I’m giving up some sort of membership into the men’s club when I admit this: I suck at grilling and general BBQ’ing. It just isn’t going to happen. I remember when I was a kid, I used to attempt making hamburgers at home. They always came out dry and hockey puck-ish. Any other more complicated piece of meat would either turn undercooked (dangerous, especially if it’s chicken) or burnt (not very edible).
The issue with grilling is that each piece of meat is different and a person would need to instinctively know how long each piece needs to be grilled for. Instincts takes a lot of time to develop for me and I don’t BBQ or grill enough to develop them.
Fast forward many years later. I marry Cheryl who grills an excellent steak. Life is good, there is no need to learn. The BBQ is simply an outdoor equipment in the patio used by my dad, my father-in-law or Cheryl.
That said a good and perfect restaurant steak (without going to the Keg and spending $30 for 1 plate) was always a missing piece in my kitchen arsenal. That is until I found the sous vide.
A sous vide isn’t something that is too widely used / known by people outside of the restaurant industry. However, I think that it should be a staple in your kitchen along side that slow cooker, stove or oven. It’s a gadget that leaves a wide room for error and is relatively simple to use.
Here are the steps to cook any food in the sous vide:
- Fill Sous Vide with water, set temp and start.
- Season food.
- Vacuum pack food.
- Put vacuum packed food into sous vide
- If needed, sear food with a blow torch (or a really hot pan).
They’re very simple and sequential steps.
The unfortunate fact is that these sous vide machines are incredibly expensive (think $400 – $600) and they’re pretty limited in size which means that you can only cook a small amount of food at any given time. Enter the Anova Sous Vide. I bought one as a Christmas present to myself and it arrived a few weeks later.
I immediately tackled something really complicated: soft boiled eggs. First experiment didn’t really turn out too well. Upon cracking the eggs were under-cooked (thank god that I did it over the sink) but that was because I was too excited and didn’t leave enough time for the eggs to cook. So understanding that time was a critical factor, I set off to conquer steaks.
I bought a few cuts of my favourite beef cut: rib eye steak (go big or go home). I also prepped each steak with relatively simple set of ingredients: garlic cloves, butter, thyme, canola oil, salt and pepper.
So following the steps above, here is what I did:
- Set the sous vide to 54 degrees (that’s around 130 degrees F) to get a medium rare steak for the thickness of the cut.
- Season the steak with a salt and pepper, garlic cloves, butter and thyme.
- Vacuum seal the steak in a Food Saver bag. This was actually the more challenging part because I didn’t really know how to use the sealer. I ended up struggling with the sealer for a bit.
- Put vacuum sealed steaks into water.
- Wait… in this case, I waited 2.5 hours. Which was timed perfectly because Cheryl was working late and didn’t get home until that time.
- Sear! Get a pan really hot, put some oil (you’ll need high temp oil like canola), pull the steak out of the bag, pat dry with a paper towel and seer that sucker!
The steak turned out a perfect medium rare and evenly cooked throughout the cut (thin parts, thick parts were all medium rare). The only draw back is the time, but if you’re a planner like me then that is easy to get around.
Wait, you cooked a steak for 2.5 hours?
Yea, I know it’s a lot of time but hear me out. The food doesn’t get overcooked because the water bath’s temperature is very precisely and accurately maintained. [There are a lot of explanations around the net why this works.] In this case, the temperature never goes too far above 54 degrees C. So the steak does need some time to sit and allow the collagen to melt (this causes juicier steaks that fall apart nicely).
But for sous vide cooking, you really need to understand the minimum cooking time. This is where I screwed up with soft boiled eggs.
You’re pretty safe leaving it there for a long periods of time. You can even miss the minimum cooking time by a couple hours; but I suppose if you leave it in there for 24+ hours you’d have a problem (ie mushy steak, yuck).
Dude, sealing food in plastic bags? Aren’t you scared of getting cancer from BPA?
Yes, don’t use a ziplock (even though most people say they’re ok). Food savers bags are safe and you can apparently get them at Walmart. They’re like Starbucks these days, one in every street.