Will It Be Sous Vide? Ornery Onion Edition

Hello everyone and welcome to the very first edition of Will it Sous Vide? , a weekly column where I do whatever the hell is required of me. The most popular offer this week was onions, especially the caramelized ones.

I was really excited about this because how cool would it be to toss the onions in the bag, fall asleep and wake up with beautifully caramelized onions? It would be really cool, that’s what it would be.

After doing some googling and reading the recipes, it turned out that there are two main problems with cooking onions this way. First, the sous vide pack inflates and explodes when the onion is released during cooking. As far as I could tell, no one actually saw this happening with their own eyes, so I decided to twirl it, secretly hoping that the bag would explode and bring excitement to this blunt death coil.

The second problem was fluid. When you cook something in a sealed bag, the water cannot escape as steam, making the onions watery and soft. To be honest, I was more worried about this concern.

First, let’s turn to the gas problem. It was pretty easy to investigate. I chopped up half an onion, tossed it into a Ziploc bag with nothing else, and immersed it in an 85 degrees Celsius (or 185 degrees Fahrenheit) water bath, the temperature everyone on the Internet loves to dry their onions at. (Actually, I think this is part of the problem, but we’ll discuss that at the end.)

While I could see small bubbles of gas making their way to the top of the zipper, it wasn’t enough for the bag to expand, and definitely not enough to make it explode, so that’s the only issue we’re not making. there is something to worry about. There was a lot of liquid, however, and the onions were cooked in their own juice, which made them very soft and tasteless. They also turned brown very slowly and did not start to change color much until the 5 o’clock mark. Eight hours in the bath made the onions brown, but by then they were very soft and very soft, albeit quite sweet.

To see if I could prevent gruel formation by speeding up the process, I took two different paths: perspiration and chemical additives (the “chemicals” in question are sodium bicarbonate and sucrose ). To sweat, I sautéed half the onions in a tablespoon of butter and a little salt and boiled until they were translucent. Then I dropped them in their own Ziplock and shot them for eight hours.

They definitely looked like caramelized onions, and there was less liquid in the bag than the first bag, but still quite a bit. They tasted good, but only normal, and were on the verge of being too bland. Again, this appears to be a closed system issue. The liquid does not come out with steam, and the excess liquid dilutes the aroma and makes the onion softer.

The idea to add sugar and baking soda came from an article published in the Food Lab . Higher (more alkaline) pH triggers the Malliard reaction , which is the reaction responsible for breaking down sugars, proteins and enzymes and converting them into hundreds of aromatic compounds. I added a dash of baking soda to the other half of the onion, which I chopped. I also added some caramelized sugar, which I cooked in a skillet with a little oil, to try and trick my way of eating the onions faster. Then the whole situation was watched (again, at 85 degrees Celsius) for a couple of hours, after which they looked rather caramelized.

Unfortunately they were rude. The baking soda worked — these things were brown, baby — but they were the softest to date. Basically this method produces wet sweet onion porridge and I don’t like it.

Finally, as suggested by Some Guy on the internet, I just tossed a whole onion in a bag and let it simmer in a water bath for a few hours. Nothing interesting happened. He just got soft. (Story of my life.)

So, going back to the question posed in this column: can a sous vide bow be used?

Answer: Eh. Like. The best tasting onions were those that were sweated and fried before being immersed in a water bath, but even they were missing something, and I think that something was a Maillard reaction. According to Harold McGhee’s Food and Cooking , the spicy, roasted, toasty flavors don’t really show up until the cooking temperature reaches 250F / 120C and the caramelization happens around 330F / 165C, which is higher than my little one Anova (or Joule , for that matter). So sugars, proteins, and enzymes never get the chance to turn into exciting and more delicious chemicals, and we end up with sweet, bland onions with a rather monotonous note instead of the complex, deep-tasting caramelized onions that we would get out of the oven. top cooking.

That being said, this bow was not terrible. I plan to add them to sour cream and garlic salt or something else, so that I can quickly dip into the chips later, which Drunk Claire will be more than happy with. (But not the ones with baking soda; they end up in the compost.)


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