Expert Interview Series: Dustin Skeoch of Cedar Lane Culinary About Sous Vide Cooking

Dustin Skeoch is the co-founder of Cedarlane Culinary, which is the leading Canadian source for modernist cooking equipment that focuses on the intercept of cooking and science. He took some time to educates us about the advantages and capabilities...

Sous vide cooking

Dustin Skeoch is the co-founder of Cedarlane Culinary, which is the leading Canadian source for modernist cooking equipment that focuses on the intercept of cooking and science. He took some time to educates us about the advantages and capabilities of sous vide cooking.

Tell us a little about yourself. What sparked your interest in cooking?

I've always loved being in the kitchen and trying to cook new things. I was never all that good at it - which could be frustrating at times - but I still loved it. Then 5 years ago, my boss at Cedarlane Labs and I started exploring this new trend of scientific cooking based on a recommendation from his good friend and modernist chef, John Placko. Having John's expertise really helped me take my cooking and curiosity to the next level, and we've been trying more and more new things ever since.

Talk about the concept of "scientific cooking." How does it differ from simply following a recipe to prepare something?

There's a few things about scientific cooking that really set it apart. The more precise we can be when preparing dishes, the easier they become to replicate - which is very important in restaurant settings because you often have different cooks on any given night, so consistency is much easier to attain no matter who's cooking. In a way, it's not all that different from following a recipe; it's just more of a formula recipe and if you follow it exactly, you know you'll get exact results. There is less tinkering along the way; you have to just trust that the recipe you used before will give you the same results. But of course, once you've nailed the recipe a couple times, it's easy to experiment with small variations, and you have the confidence to know that the basics of that recipe will remain perfect.

Your site focuses a great deal on sous vide cooking. What exactly is sous vide, and why is this method becoming so popular nowadays?

Sous vide cooking entails vacuum sealing your food (usually your protein, but vegetables, custards, and all sorts of things also benefit from the technique) and placing it in a precisely controlled water bath where the temperature remains extremely consistent. The technique takes a little longer than on the barbecue or stove, because instead of blasting it with 600-degree heat (often overcooking the exterior and getting only the very center to reach medium rare if you're lucky), the water transfers the heat into the food so that the entire piece of meat ends up being the temperature you've set your machine at.

Because the temperature of the bath will never vary or increase past the temperature you specify, it's nearly impossible to overcook anything! If you set your steak temperature to 56 degrees Celsius, the perfect temperature for medium rare, it will never increase to a medium-well temperature. It's much less about time than it is temperature.

Sous vide also ensures that none of the delicious juices or nutrients are lost, which is always the case with other techniques. In addition, you can cook tougher cuts and gamey meats for longer periods of time, and the longer you cook them, the more tender they become. If you cook your ribs for 24-48 hours, you won't believe how they just slide off the bone and melt in your mouth!

Could you give us an example of how scientific cooking has changed the way that people cook or prepare a certain type of food or meal?

In restaurant settings, and now more and more often at home, scientific techniques like sous vide are changing everything about how dishes are prepared and how home cooks do their weekly meal preparation. Many chefs and home cooks alike will prepare their proteins in advance, season them, vacuum seal them, and keep in the fridge or freezer. Then all that's left is to throw them into the SousVide and they'll cook with no supervision. Meanwhile, you work on the rest of your dish and then take the proteins out to serve at the end. Home chefs can even drop their steak into the water bath before work and come home to a perfectly cooked steak that only takes 5 minutes to finish and plate - which is incredible for busy families. Chefs also will cook 200 steaks in advance of a wedding or event, and because they can never really overcook a protein when they cook it sous vide, they can just leave them there cooking in their own juices for hours - remaining a perfect medium rare - and have service up in a matter of minutes.

If someone were to say to you, "Cooking is more of an art than a science," how would you respond?

It's certainly both! It's an art because you need to be creative in order to set yourself apart. You really need to think outside the box/plate and challenge what other people think are possible. The best restaurants in the world constantly push the envelope, and their artistic genius shines through even further with how they plate these incredible dishes. Then the science side is more about "How do we get to that point? How can we make sure that this turns out perfectly every single time and take out as many variables as possible?" Plus, the science side of it allows you to do many cool things that you just can't do otherwise. Turning Baileys into Baileys whipped cream with a nitrous oxide whip in 10 seconds would be a good example of that.

Do you have a favorite sous vide recipe that you'd like to share with us?

Here's an easy, beginner one:.

Sous vide cooking

48 HOUR SOUS VIDE PORK RIBS

Recipe courtesy of John Loydall - Food blog

Serves 1 to 4 (plan ½ to 1 rack per person)

For the ribs

1 or more racks pork ribs

1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoky paprika per rack

1 teaspoon (5 ml) brown sugar per rack

Salt and pepper to taste

1. Fill and preheat the SousVide Supreme to 143F/61.5C.

2. Mix together the paprika, sugar, salt, and pepper and rub the ribs liberally with the mixture.

3. Put each rack into a cooking pouch and vacuum seal.

4. Submerge the pouch(es) in the SousVide Supreme and cook for 48 hours.

For the glaze

2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

2 teaspoons (10 ml) fennel seed

1 teaspoon (5 ml) black cumin

1 teaspoon (5 ml) smoky paprika

1 tablespoon (15 ml) tomato ketchup

Juice of 1 orange

2 apples, peeled and grated

2 to 3 splashes smoky Tabasco sauce (or to taste)

1 cup (240 ml) water

2 teaspoons (10 ml) soy sauce

2 teaspoons (10 ml) Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon (15 ml) brown sugar

1 sprig thyme

2 bay leaves

black pepper to taste

1. In a saucepan, fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft.

2. Add the fennel seed and black cumin and fry for a minute or two more.

3. Add the remaining ingredients and cook over a low heat for half an hour.

4. Remove from the heat and blitz (blend) the sauce with a hand-held food processor for 30 seconds. (Alternatively, let it cool a little and pour into a blender jar or food processor and blend.)

5. Remove any pulp left in the sauce by straining through a sieve.

6. Return the sauce to the heat and reduce it until it is reasonably sticky.

For the slaw

2 apples, cored and peeled (if desired) and sliced into thin batons

1/2 celeriac (celery root), peeled and sliced into thin batons

1/2 white (green) cabbage, cored and sliced

1 tablespoon (15 ml) mayonnaise

2 teaspoons (10 ml) Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons (10 ml) apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon (1.3 ml) celery salt or to taste

black pepper to taste

3 or 4 sprigs of parsley, finely chopped for garnish

2 or 3 walnuts, crushed for garnish

1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and season to taste. Be careful with the celery salt; you can easily overdo it.

2. Once you're happy with the slaw, cover it until you're ready to serve.

3. Sprinkle the parsley and crushed walnuts over the slaw at serving.

To finish

1. Heat the traditional oven to its highest temperature.

2. Remove the rack(s) from their cooking pouch(es), place onto a baking tray, and spoon the glaze over.

3. Cook in the hot oven for 20 minutes or so, just to allow the outside of the meat and bones to blacken a little.

4. Remove ribs from the oven and serve with the slaw.

And here's my actual favorite recipe to date: Deconstructed Buffalo Wings. It's quite advanced, but absolutely incredible and worth the time it takes if you really want to see how far your sous vide skills can take you.

Sous vide cooking

Your site also features a VacMaster. What does this contraption do, and how does it make cooking and food preparation better?

VacMaster is the leading brand of commercial chamber vacuum sealers, and they've really taken what's used in commercial settings and found ways to make affordable versions for home use as well.

A chamber vacuum sealer allows you to vac seal anything, even liquids, powders, soups, etc. All those things are nearly impossible to vacuum seal with a traditional suction sealer like a FoodSaver; they just make a huge mess because the moment all the air is out of the bag, all the liquids shoot up as well and they either ruin the seal or spill out all over the place. The VacMasters build pressure in the chamber by pumping out 99.99% of the air before sealing the bag. This allows chefs and home cooks to keep their ingredients fresher for up to 10 times longer in the fridge (and for years in the freezer) with no risk of freezer burn. It also helps keep busy kitchens organized by having everything prepped and dated, which takes up far less space in the fridge and freezer - all while wasting far less food due to spoilage.

What are some technologically-advanced kitchen utensils, tools, and other items that can really make life easier for the everyday cook?

There seem to be more and more becoming available every year, but the one fairly basic tool that I love is the ISI Gourmet Whip. Not only can you aerate sauces like hollandaise with ease or make flavored whip creams in seconds, you can also charge them with Carbon Dioxide to turn everyday fruits into fizzy fruits that bubble in your mouth when you eat them. It's very easy to do, and it's a very cool party trick at your next wine and cheese gathering.

We've also recently added the Spherificator to our product list. This handy device turns nearly any food into little caviar pearls that burst in your mouth, and are amazing for taking your plating to the next level. I often make mango caviar pearls and plate them on top of sous vide scallops for a fruity flavor pairing that goes great with the shellfish - and the presentation is incredible.

In the near future, what kitchen gadgets, tools, or other appliances can we expect to see in kitchens around the world?

What we've been seeing lately is certainly an increase in the number of sous vide tools available, but now more and more Thermal Blenders (or guided cooking systems) like our Bellini Kitchen Master are becoming available, especially overseas. These multi-cookers can do everything a high powered blender can do, but can also cook, saute, and steam at the same time! They're very useful in commercial settings for chefs who don't have time to stand there and reduce a sauce for 30 minutes or pay someone to chop vegetables and saute onions. In the domestic setting, a home cook benefits from being able to multitask much easier because the machine works with no supervision; but it also allows average cooks to try cooking new things they would never attempt on their own. Plus, everything is cooked from scratch so you know you're feeding your family healthy meals that are delicious - and don't take up your entire evening to prepare since the machine does most of it unattended. It's like a having a sous chef in your kitchen doing all the tedious work while you get the kids ready for their after-dinner activities!

Interested in sous vide? Cilantro has a great selection of sous vide cookers, so check them out today!