At this point I have probably cooked the equivalent of 3 cows, 9 pigs and 14 lambs through my Traeger Timberline smoker. At no point has it crossed my mind to combine this with another kitchen gadget, my Anova Sous Vide devices...... until this weekend.
Let's take a step back at what are the main tools we will be using here.
Anova Culinary Sous Vide
I was one of the original backers of these guys and during their kickstarter campaign as seen below I picked up the pre-production "development" model which shipped to me early and then when the final production one was ready they sent me one of them.
7 years on both the pre-production and productions models are going strong
Fast forward to today and they have changed up their designs a lot and released a couple more models and a bunch of new accessories to go with them like perfectly formed containers, vacuum sealer and pouches
Not to mention they have released the Anova Precision Oven which brings high end chef oven functions to your home in a small form factor - I would love to get my hands on one of these... (cough Anova?)
Anyway, what is Sous Vide cooking?
Quite simply this word translated from French means "under a vacuum"
In practice you
- Put your food into a vacuum bag
(or you can cheat a little using zip lock bags and get most of the air out)
- Set your desired water temperature and cook duration
(usually a lot lower in temperature and a lot longer in duration that you would normally)
- Wait for preheat to complete, drop food in and wait
(then typically "finish" the food such as quickly flash in a pan)
You can see in the above some juicy steaks submersed in their bags along side some herbs and salt/pepper. Depending on what you are cooking you will change this up and even marinate in the vacuum bag prior to cooking for epic developed flavours.
There are bunch of other benefits such as being able to cook at lower temps typically because you are in the safe pasteurisation zone for a period which kills all the baddies. My favourite though is being able to cook (even pre-cook) massive chunks of meat evenly all the way though because the bath never goes over temp, example, 1 x whole fillet cooked through to medium rare at~54c edge to edge.
To summarise, we stick some food in a bag, immerse it in a warm bath for a while.
Roll in the pellet smoker - I have had this in the stable now for about 16 months and boy am I hooked.
The bbq purists will say this is cheating over an offset smoker but you know what... I am TOTALLY ok with it! We are a busy family so being able to pop a bunch of pellets in set the temp and not have to worry for hours is genius.
You can see above there is plenty of cooking space with multiple racks. There is a smart wifi controller on the side you can remotely monitor and set temps if needed. Behind the screen there is where you pop the pellets, they come in plenty of "flavours".
Here is what I mean about the pellets, literally like pellet fire ones except they smell and infuse better flavour to whatever you are smoking.
The basics of smoking vary a little depending on what you are cooking but typically
- Preheat the grill
- Smoke for a few hours at a low temp ~100-115c
- Wrap/Braise meat, or bump the temp up a little leave unwrapped but cook for a lot longer.
So for BBQ pork ribs most people follow the following "3-2-1" protocol
- Apply rub to ribs
- Smoke for 3 hours ~110c
- Wrap ribs in thick foil, put back in grill at ~130c for 2 hours
Often adding in sugar source (brown sugar or apple sauce/juice), maybe some butter and a bit more rub
- Unwrap ribs, glaze with a sauce and let this set for 1 hour
I find the last 1 hour doesn't need the full 60 minutes, after 20 minutes or so I am already hungry enough.
Combining Sous Vide with Smoking
My initial approach here will almost be the reverse of what I normally do so cook/braise first then smoke.
What are we cooking? Beef Short Rib
I would normally cook this most of the day on the smoker, some times not even wrapping it or wrapping toward the end if it did not quite get as tender as I had hope for in the time I allowed.
The two main stages here
- Cook short rib for ~18 hours at 75c in the Sous Vide
- Smoke for 6 hours at 100c
Apply Meat Church Holy Cow rub to the beef short rib, I have removed the membrane from the back of the rib. Leave this to infuse/stick a bit for 15 minutes each side.
Vacuum seal the rubbed short rib into the bag
Immerse the bag into the water bath at 75c, let this do it's thing for 18 hours / overnight
Remove the bag from the bath, cut the corner of the bag drain any fluid that will be in there. Remove it from the bag.
You can see the meat has contracted from the ends of the bones as expected and this all looking pretty awesome. At this point it was super tender and you could eat this as -is. But we want a good smoke hit on this.
I actually put this in the fridge for a few hours before getting it back out around 30 minutes prior to smoking later in the day.
Smoking time! re-rubbed the meat with Holy Cow from Meat Church and put onto the smoker at 100c.
After around 6 hours I was hungry and this would have have more than enough smoke by now. Remove from the grill and let it rest for a bit.
Then cut that sucker and plate up!
You can see its still super moist, all the tough bits are rendered and there is a nice bark and smoke ring around the edges.
This was perfect, and not even any more hassle because the Anova and the Traeger just controls the temp, sure it had the best part of 24 hours cooking but I think it probably took me no more than 15 minutes prep.
I will be trying this more on bigger bits of meat now like lamb/pork shoulders, brisket as well as other favourites like beef cheeks, lamb ribs and racks.
Annnd next time I will take better photos...