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September 11, 2013

For precision cooking, fire up the ... cooler?

(Continued)

During the entire cooking time, the food stays safely sealed in plastic bags, which lock in the cooking juices and keep out the water and anything that might be living on the walls of the ice chest.

Though the meat will take longer to cook in the bath than it would on the grill, that gives you time to hang out with friends and family. And as long as you don’t use water that is too hot, it is almost impossible to overcook the food. Just make sure, for safety’s sake, that you use whole cuts (no ground meat, such as hamburger or sausage) and that the food gets eaten within four hours of putting it into the water.

No matter how hot the water is, it won’t sear the meat. That’s where the blowtorch comes in. Torches fueled by MAP or propylene gas burn more cleanly than those that run on butane or propane. Sweep the tip of the flame across the surface of the meat in quick, even strokes until an appetizing brown crust forms. The interior will still be done to perfection, virtually edge to edge. Season with some flaky salt and melted butter, and you’ll completely forget that you’re roughing it.

COOKING MEAT SOUS VIDE IN A COOLER

Start to finish: 1/2 to 11/2 hours (varies depending on thickness and variety of meat)

Two 1.1-pound (500 grams) beef strip steaks

OR

2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) boneless chicken breast

OR

2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) fillets of salmon, halibut or black cod

11/2 tablespoons cooking oil

2 tablespoons butter

Flaked sea salt

If you have time to brine the salmon in advance, you can refrigerate it for 3 to 5 hours in a mixture of 41/4 cups water, 41/2 tablespoons salt and 21/2 tablespoons sugar.

Drain and wipe down a large, insulated cooler, then let it come to room temperature. Bring the meat to room temperature, as well.

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