Water, Pressure, and Fire… or Getting Started With Sous Vide and Blowtorches

Butter poached sous-vide lobster tail with some roasted beet chips that i made for Valentine's Day
Butter poached sous-vide lobster tail with some roasted beet chips that i made for Valentine’s Day

One of the reasons why I started this blog was to document my food experiments. I’ve always been a curious person. One day while eating some soppressata, something that I’ve done hundreds of times growing up in an Italian-American household, I began to wonder why it tasted so different than a cooked sausage. I became obsessed with charcuterie and, seven years later, I have dried salumi hanging in my basement and an industrial strength sausage stuffer in my kitchen arsenal. Once, I wondered why barbecue was so delicious… two smokers and five pig roasts later, I consider myself proficient in the art of smoke.

Around 10 years ago, I had my first experience with sous-vide cooking  at Wylie Dufresne‘s WD-50 on the Lower East Side. Sous-vide is a method of cooking where you vacuum seal food in a bag, then cook it for a period of time in a water bath that is kept at a constant temperature. The result is food that is perfectly cooked every time.  After that meal, I did a bit of research and found out that a proper sous-vide cooking set-up would run me thousands of dollars. Since I didn’t feel like dropping that much cash, my education on the subject from that point on was purely theoretical. Over the years, home immersion circulators (the device that keeps the water bath at a proper temperature) have come on to the market. When Anova launched a $200 circulator that got amazing reviews, I thought that it was about time for me start messing around with this crazy method of cooking.

The first thing I cooked with my new toy was eggs. People are crazy about getting the perfect egg. There is a ton of information on how one degree in temperature can make or break and egg (no pun intended). In fact,  #YolkPorn is a popular Instagram tag where people document their soft boiled eggs. The Anova did not disappoint. I made a breakfast of eggs, and avocado over toasted crusty bread. The yolk was like custard. From that moment on I became slightly obsessed with seeing what other foods that I’ve been cooking for years, could benefit from the sous-vide method.


Since then, my Anova has seen a ton of use.  I’ve cooked water bath vegetables. I made caramelized onions that cooked for 18 hours. I made ribs that fell apart in your mouth. I made the most tender, rare, strip-roast steak that I have ever eaten (fork tender… no knife needed). I made a salmon fillet that was perfectly cooked from the thickest piece to the thinnest end. I made rare butter-poached lobster. I made ginger syrup for our home bar with sugar, water, ginger, and a bit of Everclear. I even cooked a whole, butterflied chicken. I did this all by submerging food in a plastic bag in to a water bath. One of the big issues with this method of cooking meat or vegetables is that, while the inside is cooked to perfection, the outside doesn’t get that nice char or coloring that you get from frying or grilling. Honestly, it looks pretty gross. You need to add a sear to the outside of your meats to get that awesome color, flavor and texture. Up until a few days ago, I would do this in a hot skillet or a quick trip to the grill. Then I got a Searzall for my birthday (thanks, mom and dad). The Searzall is an attachment that hooks up to a common blowtorch and turns it in to a professional grade searing machine. It gets hotter than your broiler, and is extremely convenient for searing foods that come out of the water bath. Last night I used it to finish off a whole roasted porgy, crisping the skin to perfection. (Side-note: Fish skin that is descaled, brushed with butter, then seared is like seafood bacon. Yum)


Crispy porgy skin is like the bacon of the sea. #notafoodie cc: @bookeranddaxlab #Searzall A video posted by Tom Miale (@tmiale) on


I really haven’t been this excited about cooking in a long time. I’m constantly sizing up food items at the grocery store and thinking “How will this taste if I cook it under pressure in a water bath then hit it with a blowtorch?”. Today for lunch I had a bit of French Onion Soup (from sous-vide overnight onions) with some perfectly bubbly brown “Searzalled” gruyere on top. So, assuming my house doesn’t burn down from frequent use of a blowtorch, look for some more sous-vide recipes coming to this space soon. I HIGHLY recommend this set up for home cooks out there that want to try something new. Feel free to ask me any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

Getting started with sous vide cooking is pretty easy. Here are a few links to the products I use. (Note: I bought my propane from a local sporting goods store… it’s like $3-$4 per canister. Also, I very rarely use my vacuum sealer; I use Ziplock bags most of the time):


8 thoughts on “Water, Pressure, and Fire… or Getting Started With Sous Vide and Blowtorches

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *