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beer cooler

Cooler Corn: A Better Way to Corn on the Cob

Cobs of corn in a beer cooler ready for boiling water.

Update: You can find this recipe — along with about 75 other beer-related gems — in my new cookbook, The Canadian Craft Beer Cookbook.

Every summer vegetable has its season and devoted fans. But peas, asparagus, or zucchini don’t get nearly as much cooking technique attention as corn does. Whether it’s what goes in the water–salt, sugar, and milk are all called for in different recipes–to how long passes between picking the cobs and when they hit boiling water. My newest method simply involves immersing the corn in boiling water inside a standard cooler and that got my attention both because it’s more convenient and more delicious. (more…)

Beer Cooler Chili

My entry at 86'd Monday and the thematic beer cooler (smaller than the one I used for the cooking)

I like competitions. Hell, who doesn’t? I especially enjoy opportunities to be competitive while cooking instead of having to run or throw balls which is often (though not always) a losing proposition. So I was more than happy to say “yes” when Ivy Knight asked me to participate in the 86′d Monday Chili Cook Off at the Drake.

The chili pendulum swings between two extremes. The vast majority of cooks include beans, some other protein, and a reddish-brown sauce. But while some purists won’t allow any other vegetables into their recipe, others take chili as an opportunity to empty their fridges and freezers of such diverse ingredients as eggplant, ground turkey, and peanut butter. For my entry I wanted my creation to be solidly between these two extremes.

Out of curiosity and because I think it delivers better results I cooked the three elements–beans, beef, and sauce–separately. By preparing the sauce first it’s already reduced and concentrated so the meat can be cooked in it in a closed container. (That last point and the post’s title should make for some pretty obvious foreshadowing.) The beans benefit most from the separate cooking because tomatoes and molasses contain acid that would slow their cooking. (more…)

Sorta Sous Vide Steak

I finally tried the sous vide hack method of steak called Beer Cooler Steak that was introduced in the Foodlab column written by Kenji Lopez-Alt.  Basically, you fill a beer cooler with water that is just slightly hotter than your steak should be when it is cooked to the correct doneness, seal the steak in a Ziploc bag, lower it into the water, and close the lid and let it cook for between 1 and 12 hours until you’re almost ready to serve.  Then the steaks come out of the bags and are quickly seared in a very hot pan.

The advantages are that you know your steak will be exactly as done as you want it to be and because it can be held in the cooler the serving time is much more flexible.  Follow the link to read the original column that includes some more information and a comparison to the type of expensive sous vide option that some chefs use.

David Chang has a similar recipe he calls “ghetto sous vide” marinated hanger steak in the Momofuku cookbook.  He uses a pot in the sink refreshed with hot tap water and then holds the steak (after 45 minutes in the pot and shocking it in an ice bath) in refrigerator until it’s time to sear and serve it.

Before going any further I’ll note that this is an unconventional approach to cooking that holds meat in the “danger zone” of microbial growth for an extended period of time.  If you want to follow this process please do your own research on health and safety and know that you are on your own.

Four pounds of rib steak from the butcher at the Richmond Hill Farmers' Market

I sealed 4 pounds or 1,814 grams of rib steak in high quality Ziploc bags.  Two of the steaks were about 1 3/4 inches think while the third was closer to 1 1/4.  The cooler was filled to between 1/2 and 2/3 full with about 22 litres of water that was at approximately 128°F fell to my ideal doneness temperature of 124°F once the steaks went in at 3 PM.  With the lid of the cooler closed the temperature was still 119°F at 8 PM when the steaks came out.  I seared the steaks for just under 1 1/2 minutes per side in a 12-inch cast iron pan heated to between 475°F and 525°F.  My goal was a steak that was cooked to 123°F throughout with a distinct, golden-brown crust.

To wrap my mind around this concept and to perhaps contribute a page to the chapter of common knowledge on the technique I wanted to approach my first experience with Beer Cooler Steak in a thoughtful manner.  I asked (and tried to answer) the following questions: (more…)