Part Two: Smoke, moisture and crispness: Johnson manages all three with CVap®

Read all parts in this series: Part OnePart Three | Part Four

When chef Reed Johnson helped OLE Restaurant Group launch Red Barn Kitchen, he was already a skilled barbecuer. However, mastering that in a restaurant setting using CVap®s called for a different skillset that required long hold times for briskets, shoulders and even fried chicken. He quickly learned that CVap was the ideal tool for all three and much more.

Going from Artesano to Red Barn Kitchen saw your CVap® options change from cook-and-hold units to large, multipurpose ovens. How did that change your cooking strategy?

I like to say that Red Barn is where I got the training wheels off and started playing around with CVap. The larger ones are powerful, 220 volts, and you can fill them and heat them up to 200 degrees in less than 90 minutes. The two CVaps at the restaurant where I am now, Wiltshire at the Speed, has 110-volt units. They work great but take a little more time to heat up. Another thing about the 220-volt units is you can put in and pull stuff out all night long and the atmosphere never changes. They’re amazing.

Just like we did at Artesano, we were using them to reheat starches and sauces in heat-proof quart containers. Not only did they heat up incredibly fast in 100 percent humidity, it was a great way to control portions by breaking them down into quarts. They were the perfect size to heat up fast and evenly and then hold them. We’d keep those set on 150 F. But at Red Barn, where we did so much more volume, I’d set it on different stages. We started with 90 minutes of 200-degree heat and then I’d dropped it down to 155 F for holding.

Talk about the increased volume and how you used CVap® to adjust to that.

We’d have big prep days where everything was cooked to finished product, “quarted” and cooled properly. Then, when we got ready for each day’s service, we reheated them in the CVap as we needed them.

Where did you start learning so much about CVap®: online, networking with users, hands-on?

A little bit of all of it. Winston has a lot of good material online, and there are a lot of YouTube videos out there. Being friends with (Winston Industries director of innovation) Barry Yates is helpful, too. He told me lots of different methods we could apply to what we were doing.

Which was what, exactly?

At Red Barn we needed perfect moist heat for briskets, butts and beans. But since we also made a lot of fried chicken, it had to have an atmosphere of its own since to stay crisp. Obviously, you can’t hold fried chicken with briskets: you have to pick an atmosphere for each. The good news is there are lots different CVap designs between top and bottom that create unique atmospheres.

Oh, and one neat thing I bet nobody talks about that CVap does: Most barbecue places go through a lot of aluminum foil and plastic because they wrap the meat to hold in moisture. We didn’t need either with CVap. We hold it at 170 F and +5 and it’s perfect.

You had steaks and pork chops on Red Barn’s menu. How did you stage those with CVap®?

Perfectly. We did a sort-of sous vide application with chops and steaks: bagged them and brought the steaks up to perfect medium-rare and held them there for hours without denaturing the proteins. We could infuse other flavors into the meat by adding seasonings inside the bag, and when one got ordered, we’d get a perfect sear and cook on it and send it out quickly.

In our next blog with Reed, he details learning how to cook and hold for a wide variety of foods in CVap, and plate quickly for large parties of hundreds.

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