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How to save Thanksgiving dinner with LaunchPad!

Well it’s that time of year again, the holiday season is upon us.  For many it’s a joyous time where we get to relax and spend time with loved ones, but this time also brings anxiety for those that have to entertain and cook.  The logistics of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner and entertaining guests is a nightmare!  How can you make sure everyone is happy while also cooking a turkey with all the fixings?

I’m glad you asked!  The solution to this problem is automation.  If we could somehow get the turkey to cook itself, it would leave us with far more time to spend with our guests.  “Ok great”, you may say, “but how do I do that?”  Launchpad!  Using the LaunchPad we can automate cooking the turkey.  In this project, I’ve combined a MSP430F5529 USB LaunchPad, SimpleLink Wi-Fi CC3100 BoosterPack, ADS1118 Thermocouple BoosterPack and a custom solid state relay board to make a Wi-Fi Connected Sous Vide controller.  In case you aren’t familiar “Sous Vide” means “under vacuum” in French. In this cooking technique, the food being cooked is placed in a vacuum sealed bag and left in a temperature controlled water bath for an extended period of time.  This allows the food to cook evenly at a much lower temperature than you would traditionally use in an oven.  If you were to cook a turkey in an oven, when the bird was fully cooked the pieces of meat closest to the skin would be a much higher temperature (and therefore much drier) than the pieces in the middle of the bird which have just reached their desired temperature.  Sous vide solves this problem by cooking the entire protein slowly at the target temperature.  This makes the protein much more tender and juicy.

Completed Controller

You may be wondering why I added the CC3100 BoosterPack to the Sous Vide Controller.  I did this so I could check the status and control the machine remotely.  I setup the board using a combination of Temboo and Twilio.  Temboo is a cloud API aggregator that makes it easy to interact with cloud services, while Twilio is a cloud service provider that allows you to send and receive text messages and calls.  For this project, I’ve configured Temboo online to talk to Twilio such that I can send and receive text messages from the LaunchPad.  This is surprisingly easy to do as Temboo spits out code you can copy and paste into an Energia sketch.

The user interface is a very simple menu based system.  Initially the user is presented with a main menu and can access different options by responding.

Main Menu

“Super Sous Vide Powered by LaunchPad. Reply with 1 – Status, 2 <TEMP> - Setup Set Point Temperature, 3 <TIME> - Set Timer, 4 – Start, 5 – Stop.”

Status Response 

Temboo and Twilio only take care of the cloud piece of the software puzzle.  To actually control the temperature of the water bath, I needed some PID code.  Thankfully DIY sous vide controllers are not new and I was able to repurpose some open source code from the Adafruit Sous Vide.  Of course this code was originally written for an Arduino, but because Energia uses the same APIs (Wiring) as Arduino, the sous vide code and the associated PID libraries were directly portable with no real modifications.


Now with the hardware and software done, I needed a great turkey recipe to try out with my new DIY kitchen gadget.  I found this recipe for a sous vide deep fried turkey porchetta.  A few days before I was going to cook the turkey, I prepared the porchetta and then let it rest.  This past Saturday I cooked the turkey porchetta and had a few friends over for a “friendsgiving” celebration.  While the turkey was cooking, I had plenty of time to spend with my guests.  If I ever got worried about how the turkey was doing, all I had to do was send the controller a text message and I was quickly updated with the status of the bird.

LaunchPad Sous Vide Setup in the kitchen

After the turkey had cooked in the water bath for 4 hours at 140 degrees Fahrenheit, I pulled it out and tossed it in a skillet with some oil.  This was done to brown and crisp up the turkey skin on the outside of the porchetta.  Only a quick high heat sear is needed, as the meat is already fully cooked.  After frying the porchetta it was the moment of truth… As I sliced into the turkey it was clear I had hit a home run.  This was the juiciest piece of turkey I had ever seen.  The meat was loaded with flavor and unbelievably tender.  As my friends tried the turkey they all agreed it was the best they had ever had.

The first slice and the bird plated with all the fixings!

If you’d like to try creating your own Wi-Fi controlled sous vide machine, I’ll be posting the source files for both the hardware and software online in the coming days.  It may be too late to do this on your own for Thanksgiving, but with the holiday season in fully swing you’ll have plenty of opportunities to impress your friends with you electronics and cooking skills in the coming months!

Twilio has been generous and provided TI users with a code for 6 months access for new accounts.  Use the code "Twilio<3TI2014" for your free trial.

Happy Holidays!