Cooking A Ribeye Via Sous Vide

June 2013

I love grilling a steak, almost as much as eating one. So I was somewhat skeptical when I heard about cooking a steak using a technique called Sous Vide. Basically, you put the steak in a Ziploc bag and drop it into a bath of hot water. We don't treat our steaks like that in Texas! But folks said that this technique produces an evenly cooked and exceptionally tender steak. Needless to say, I had to try this!
Note: you can buy a Sous Vide water oven for $400, but I saved a few bucks by using an Igloo ice chest like this guy did.

For this experiment, I used my favorite steak...the grass-fed, grain-finished ribeye from Whole Foods. One was dry aged, one wasn't. I can usually tell a difference between those two steaks, but they turned out identical in taste and texture using the Sous Vide cooking technique. I seasoned both steaks exactly like I always do: a splash of Worcestershire sauce, a light dusting of coarse Kosher salt, and a lighter dusting of Uncle Chris' Gourmet Steak Seasoning.

For my water bath, I used a 30-quart insulated Igloo ice chest. A large metal pot would lose it's heat too quickly. And if you placed a metal pot on the stove, it would be difficult to keep the water in the target range. So barring the use of a Sous Vide oven, an Igloo ice chest works well. For medium-rare, most say to cook the steak in a 135-degree (F) bath for 45 minutes. The raw meat will chill the water a hair, so I used hot tap water and boiling water to get my bath to 139 (F). Putting the meat in the bath caused the water temperature to drop to my target of 135 degrees. I cooked the meat for one hour, at which time the bath was at 133 degrees which is certainly acceptable. Be sure to keep children and pets away from the hot water.

Note: you can actually leave the steak in the water for several hours and it won't over-cook! But it will continue to soften. Be aware that a tender steak like a ribeye can feel spongy if cooked for more than an hour. Also note that I used a small straw to suck most of the air from the Ziploc bag. You want the bag touching the meat as much as possible so that the heat from the water transfers to the meat.

Don't panic! Those unappetizing gray blobs will be just fine after you grill them for a short while.

Cooking a steak in water requires a cowboy hat to make the world feel right again. It also requires grilling the post-bath meat over a flame. The water bath is wonderful at producing a tender, evenly cooked steak. But it does not brown the meat, so it does not impart those heavenly Maillard reaction flavors. I browned my steaks for one minute per side over a charcoal grill, but they could have had just a tad more flavor. I have since read that the better option is to grill the steaks over the high heat of a charcoal chimney for only 30 seconds per side. Doing this imparts the browning flavors, but doesn't cook the inside of the meat which was already cooked to perfection by the water bath.

The Sous Vide cooking technique resulted in an amazingly tender and uniformly cooked steak. Notice how the shade of pink is exactly the same throughout the thickness of the steak. Every slice was like that. And as long as the temperature in the bath is relatively stable, you can't over-cook or under-cook your steak! Again, the only thing I would do differently is to impart more flavor by grilling the steaks over the intense heat of a charcoal chimney for 30 seconds per side. Overall, I'm very impressed - and I will definitely do this again.

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