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Lamb Shoulder ‘Mignon’s. Via homemade Sous Vide, afterburner + needy friends

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    Lamb Shoulder ‘Mignon’s. Via homemade Sous Vide, afterburner + needy friends

    I fancied a lamb shoulder, friends tried to disrupt my plans. I accepted their challenge and came up with some fine eating. The technique seemed to work, so it might be of interest to others.

    Setting the scene: I purchased a lamb shoulder and was anticipating a Saturday night feast. Then, some particularly needy friends invited us to their house for dinner, wife accepted, Lamb plans blown. "But could you cook?". "love to!" I said. The lamb was back on! "Oh, and we have other friends coming". Ok - going to need to stretch this a bit. "...and there's no way to indirect cook on my grill...and the vents don't work so it doesn't get hot...and the dogs are in the yard...and if you could just watch the kids at the same time...and so on."

    "So to clarify: You want a dinner party, but you want me to provide the meat, cook it on an originally crap - now trashable - grill, and impress your friends that I've never met but fancy themselves as foodies, all in four hours time?" He nods via text. Normal mortals would bridle at the imposition, I suspect everyone in 'The Pit' would do exactly as I did - accept that challenge and take immense joy in dining victoriously.

    I did the only sensible thing and consult Amazing Ribs. Got the ‘sheep dip’ recipe. I really fancied steaks of some variety - I thought it would be interesting with a lamb shoulder. However, the afterburner technique on thick steaks is advised against. I needed to get the middle up to temp, without the aid of reverse sear. And I needed to make steaks!

    So here is what I did:

    First: I boned the lamb shoulder. I then rolled it, tying with string to keep the shoulder as a cylinder. I set the strings about an inch apart, and made the cylinder as regular as possible. This often involved tucking bits back in / folding, etc. On reflection, adding a coating of ‘sheep dip’ to the inside prior to rolling might have worked out well, provided it was heated hot first. (Contamination risk is exacerbated by rolling, so temperatures were key with this.)

    Second: Once rolled, I sliced into 1” thick steaks. The string going around the center. Pic below.

    Third: I heated a cooler with boiling water. Poured half that water away, added some cooler water. I then put each steak in a zip lock, squeezed out the air by submerging to the edge of the ziplock and then zipping the lock. It was impossible to get this perfect, but it was close enough.

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    Fourth: I put the steaks into the cooler, and gradually changed out the water until the water temp was 140 degrees. I drained from the bottom, added hot water from the top. Checked the temp with the thermoworks pen.

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    I sealed the cooler, waited 10 mins, checked the water temp expecting it to drop by a few degrees. It had, but only by a few. Added more hot water. I checked it twice more, but was reasonably stable. I now had an easy way to carry the steaks to the friends house.

    Fifth: The steaks sat in the ‘sous-vide’ for about 3 hours, including transport time, etc.

    Sixth: I set up a hot direct grill using a lodge ‘camping’ grill I brought (who takes a 50lb cast iron grill camping? - I presume it’s an American thing). Ran it full blast.

    Lastly added the lamb steaks. They came out of the sous vide around the 130 - 135 degree level, the bare minimum for food safety. They probably hadn’t been at that temp long enough for effective bacterial killing (35 mins to an hour), so I was conscious of this when I put them on the grill.

    I patted them down - zip locks aren’t always entirely waterproof - and put them on the grill.

    I flipped / turned / edged / moved the steaks every 15 to 20 seconds for a strong sear on all sides. Which took a solid 10 minutes, if not a bit longer. I pulled them when the sear was right and internal was above just above 145. Towards the end I brushed with Meathead’s sheep dip, then pulled them from the grill probably a minute or two later. (Earlier application would have been too soon - flare ups and incinerating every ingredient in the dip)

    Final result: A nice, meaty, thick lamb steak. Well seared and seasoned. Ate well, all the fun of a shoulder cut in a neat package. The friends made the side. Some spinach goop.

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    Anyway, the home made sous vide seemed to work, and got the temperature high enough that a really strong heat could be used for a fabulous sear. If you’re planning a thicker steak, it maybe the way to go.

    Improvements: Much bigger cooler. More water = greater thermal mass = less temp degradation. The cooler I used was probably too small. Also, maybe giving a coat of the sheep dip (heated) to the inside of the meat before rolling.

    Just a note: In cooking this I was very conscious of food safety. Read Meatheads piece on food safety temps. I was skirting pretty close, hence I pushed the grilling longer than a normal steak. I was also serving to 6 healthy, young adults, so figured the risk minimal.
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    GREAT post! Way to think on your feet! Bravo.


      HAHA! Challenge accepted! You knocked this out of the park! Even without the extra troubles. Well done, very impressive. Way to rise to the occasion.


        Cheers guys! The point of the post was the sous-vide idea. It seemed to work well, giving internal temp needed (just) for a really hot sear to be possible. I hope the post doesn't sound too much like bragging... but I did win! As an aside, the other guests turned out to be pastry chefs, and made an incredible cake. So all good! (except for the hosts spinachy goop - that was godawful).



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