Properly cooking a steak is a task that is simple but not easy, and rightfully an important milestone for any cook. On the most fundamental level, cooking any type of meat can be summarized into three basic components: 1) cooking the interior of the meat to a desired doneness, 2) browning the surface of the meat to produce an appetizing Maillard reaction, and 3) adding a small amount of flavoring, usually in the form of salt & pepper, to enhance the meat’s natural savor. The traditional method is to use a blazing hot cast iron skillet to flash sear the steak until it forms a well-developed crust on the exterior and a pink, medium rare center. A cast iron sear is the gold standard method, but is prone to inconsistencies and requires a great deal of intuition and experience with the idiosyncrasies of your kitchen, stove, and skillet (i.e., it is difficult to communicate a set of instructions such that a reader can reproduce an identical product). Because the margin of error between an overdone and perfectly cooked steak can be less than a minute, trial and error and profuse amounts of practice are needed to consistently produce great steaks – something that is clearly undesirable when dealing with a quality cut of meat such as ribeye.
In contrast, sous vide cooking can tolerate timing errors that are as large as several hours. Because the heat flux of a warm water bath is lower by many orders of magnitude, it’s possible to reproducibly achieve a perfect, uniform doneness that is pink from edge to edge. The important caveat is that the steak still needs to be seared before serving – a process that unavoidably negates some of the advantage of sous vide cooking by overcooking the peripheries of the meat. For this reason, a thicker steak that yields a higher proportion of meat at the correct doneness is recommended for either cooking method. Ultimately, sous vide is not a perfect solutino for cooking all meats, but should be thought of as one of many tools that can help produce a desired result. In many cases, it is an appropriate decision to accept a marginal loss of quality in exchange for the ease, reliability, and convenience of sous vide.
SOUS VIDE RIBEYE STEAK.
- Ribeye steak, preferably at least 1.5″ in thickness
Vacuum seal and immerse the ribeye in a 135-140F water bath for at least 1 hour. Because the temperature of the water bath is the target final temperature of the steak, leaving it in the water bath for a longer period of time does not overcook the meat but does make the texture less chewy – whether that is desirable is up to personal taste.
Heat a small amount of oil (ideally, one with a high smoking point such as grapeseed, peanut, or safflower) in a cast iron skillet until it is blazing hot and smoking. Remove the steak from the vacuum sealed bag, pat dry, and sear for 1-2 minutes on each side until a dark brown crust is formed. At this point, it is optional to use a high-powered blowtorch to simultaneously sear the top of the meat while it is in the skillet. An adequate ventilation hood and open windows are recommended for this step, as it does generate a lot of smoke.
There is no need to rest the meat in a sous vide cook – season with salt & pepper, slice, and serve immediately.