Saturday, 13 October 2012

The perfect steak? Sous Vide on test...

I don't know what I was expecting when I got my hands on the Sous Vide Supreme.  Actually that's a lie; I was expecting something life-changing.

What I got was a bulky silver box and a mixture fear and apprehension when I started using it.  Cooking food under vacuum in a hot water bath gives nothing away.

By that I mean you don't get any of the normal cooking smells, or sounds, no spitting oil, or fire alarms going off to let you know you're about to fuck up.  It's not cooking on instinct and experience it's playing science teacher.

You research what temp to bring  your meat up to and how long it will take.  Time and the water do the rest; in theory you never have to worry about over cooking your food as the bath will only take it to the exact point you need and no further.

Next comes the waiting; you sit and stare at a bag, you can see the meat changing colour, juices accumulate.  Every now and again you'll give it a squeeze just to get a sense of what's happening.

In this case I was cooking ten pounds worth of dry aged rib eye steak to medium rare.  Some cursory research on line told me it would take 45 minutes and I only wanted to take it to 55c.

I gave it three hours...  I was scared.

When you take the meat out of the bag you wonder if you've done the right thing.  Slightly murky juices and brown meat does not an appetising meal make.

In theory you could eat it without flashing it in a hot pan but I couldn't think of anything worse.  In my opinion this is where the home cook may struggle to get the most out of this process.

Unless you've got access to a charcoal grill all year round you cant get enough heat into the meat to properly form that crust (the maillard reaction) that makes a properly cooked steak so sexy.  I got my griddle pan as hot as I could; full gas till it was smoking basically but I still would have liked a bit more of a colour.

Leaving it any longer would have over cooked it.  Are the results worth it though?

With a hot water bath it's as easy to cook one steak as ten.  You could take them all to medium rare and keep them there for as long as you need.

Where as it's very easy to fuck up a steak on the grill or in the pan it's basically impossible to over cook them in the water bath.  Ok so if you left the steak in for three days at 55c you'd probably find the steak falls apart as all the collagen in the meat will have been turned to gelatin but the simple fact remains this technique will allow even the most novice cook to prepare a perfectly even steak without any real skill.

Back to my question are the results worth it?  Yes; for a lazy cook like me you can throw some food in the bath, fuck off all day, and come home to a meal that is perfectly cooked and ready to go.

Is it wrong though all I want to do is cook these...


  1. Are there any benefits to it when you're cooking for one or two though, rather than just putting it on a red hot grill pan and cooking it to medium rare...?

    The only thing I'd want it for is to slow cook eggs. Hellllooooo slow cooked eggs.

  2. This is where I am torn; I have a temperature probe so in theory I can cook steaks just as precisely in a pan...

    If you are good at cooking steak I don't think there is a huge benefit cooking just one steak in the bath. If it's unevenly cut though or a bit fatty it's a different story. You don't have to worry about overlooking part of it while the other side is raw still. If you've got a really big steak as well it's always going to benefit from that even cooking you get in the water bath.

    I really want to try Momofuku style eggs as well! They look amazing.

  3. Neil aka @frontlinechef did slow cooked eggs at his pork supperclub, farking amazing.

    But going back to sous vide, like you say, is it really a piece of kit for the home cook? Would you ever use it that regularly? Saying that, I am thinking of hacking my crock pot to try out some bits.

    1. If you we're using it every day I think you'd probably need to change HOW you thought about cooking. Would I use it every day? Probably not at all; but regularly yeah. It's just so easy. I've looked at the slow cooker hack as well, they seem to work just as well. A lot of people are using rice cookers as well. You can just use a beer cooler and a temp probe as well though for an even cheaper solution!

  4. Haha love this; like a food meth lab. (And all I want to do is cook those, too).


  5. 55 minutes? you cant cook a steak for 55 minutes sous vide, unless it is fillet. Being honest, fillet is not really for steak lovers anyway. If you want to cook a decent steak with good fat content, 24 hours is the key.
    I made my own sous vide machine, check out my blog

    1. Cheers Anon that's an interesting link you've given us. I've seen quite a few different set ups for sous vide hacks but yours at least has some good technical info as well. Looks like I need to revisit this soon. I used quite a few different sources but the general consensus was you'd only need 55 mins to get to temp. I you read properly you'd also notice I gave my steak 3 hours... If you come back let us know how the steak differed from say a normal steak after that length of time?