much like having a waterfall or a fish tank left unattended.

In this case, I cooked the pork chops in the sous vide, and then seared them to get a pretty brown crust - and to add some seasoning. Since the chops from Frontiere were vacuum-sealed in their own pouches, I didn't even bother taking them out and re-sealing them in my own bags - I just plopped them into the warm water, and let them circulate.

How easy is that?

The result was fully-cooked, but slightly pink meat. It was tender and juicy, with a nicely seasoned crust from searing them after they were cooked.

Sous Vide Pork Chops

3 thick cut boneless pork chops (or as many as you need, and that will fit)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Oil, for searing

If the chops aren't vacuum-sealed, place them in a vacuum-seal bag and vacuum and seal them. That was certainly an unwieldy sentence, wasn't it.

Place them in a sous vide bath at 140 degrees for 2 hours. Longer should be perfectly fine.

When the cooking time is done, remove them from the bags and pat them dry.

Heat a cast iron frying pan on medium-high heat. Drizzle your favorite cooking oil on the meat - just enough to coat it slightly. I used an olive oil blend that can handle relatively high heat. Grind on some fresh black pepper and sprinkle on some salt to taste.

Sear the chops on all sides.

Serve. You can leave them whole, or slice them for presentation.

Did I mention that the other nice thing about sous vide cooking is that you don't need to worry as much about resting time as with other cooking methods? When you roast or grill or fry meat, the temperature is still rising after you take it off the heat. In theory, you should let the meat rest until the temperature stabilized or begins to drop a bit. But with sous vide, the internal temperature is stable, and it's not going to rise after cooking. Pretty slick, huh?

Disclaimer: I receive meat from Frontiere so I can create recipes for my blog.