I find that steak dinner is often a bit overrated. I’m sure that heresy to a lot of people. But even a decent cut of steak often goes funny when cooked. You can buy yourself a nice small piece of sirloin, get it nicely heated over a pan, baked in the oven, or what have you, and no matter how accurately you temp the steak, it’s still like shoe leather. That’s a shame. I paid $55 for a steak at Morton’s in Washington DC – and just for the steak mind you – no sides, nothing else. For a filet mignon it wasn’t particularly awe-inspiring. Good to be sure. The best steak I ever had….no where close. I’m no cheap skate but I expect a hell of a steak for $55. Partially made up for by our waiter who I’m fairly certain could have been Link from the Mod Squad. But only partially.
I’ve quite a bit of steak and meaty bits in the freezer and every time I cook one I’m left a little sad. Sad that although I’ve done everything I thought possible, things don’t often come out exactly the way I want it. I’ve baked, roasted, broiled, fired, sautéed, grilled…in short I’ve tried just about everything. Never quite right. Even out at a restaurant I’m never quite satisfied. Why is that? Steak shouldn’t have to be tough. Yet it always seems to be that way. My steak at Morton’s wasn’t that tough, but it wasn’t velvet either. For $55 it ought to be silk.
I don’t have an answer really. I just know that I very rarely get it right. Even if it’s cooked right, it’s nowhere near as tender as I was expecting. Boo! I decided this evening come hell or high water I was going to have a properly cooked steak.
Enter sous vide. That’s the answer. Sous vide (literally “under vacuum” in French) is the process of cooking food sealed inside a plastic bag which is then immersed in temperature regulated water. Most commonly used by restaurants, hotels, and the like, it provides an even, regulated cooking environment. What that does for you and your steak is make sure that it’s evenly cooked exactly how you like it. If you want a steak medium rare (and who doesn’t?) it needs to be cooked to 131 degrees F. If your oven is at 400, that’s quite a bit of room for error. If you want your steak 131 degrees F, you put the steak in 131 degree water. Because it’s at a low temperature, there’s no danger of it ever over cooking. You can’t make a steak 140 degrees or even 132 in 131 degree water. Perfection then. Sous vide can cook for just a few hours or for a few days. It will NEVER over cook. I just did a post the other day on how to sous vide at home. Time to break out the cooler. Check out the post above to get an idea what we’re getting into before you go any further.
To start you’ll want to make sure your steaks are properly defrosted. I had some steaks that were hard frozen. I placed them inside the freezer bags, sealed them, and tossed them in a bowl of cold water for a bit just to get them nicely defrosted. Once up to something approximating room temperature they need to be properly seasoned and oiled.
Sous vide requires that you put some liquid in with the food that you’re cooking. Aside from adding some flavor, it provides liquid to liquid contact during the cooking process. Liquid is really good at conducting heat. Air is not. For steaks, olive oil is the perfect complement. You don’t need to have them swimming in it, coat them and then maybe a tablespoon or two extra, depending on the size of the steaks and the bags you’re using. I sprinkled the steaks with freshly ground pepper, a pinch of salt, and some dried rosemary. Simple and delicious.
Sealing up the bags I used the Archimedes principal trick outlined in the previous post. Thanks Archimedes. You’re a champ. Submerge your now filled bags in water, leaving the top sticking above the surface. Seal the bags almost all the way closed, squish the air out of the bag, and seal the rest of the way up. That’s it.
I’ve already outlined that I like my steaks medium rare. Temped perfectly that’s 131 degrees F. I filled my cooler with 135 degree water, figuring I’d lose a few degrees over time. I filled it almost all the way up to the top. You needn’t do that. It was a bit silly to plop two little packages in a giant cooler filled to the brim with hot water, but it worked. My two little steaks, about a half-inch thick and 6 ounces in weight, took about an hour and a half to cook perfectly. When I checked them for temperature they were 127 degrees F. That’s actually perfect. A little under is where I wanted them.
As you might imagine cooking in a liquid doesn’t confer the nicely seared Maillard Reaction brown surface that you want on your steak. You have to do that when you’re done. 30 seconds or less on each side in a searing hot pan and the outside will be nicely browned. The inside will still be tender and just the right temperature. Perfection!
I certainly had some time on my hands while I was waiting around. That much was for certain. I made a nice batch of my homefries. No need to rehash that, just pop over here and check out the post. They’re fantastic. And easy to boot. They only take 20 minutes to bake so I got everything prepared and stored them on the baking sheet till I had about 20 minutes to go before meal time.
I also made myself some baby carrots. That recipe is here. Also really tasty and a fantastic go-along with steak and potatoes. These take about 40 minutes to bake. After the steaks were in for a little under an hour I tossed these into a preheated oven. Twenty minutes later the potatoes went in. Twenty minutes after that everything came off and out of the heat…err water.
I put a pan on the stove top on decently high heat. 7 on my electric stove top I think. I gave the steaks 30 seconds on each side and plated everything. Done.
Bar none, this was the best steak I have ever produced in my own home. Tender, perfectly cooked, immensely flavorful and beefy. The best. I can’t begin to explain how fantastic. I’m gushing. I don’t care. My other half who usually eats half of his steak and gives up mid-way through, saddened by shoe leather texture and lack of taste, enthusiastically ate the whole thing and a bit of mine while I wasn’t looking. Success then. Unmitigated success. I was more excited about this dinner than I have been about anything I’ve cooked in quite a long time. After we were done eating we both had that smug, very happy look on our faces that’s only evident after having a really, truly, all around great meal.
- 2 Steaks – 6 Ounce Sirloins
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- Pinch of Salt and Pepper
- 1 Teaspoon of Dried Rosemary
Potatoes – Roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes.
- 5 Potatoes Diced
- Salt to Taste
- Pepper to Taste
- Paprika to Taste
- Cayenne or Chipotle Pepper Powder (if you’re feeling brave)
- 2 Tablespoons of Oil
Roasted Baby Carrots – Roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes.
- About 1 and 1/2 Pounds of Baby Carrots – 6 Inches of Less In Length. (Washed, Dried, and Greens Trimmed to 1 Inch in Length).
- 1 Medium Sized Onion – Peeled and Cut Into 8 to 12 Wedges.
- 2 Tablespoons of Olive Oil (You May Need More – Don’t Feel Bad)
- 1 1/2 Teaspoons Dried Rosemary
- 1/2 Teaspoon Garlic Powder
- Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to Taste