Have you been converted into steak sous vide yet? The latest trend in the world of cooking has proven to be a blessing for rare steak lovers all around. What was previously an exacting task – trying to cook meats just right, without overcooking them – is now an easy, slow-paced task.
What is Sous Vide?
The sous vide cooking method is a way to make perfectly cooked steak in a consistent and highly precise manner. It allows you to make the most of your fancy cuts of meat – think ribeye steaks, porterhouse steaks, or a premium piece of strip steak – without the risk of ending up with a set of chewy rubber soles.
This method uses vacuum-sealed bags of your chosen meat, left to rest for at least a couple of hours in a warm water bath. In this way, the meat will stay at the temperature you choose, and won’t heat beyond that point.
So what happens if you set the timer wrong, and leave the meat too long? In short, nothing! Sous vide cooking gives you a lot of leeway. You can surpass the ideal time for up to an hour without changing the consistency of the meat.
Before you get started, you will need special sous vide machine. Also known as an “immersion circulator”, these machines allow you to tweak the water temperature to half-degree.
This looks nothing like any of your other small appliances. In this guide, you will find more about sous vide, plus a set of easy steps to use immersion circulators.
How to Use a Sous Vide for Steak
Set up the immersion circulator
Your sous vide machine includes a big water container, a heating iron or engine, and a small control panel that allows you to set the temperature and a timer.
Plugin the machine and fill the water container with tap water. Then, turn on the machine.
Set the temperature
Check your immersion circulator’s panel and enter the desired water temperature.
The degree of doneness in your steak will be determined by the water temperature and the time of cooking. This will be altered by the type of meat and the thickness of the cut.
For reference, we will work here with a strip steak that is about 1 to 1 ½ -inches thick
- For rare steak, set it to 125 F (52 C)
- For medium rare steak, set it to 130 F (54 C)
- For medium steak, set it to 140 F (60 C)
Season the steak
It will take up to 10 minutes for the water in the container to reach the desired temperature. In the meantime, prepare the steaks for cooking.
First, season them thoroughly. You can just use salt and pepper or sprinkle them with fresh herbs such as rosemary. For an added twist, keep a couple of peeled garlic cloves at hand.
Seal in a vacuum-sealed bag
Then, you will need to vacuum-seal the steaks inside a bag. It is very important to ensure there is no air inside the bag, next to your steaks: air can continue increasing its temperature and may cause you to overcook a spot of meat.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer machine, you can use the water displacement method. For this, just will need:
- An additional water container
- A sealable zipper-lock back
Place the meat inside the bag, alongside the garlic clove. Then, squish it a bit before trying to close it to get most of the air out. Make sure to leave about half an inch of the bag open.
Hold the bag up by the open corner. Slowly submerge the bag inside the water container. The surrounding water pressure will push the air out.
As soon as your bag is about to be completely submerged, finish closing the bag.
Start the Machine
Insert the meat, in its bag, inside your sous vide machine’s immersion container. Now, set a timer for anywhere between 2 and a half to three hours. Make sure there’s a bell or alarm for it!
Once the meat is done, and at least 12 minutes before dinner time, remove the steak from its water bath. Then, open the zipper-lock bag or break the vacuum seal. You should see the meat is now thoroughly and evenly cooked – but something’s missing!
The mouth-watering scent of a just-cooked steak comes from something known as the Maillard reaction. This is a chemical reaction that releases all the savoury aromatic compounds into the air, whenever the protein hits very high temperatures, giving it a distinctive flavour and aroma.
To get this, we will need to sear the meat!
Cool it down
To avoid overcooking the meat while searing it, you should cool it down first. Extend it over a plate or tray and let it air for at least 10 minutes.
Prepare an iron skillet
The key to searing the steak without overcooking it is to give it the strongest possible heat for the shortest amount of time. An iron skillet is good for this.
Get it smoking hot and drop a dollop of butter on top of it.
Then, using a pair of tongues, place the steak on the skillet for 15 seconds. Turn it, and leave it for 15 seconds more. Move the steak immediately to a cool plate.
You only need 15 seconds, or until you start feeling that charred aroma. The meat is already cooked!
The goal of sous vide is to give you perfectly cooked meat, in a replicable and stress-free way. Once your steaks are of approximately the same thickness, you will always get them as rare as you want them to be.