One of the things you can only do sous-vide is making tough meats tender while keeping them juicy and without cooking them ‘well done’. As I am a great fan of medium rare meat rather than well done, this is one of the reasons why so far, I’ve almost exclusively cooked sous-vide meats that way. The only exceptions have been duck leg confit sous-vide and pulled pork sous-vide. This means cooking meat sous-vide at temperatures between 55ºC/131ºF and 65ºC/149ºF, sometimes as long as 72 hours to allow the meat to become tender at such a relatively low cooking temperature.
Lately I’ve started to wonder about cooking meat sous-vide at higher temperatures. The meat will surely become well done and flaky, but I’m curious whether it is still better than a traditional braise on the stove top and in the oven. There is only one way to find out, and that is to try. The first experiment in this series is pork belly. Usually I cook pork belly sous-vide for 36 to 72 hours at 60ºC/140ºF, but in this case I tried it for 10 hours at 77ºC/170ºF. After that it was briefly crisped under the broiler. The inspiration for the recipe came from a post on Serious Eats. I thought it would be nice with broccoli stir-fried with garlic (inspired by REMCooks.com) and some rice, and that did indeed work well.
The verdict? The meat was not as juicy as at 60ºC/140ºF, but still juicy enough, and I think I may like the fatty layer better this way. This is certainly a good option if you are pressed for time and don’t have time to wait for 36 or more hours. The bigger succes was the Asian style sauce and the combination with the broccoli. Here’s what I did…
300 grams (.66 lb) pork belly
1 Tbsp chopped fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 green onion (scallion), chopped
4 Tbsp sugar
4 Tbsp mirin
4 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbsp fish sauce
For the broccoli
1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced
vegetable oil suitable for stir frying
2 Tbsp Japanese soy sauce
Cook sous-vide for 10 hours 77ºC/170ºF. If you like you can now quickly cool the meat and refrigerate it until use, or go on straight away.
This is great with a gewurztraminer from Alto Adige in Italy or another full-bodied dry but aromatic gewurztraminer.