Let’s set the scene—you go to a restaurant, pick out a delectable-sounding dish featuring an exceptional Prime-grade New York Strip. It arrives at your table, you slice through the caramelized crust, revealing a jaw-dropping inside. Top to bottom, all the same shade of pink. How did they do it!? You sit there, humbling yourself at the feet of the Chef Gods once again.
We’ll let you in on a little secret: with the right tool—an immersion circulator—you can achieve the same result.
“But this blog post is supposed to be about how to sous vide things!” Don’t worry, it is. The immersion circulator is the tool. Sous vide is the technique.
Sous vide history lesson
Sous vide is a cooking method invented in the 1700s, but perfected by the French in the 1960s, literally meaning “under vacuum.” It wasn’t until recently that sous vide tools became available to us home chefs. Give us a gizmo or gadget, and we will be entertained for hours!
The really, really basic basics of beef sous vide
Very simply put, when you cook a steak sous vide, you cook it vacuum-sealed in a bag, submerged in a bath of water, until it reaches the perfect temperature top to bottom. After an hour or so, you pull it out, open the bag, and sear it in a very hot pan, then serve. It’s really just that easy!
Why sous vide?
No one likes a hockey puck for a steak. Sous vide makes it almost impossible to overcook. Cooking steak in a temperature-controlled environment allows for flexibility in our timing, with no inconsistencies in doneness. It takes the fear away from purchasing a pricey cut of beef and absolutely hammering it on the grill, leading to a meltdown in the kitchen, and ending with you, seasoning said hammered steak with your salty tears. (Not like we are speaking from experience or anything …)
Sous vide cooking is perfect for entertaining. Just set it, grab a refreshment, and mingle with your guests. After about an hour, pop back into the kitchen, sear the steaks, and plate. Your guests will think you had the party catered!
This cooking method is perfect for multi-tasking parents, too. Once you place the vacuumed sealed steak in the water, you can simply walk away and tend to little Carolyn who is once again fussing over her mashed potatoes and peas touching. Treating yourself to a tender steak for dinner no longer needs to happen at 11:00pm or on the weekend.
Selecting the perfect steak for sous vide
Generally speaking, you can sous vide almost anything. A 1.5-2″ thick cut of steak is what works best with this method, even for beginners. Consider a strip, ribeye, porterhouse/t-bone, or tenderloin steak. These cuts are thicker, allowing for more even doneness inside, but still lets us get a good crust when we sear it, without fear of overcooking.
Beef sous vide cooking times and temperatures:
- Start with a 12-26qt container and fill about 3/4 full. Place the heating element of the immersion circulator into the water and clip it to the container’s side. Set the immersion circulator to the desired doneness of your steak. For a medium-rare to medium strip steak, set it to 135°F.
- While the water bath is heating up, take the steak out of the fridge. Pat it dry, and season both sides with salt and pepper. Place the steak inside a vacuum bag, along with a sprig of rosemary and a peeled clove of garlic.
- Vacuum-seal your bag steak and aromatics. Drop the bag into the water, making sure you do not block any parts of the immersion circulator. Cook according to the time charts below.
Immersion Circulator Cooking Chart According to foodsafety.gov, the minimum safe temperature is 145°F for fresh beef and 160°F for ground beef.
- About 5 minutes before the end of your cook time, crack your windows, and start up the vent fan, because we are about to sear some steak! Preheat your cast iron pan on the stove, over medium to medium-high heat with about a tablespoon of olive oil. It should be on the verge of smoking once you are ready to sear your steak (hence the window cracking).
- Remove the bag from the water. When you take the steak out of the bag, it will look a little sad and be VERY wet. Don’t worry! We aren’t done yet! The wetness is actually from its own juices, which it essentially cooked in, not from a leaky bag (you WILL know if your bag leaked). We need to pat that steak dry to get a good sear on it. Moisture is the nemesis of searing.
- This step is optional, but you are welcome to add more aromatics to the pan, such as a chunk of butter, a sprig of thyme or rosemary, a clove of garlic, whatever you like.
- Have your tongs at the ready and get that steak into the hot pan as soon as you can. Flip the steak every 15-20 seconds, including the steak’s sides, until the good crust as formed.
- If you have one of those fancy high-powered kitchen torches, fire it up and direct the flame onto each side, getting an even crispier exterior.
- There is actually no need to let the steak rest. We let steaks rest to let them reabsorb some juices, but sous vide steaks already did that in the bag. So indulge immediately, victor!
After we get over our fear of failing, experimenting in the kitchen can really become the highlight of our day. The beauty of beef is that it can easily be adapted to almost any scenario and cooking method. So if you are itching to try something new, and get a better-than-a-restaurant quality cooked steak, we TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU to try sous vide. That’s right, can’t back down from that challenge.