Forming of the patties and other key elements are discussed in detail in the original root article, linked HERE
The patties were first individually processed:
Remove the burgers from the bath, and shock them cold . Why? Because if they enter the smoker @40F/4C, their journey to mouth hot will take much longer than if they enter the smoker @129F. This allows for the maximum contribution of smoky goodness to the finished product. And that’s what we want, right?
Now you have a fully pasteurized and preserved patty. Larger patties will usually appear pale on the outside,
Smaller ones may appear more gray. Inside, the meat will appear red and raw, but the texture is firm like a cooked patty,
NOTE: Because of the unique characteristics of low temperature pasteurization, these patties are both safe to eat “as is.” That is not to say that they are appealing to the eye, or even pleasing to the palate. This creates confusion for novices who expect to serve their sous vide products “right out of the bag.” Actually, this is rarely done.
Sous vide is best applied as an intermediate step in the preparation and preservation of foods. The introduction of sous vide as a step in this process has numerous benefits that are carried forth through whatever “finishing” processes are implemented.
Smoking the patties…
Sous vide enthusiasts enjoy telling each other just how amazingly hot they got their BBQ before they sear their burgers. This does create a sensational aroma in the vicinity, along with a lot of smoke and coughing. As long as your device is hotter than you would ordinarily want it, you will have desirable results.
But low and slow smoking using the RecTec 680 can turn this paradigm upside down. Rather than maxing out the temperature controls, this method calls for a setting of :
Coming out of the 680. Pavlovian, the surface has the amazing color that only comes from natural wood smoking. It’s easy to forget that these burgers were already “cooked” before they entered the smoker. Like I said, I don’t blame you for being skeptical. All I can do is tell you what happened!
At this low and slow temperature setting, you would expect three hours to take the meat beyond well done. I admit, the first time I did it, I had reconciled myself to well done burgers that were pleasantly smoky. And even now, I don’t expect you to take my word for it, because we still don’t have scratch and sniff internet–not to mention scratch and bite. Someday, maybe! In the meantime, pictures are still worth 1K words (even if we don’t write “a thousand” like we used to!).
Wait! What? There’s MORE?
I admit it, I didn’t use the RecTec for the searing this time. For one thing, I didn’t want to wait for it to go from 180F/82C to 500F/260C. There was a nap with my name on it in the other room, so sue me. By now, the burgers were about 120F/49C. For food safety reasons, you don’t want them to spend much time at that temperature without either shocking them all the way back down, or proceeding to the searing and scarfing stage.
Sure! That looks great. What’s not to love? Got the bacon that we cured right here in the trailer, and smoked on the RecTec–watch for that article soon! August heirlooms, iceberg is still king on a burger around here. The all too stylish smoked scallion. You know there’s mayonnaise and a toasted bun, and that cheddar is melting while I shoot the pic. But what’s going on in the inside?
Sorry, I can’t help myself, Nikon, I love you!
Okay, where was I? Oh, wow. Well, would you take a look at this. The money shot!
Hey. I was as surprised as you must be. Let’s take another look:
I’m shaking my head. Those of you who know me, or at least are familiar with my outlook, are only too familiar with my disdain for romantic notions and my converse commitment to the science of it all. Sous vide TEACHES us science, even if we didn’t care about it before. I admit, I do not yet understand how you can put a Medium Rare burger in a 180F/82C oven for THREE HOURS and still show pink. So, I did it again. I had refrigerated some of the burgers from earlier in the day. As the day wore into evening, glory be, I got a little hungry. At least hungry enough to continue the investigation!
In to the pan, and you can tell, that burger is 40F/4C. I mention that because this batch of 80/20 went from frozen when I bought it, to
40F/4C, then up to
129F/54C, back down to
40F/4C, up to 145F/63C (in the 180F RecTec),
BACK down to 40F/4C, and then up to
135F/57C in the pan.
That’s a lot of trips up and down through 70F-100F, the heart of the temperature danger zone. Care must be taken to rush the protein through those ranges. The best way is to vacuum or Ziploc bag it every time, and shock it down in ice water. Fortunately, we don’t do this very often. That’s a lot of bags, just to make a point!
Okay, no tricks now, we have 350F/176C in the pan at least. Why cheat?
A “pre-cooked” burger takes just as long to go from fridge to hot as a raw one does. Heat is heat. There is a little less moisture in this than raw, so it may take even LONGER to hit the 135F target. Patience, Grasshopper.
Sizzle, but no pop.
Flipped back to the original “up,” heated through and through. Keep an eye on it, I worked for a chef who took great pleasure in reciting this Mantra:
When it’s brown, it’s done. When it’s black, YOU’RE done.
Still sweating, and what a great color. I mean, really. I didn’t do that. Smoke did that.
Man, oh man. The moment of truth!
I was starting to think I was going crazy. Really, if this thing had been medium rare, I would have had to start over. But, yes, it’s medium well, even though some people would still say there’s too much pink. There’s no shame in well done, I think of done burgers as just different from rare ones. It’s all good.
This is an honest thing. Eventually, it HAS to go well. There must be order in the universe. But look what we had to do to get there? I ate it. It was good. Moist, right, very right. Smoky, good Lord, smoky like a forest of Alder.
People ask me “but, Norm, do you REALLY think that a burger NEEDS to be sous vide processed?” I tell them this:
Nothing really NEEDS to be processed sous vide, and that is not the question. The question is “Does a burger BENEFIT from being processed sous vide?” For me, the answer is yes. Combine that with some natural smoke, be it the 680 or whatever ya got, it’s golden.