Time sensitive Sous Vide Question - custard

So I’m not sure I’ll get an answer before I have to make a decision, and I can’t find a good answer with a google search.

So I’m making custard sous vide in mason jars for a party this weekend. I did a test batch the other night and they came out a little soft for my liking - so I’m remaking them.

I’ve done a lot of sous vide but never something for this short a time, they cook for an hour . . .

The test batch was cooked at 176 for an hour - result was a little too soft (tasted great but too runny) If I’m being honest, 1/2 were too soft and 1/2 were just a little too soft.

So I redid them, they just went into the bath. After looking around the web there are recipes (for flan, etc) that go up to 180 for 2 hours (the highest and longest I found).

This time I was going to try them at 179 for an hour. But I paid more attention this time. Putting them into the bath (there is plenty of water, so that isn’t the problem) dropped the temp from 179 to 171.9 and 25 minutes in we are only back to 177.

So now I’m wondering if I should have stayed at 176 and just started timing the hour once the bath came back up to temp? I’ve always started timing once whatever went into the bath and never really paid that much attention to the temp drop - if you’re cooking for 24 hours, what’s 30 minutes to come back up to temp. But with only a 1 hour cook time, do you think the intent it to start timing once the bath is back up to temp???

Hmmmm changed too many variables at one time.

So the bath is at 179 (or will be shortly) - do I just time for 1 hour from start (thus only changing the temp) - or should I do 1 hour from when the bath gets back up to 179 (too late to keep it at 176 at this point really) . . . ???

sorry for the rambling post

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Well I went for an hour from when the water came back to 178. I made 12, they are chilling. 2 seem a little funny but can’t really tell until I open them. So fingers crossed

this may be helpful.


Thanks. I can across that but it doesn’t really help. I’m doing them in mason jars so there is no pouring after they are cooked. I don’t get the solution presented by then either -putting the custard into ramikins then into ban Marie and then all that into the circulator - what? So you want a water bath in your water bath?

Thanks though, we will see how this slightly higher temp for slightly longer works and I’ll post back. (And sorry for some strange spell check corrections. I got most of them)

Your perseverance exhausted me in the reading, Thimes. :sweat_smile:

Love it when I can see determination in going for excellence.

Perseverance - determination or compulsion - obsession.

Lol. Can’t wait to eat them though.

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From your temp and time I’m guessing you used the recipe from chefsteps for creme brûlée. I haven’t tried it but a chef friend did and they turned out great.

I actually used an amalgam of recipes but yes their site was one of my starting points. The 176 temp is found on many sites (as is using mason jars - which I’m actually kind of thrilled with as a concept and plan to experiment more with).

The recipe I used was actually for a custard pie (whole eggs instead of just yolks for a creme brulee) since one of my Mom’s favorite things is custard pie. I didn’t have time to make the pie so thought this might be something I could do ahead and still satisfy that aspect.

It was interesting that some sous vide flan (still a custard) recipes you find cook up to 180 for 2 hours (like I mentioned) - my guess was that the higher temp and longer time allowed for unmolding. Thus my initial solution of just upping the temp (which is when I noticed the large drop in temp once all the jars went in the bath).

I still find it odd that all 12 didn’t set the same way - there was plenty of water and my circulator is pretty robust, so water movement shouldn’t have been the issue.

I’d still recommend the technique of sous vide in mason jars - it was super easy, tasty, and I used little squat mason jars that are super cute.

pic taken from internet (not my jars but look the same

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I recently used their method for chicken liver pate’ using SV and those little 1/2 pint jars. Really liked the results. As the told my wife, this isn’t your grandmothers chopped liver.

A question - what is the advantage of using a sous vide method for custards? Why isn’t the traditional bain-marie in a oven going to give the same results in a domestic situation?

I understand the benefit of cooking meat etc sous vide as the longer lower temperature cooking breaks down the proteins gently without drying the food - and longer and low is safe and effective.

But when you are making a custard you are using heat to form bonds and structure in the proteins. If you don’t get it hot enough the bonds and structure doesn’t form so it doesn’t set - think of how quickly a custard forms when it gets to temperature. Given ovens are pretty controllable at this temperature range and a bain-marie in the oven will even out temperatures is there an advantage I am not seeing?

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I don’t think cooking custard is a reason to go out and buy a sous vide circulator - for sure.

But the advantages are all the same as for other things you cook - temperature control. The subtle changes in texture for eggs between being runny and firm happen very quickly from degree to degree. (I’d link to a chart showing sous vide temps and egg consistency going from soft cook to hard boiled but I’m on my phone). So for a custard you theoretically can decide exactly the firmness you like your custard. In addition you don’t run the risk of getting a little distracted while the custards are in the oven only to discover they went a little long and are now firmer than you wanted (or worse curdled).

There are very few things that you “have to have” sous vide to cook. I can poach eggs just fine - but I can also do 40 in a sous vide to the perfect temp without thinking about them and have them there ready to go for a long window of time. I could braise a tough piece of meat - or do it sous vide.

It is just one technique of many to get the same result done. I was just playing around with this one (I’ve got the circulator so why not).

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Thanks for the insight.

I do like the sous vide technique and see it as a good weapon in the chefs armoury. I suppose I was just speculating about its relative value for certain dishes especially when heat is the primary catalyst for culinary chemistry.

I wonder if the issue with the chemistry and custards is that speed that sous vide heat penetrates the food. The technique main advantage is the combination of low heat and long cooking time which effectively kills bacteria and breaks down chemical bonds to tenderise protein with out the heat shock that toughens meat…so low and slow works.

With the custard I wonder if the low heat combined with volume of custard to be cooked causes the issue i.e. not enough heat to uniformly penetrate the jars in the time in the bath.

I haven’t made custard sous vide before, but I’m wondering, were the jars covered and/or were any of the dairy ingredients cooked on a stovetop before being placed in the jars? Most stovetop custard recipes rely on a bit of the water evaporating to achieve the desired texture–uncovered jars (and bath as a whole) might achieve this effect.

The jars are covered (since they are submerged for the sous vide process) - but the milk it brought to a scald so as to temper the eggs before being put into the jars.