Sous Vide Water Bath Cooking

So I’ve been watching this YouTube channel called ChefSteps for a while because I liked the modernist cuisine they were preparing, and I noticed that they cooked practically everything in a sous vide water bath.  I actually found this to be rather annoying.  I couldn’t understand why they felt the need to cook everything sous vide when it was clearly easier and faster to cook it conventionally.

Eventually I broke down and decided to give it a try.  So I rigged up a ghetto sous vide system by heating water on the stove top to 60c, then dumping that water into a beverage cooler to prevent heat loss, and then I added in a packaged steak for a hour and a half to cook.

Holy shit.

Best steak of my life.

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I immediately went out and bought a proper sous vide machine after that.  I got myself the Anova, but I almost wish I would have paid a little more for the Sous Vide Supreme machine.  The Anova works beautifully though.

The images to the left are of the very first steak I tried cooking using this method.  I’ve since perfected it so that they come out even better than this.  That’s a 2.5″ thick filet mignon.

pro tip: Sear steak prior to sous vide, and sear the outside of the steak while it is still cold to prevent cooking the inside.

Last night I made sous vide New York strip steaks for a dinner party and turned four people into sous vide converts.  It’s absurd.  If you’ve never had a steak cooked this way,  you have no idea what you are missing.  Steaks that are cooked sous vide come out perfect edge to edge.   So if you like your steak medium rare, your entire steak – I mean the ENTIRE steak – every little nook and cranny – will turn out perfectly cooked medium rare.  It is virtually impossible to overcook using sous vide.

In addition to creating perfect edge to edge doneness, along with being virtually impossible to overcook, this method allows you to marinade your meats while they are cooking.  For the steaks, I preseared them on a hot skillet, then I added herb garlic butter to the cooking bag, along with sprigs of thyme and rosemary.  The whole steak gets infused with the herb butter as it cooks.  Then once it is finished cooking in the water bath, I blow torched the outside of the steaks to get them crisp and dark brown.

I’m serious, you have to try this.  You’ll never cook a steak conventionally again.  No steak house on the planet can match these steaks unless they cook using this method.  I’d take my home cooked steaks over any steak house, bar none.  Nothing can compare to this.

Now this method does take quite a bit more time than doing steaks on the grill or pan; however, it does not require you to monitor anything during the cooking process.  It’s kind of a “set it and forget it” type of cooking.  As with most processes that take longer, the added time pays off with incredible results.  No one has paid me to write this.  Once you try this, you’ll see why I had to tell you about it. It’s simply the best way to cook practically everything.

A little update:

So far I’ve done filet mignons, ribeyes, New York strips, bone-in half chicken breasts, boneless pork chops and lobster using this method.  Each time every piece of meat has been consistently cooked to absolute perfection.  The only slightly tricky part about the process is getting the searing right.  I can see that high heat searing with cold meats is a skill that’s going to take a little bit of practice to master, but it’s not hard.

The benefit of using a propane soldering torch to sear the meat is that you don’t have to leave the heat source on the meat for a long period of time to get a nice Maillard reaction. Obviously this helps prevent over-cooking the meat beneath the surface.

This method has really opened up some possibilities here.  I’m no longer hesitant to try cooking ultra-thick super expensive cuts of meat, such as Wagyu ribeyes that cost $300 a pop.  I’m completely confident that the meat will turn out perfect every time.

Here’s some sous vide pork ribs I just made.  This took 4 hours of unattended cooking at 75c.  I just salted them and threw them in a cooking bag.  If you make these, ensure you have a good supply of paper towels on hand.  They are so tender and succulent that everything is going to get covered in juice.  To get that gorgeous saucy crust I have, pat dry, baste in bbq sauce and bake at 400 for 5 minutes, repeat once.  Click the picture for a zoomed in view.

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Results like this were previously unattainable for people living in apartments without a smoker.  There is a steaming method that can be done with just an oven, but it’s no where near as juicy or consistent as sous vide.  Sous vide ribs turn out perfect every time.

Oh, and here’s another point: there is no “bbq stall” in temperature rise using sous vide.  Using a traditional smoker can take several hours longer than sous vide to achieve the same results because the meat undergoes evaporative cooling, which prevents the internal temperature of the meat from rising.  Using sous vide and liquid smoke achieves virtually indistinguishable results from a conventional smoker.

  • Christan

    I have a smokey mountain bullet smoker and a convection oven. I have not tried sous vide at all. It seems kind of silly having to torch the outside after cooking it. I may try it someday.

    • Smoking goes great with sous vide meats. Typically smoking is used as a finishing step to add flavor. I used a torch because it’s fucking fun and manly. A brief pan searing will also work. It’s impossible to get an edge-to-edge perfectly cooked steak using any other method.

  • Bob Peterson

    a steak wrapped in plastic and heating it ?
    bisphenol A, anyone ? it leeches right into the fat and protein – not unlike pouring a hot liquid into a plastic bucket or microwaving in it – no thanx

    • Brand name bags like Ziploc are BPA free. People should never use cheap bags when cooking sous vide.