maintaining serving temps?

After a few cooks, I’ve pretty much got the hang of cooking with my APC. My question isn’t about cooking with the APC; it’s about maintaining a nice serving temp after the food is plated. This wasn’t a problem with chicken or pork b/c I was cooking in the 140-145F range, and the large pieces tend to stay warm on the plate.
I did a flat iron steak at 133F with a few minutes to sear on the gas grill. Before serving, I sliced into strips (like a London Broil). The problem: the meat cooled rather quickly. It was “warm enough” when dinner was served, but the temp dropped quickly once plated. It was OK for our dinner, but not something I want guests to experience.
How do others maintain the serving temp when cooking at lower temps?
[I’ve gained a new appreciation for the serving challenges at restaurants that use SV techniques - now I know why my dinner isn’t always served “hot”).

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One thing I find helps a lot is to heat the the individual plates from which you will be eating - as well as any plate you might be serving from. (In a pinch you can use a microwave to heat plates quickly by sprinkling a little water on each plate and hitting them on high for a few seconds, then wiping them.)
Usually it’s just my wife and I eating so we also have a little convection counter top oven that can be used to keep food warm in those instances where we haven’t timed things to all be done at the same time! :slight_smile:

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Cold plates are a meal killer no matter what cooking method you’re using!

When I cook Sous Vide, in my 12 quart lexan container with lid, there’s enough room on top to stack dinner plates (11") that are warmed as the food cooks in the container below.

True, the entire plate won’t fit, due to the circulator sticking out a hole in the cover, but you can rotate the stack around 90 degrees or so every 15-30 mins to ensure the plates are hot when it’s time to plate your SV masterpiece!

T

KC, there are two things that say to your guests that you truly care for them,
-a plate or portion garnish and a warm plate. They should never be optional if you care.

First, don’t plate food until it’s about to be served. Sides go on first, then the protein component.
Put towels on your counter, particularly if you have some form of stone there, then the hot-as-you-can-handle plates. It helps keep them warm and quiets the kitchen noises. Consider that the mass of a cold plate can be as great as the food on it. You need to give your meal a fair chance to please your guests.

It may surprise you that the number one deciding factor for your guests’ enjoyment of food is it’s temperature. It must be served as expected. Most people don’t know what your food is supposed to taste like, but they certainly know hot from not and judge you on that.

Think about your options. There must be several ways you can heat those dinner plates. The toaster oven is a good idea. A spare oven? Or is there room on the back of your stove or cooktop? A chaffing dish can act as a plate warmer too.

I picked up a Salton Hot Tray at a yard sale a few years age and use it all the time. It’s a great plate warmer for up to a dozen guests. I just drape the plates with a couple of kitchen towels to hold the heat, and start heating them early.

Individual induction cooking hobs have become quite inexpensive. One of those with a skillet would make an effective plate warmer too and they can fit near any electric outlet taking up little counter space. Plus, ever wished you had one more burner or element? There it is.

Most restaurants that use SV have that process totally separated from finishing and service so they have the same challenges as you do, only they ought to be better equipped. Any restaurant that serves you food that’s not hot isn’t trying and is certainly not practising the almost lost art of Hospitality. Hold them accountable and always tell them you are disappointed they could not do better.

You get what you accept, particularly in restaurants.

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 I have to agree with chatnoir. 40 years ago when I was attending college I was blessed to get a part time job as a dishwasher at a country club.  As a big dinner was served we formed an assembly line shuttling the plates down the line for the wait staff. I was in charge of the small piece of romaine lettuce w/ the slice of cinnamon apple on top. I nearly had blisters as the hot from the salamander plate came along.
 On the plus side, as the dishwasher I received many uneaten shrimp cocktails. And the real bonus was/were many of those last cocktails diners ordered that didnt touch them. .....Its a wonder I made it thru college......or home for that matter. LOL!

Oh, also most dishwashers (The machine type) have a plate warmer cycle, or you can just start it on the heat dry cycle.

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If you’re a poor unfortunate that still has to handwash dishes, there’s always the boiling kettle option.

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That doesn’t surprise me at all. I’m no foodie, and even I know “hot from not”.
Warming the plates was my initial thought. I was curious if there were other tricks of the trade.
Sounds like the trick is how you warm them. Thanks!

As I said, this is one of those unexpected learning experiences. A grilled flat iron stays warm w/out much effort (b/c it cooks at 325-350F). One at 133F needs more attention. It was soooo good, it’s worth it!

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Not really KC, don’t confuse cooking temperatures with food temperatures. Medium rare steaks grilled conventionally or cooked SV will always be very close in temperature.

The thin Flat Iron Steak, once sliced, will have a lot of exposed surfaces. That’s your temperature challenge compared to a Rib Eye Steak.

Do you use tongs to hold and plate the meat as you slice? They are as important as a competently sharpened knife.
Use a wooden cutting board too. I like maple because they have a natural microbe resistance.

Tongs help speed the plating process and speed is fundamental to superior service temperatures. Tongs are most cooks other hand. I couldn’t function without mine.

If you are shopping for one, test-drive a variety of them to find the one that best suits you. Use each one to pick something up. They won’t all feel the same. Oxo-Grips makes one that many home cooks like. I like one with less spring tension.

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all I can say is that you guys sure have picky friends. If it is that big a deal invest in metal pates like they use at the steak houses and heat them in the oven.

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Charlie, not picky friends, - but deserving ones.

Some of us genuinely care about the quality of the experience we provide our friends. That’s why we make the little extra efforts to please them. Using our APC is just one step in the systematic process of achieving superior quality.

Plus, we get a good feeling from serving others to the best of our ability.

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I warm the plates in a hot oven and then use these microwave plate warmer, which work very well:

You really need two per plate, so keep that in mind. And, warm them longer than recommended in your microwave.

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I’m retired Chef and SV at home. To reheat beef that is at MR 130F-135 set SV 1-2 degrees below your temp. you cooked SV your beef at. Have plates at 165-175F serve

I think I saw a suggestion at Serious Eats to save the juices from the sous vide bag, simmer them in a skillet and pour over steaks just prior to serving. I think this could ruin your presentation but is a good idea. Perhaps you could dip your steak in the simmering juices. Of course, serving in a heated plate is paramount.

You need to bring it to a simmer and strain to remove the clumped proteins, then treat it as an intense stock. If you don’t want to serve a sauce, collect your bag purge in the freezer until you have enough to use for something. Would make an amazing soup base (when clarified, of course) because it’s pure essence of meat.

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For those who remember our parents having plate warmers in the 70’s — check out this website — http://www.platewarmer.com/. Load your plates, plug it in during your prep time.

When I’m cooking for myself, I don’t even bother to strain the juices. Just gently reduce, season to taste, throw in some butter, and pour over the steak. :smiley:

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First, thanks to everyone for the plate warming suggestions!
This discussion has certainly evolved to include a few more tips n tricks.

[quote=“chatnoir, post:9, topic:12696”]
Medium rare steaks grilled conventionally or cooked SV will always be very close in temperature. [/quote]
That may be true for some cuts. The challenge I have trying to grill a flat iron uniformly is the variation in thickness and width. Either I get the ends medium-well and the middle medium rare, or the ends are medium, and the middle is very rare. Usually I use a microwave to solve the problem. I know, bad form. :slight_smile: That’s why I love the APC/SV method!

[quote=“chatnoir, post:9, topic:12696”]
The thin Flat Iron Steak, once sliced, will have a lot of exposed surfaces. That’s your temperature challenge compared to a Rib Eye Steak.[/quote]
Yeah, I’ve always had the exposed surface challenge with the flat iron. Now it’s more pronounced.

[quote=“chatnoir, post:9, topic:12696”]
Do you use tongs to hold and plate the meat as you slice? They are as important as a competently sharpened knife. Use a wooden cutting board too.[/quote]
Yes, I use tongs (can’t imagine another way). I prefer a synthetic cutting board.
Again, thanks for the tips.

I’d also suggest you carve at the table. My guests always ooo and ahhh when that nice steak is cut right in front of them.

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