Sous Vide Flank Steak – Do you Sous?

sous vide flank steak 2A few years ago, the owner of Serve Gourmet, a wonderful little kitchen specialty shop in Austin, Texas told me about a technique of cooking called Sous Vide. A bath of water is set at a selected cooking temperature, food is sealed in a pouch, and cooks in the water for a set time.

I didn’t get it.

As time went on, I head more and more people talking about Sous Vide. In restaurants, I would hear of specials like “Sous Vide Short Ribs in a Balsamic Fig Reduction” or “Sous Vide Root Vegetables in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce”

After trying some of these dishes, I was hooked. How can this method completely transform certain ingredients, especially meat dishes? The science behind it is actually pretty simple. A water bath is set to a precise temperature, usually the temperature that is desired for the internal temperature of what is being cooked. For example, since I like my steak a perfect medium rare, I would set the water temperature to 130 degrees. It’s impossible to overcook, because the internal temperature of the steak can never exceed 130 degrees.

Traditional methods of cooking steak create somewhat of a bulls eye effect of doneness. As the outside gets exposed to very high heat, it must be removed at the exact point the inside reaches that perfect 130 degrees. Not with Sous Vide. Since the water temperature is the same as the internal temperature, my medium rare steak is medium rare from top to bottom, side to side. Since I like a good sear on meats, after cooking I will sear my steak in a screaming hot cast iron skillet for a minute per side. It doesn’t really raise the internal temperature much, and it adds to the flavor and texture.

sous vide flank steak

I was lucky enough to receive a Sous Vide Supreme as a gift from a friend. My first attempt was a flank steak cooked for 8 hours to a perfect 130 degrees. A general rule of cooking meat Sous Vide is “the tougher the meat, the longer it cooks.” While the internal temperature of the meat won’t rise above the selected cooking temperature, the connective tissues in the meat that make it tough are broken down by this prolonged cooking time, leaving a perfectly cooked that is tender and juicy.

I’ve made steaks, pork chops, sausage, chicken… all stellar. Sous Vide chicken is especially good in a dish that diced or shredded chicken is needed. Season a few chicken breast, seal in cooking pouch and cook for an hour at 165 degrees. Perfectly cooked, tender and juicy. Enchiladas anyone?

I would love to know what your favorites are using Sous Vide. I have only scratched the surface, and want to learn more!

Perfectly Seared Steakhouse Steaks

Perfectly cooked ribeye

It doesn’t get much better than a perfectly cooked ribeye.  A ribeye is one of the most marbled of steaks, and when cooked properly the marbling in the steak caramelizes and almost becomes buttery.  Steakhouses are able to achieve this from cooking at very high temperatures, much hotter than what most of us can do at home with a standard propane grill.  This method of cooking allows you to have a perfectly steakhouse seared steak with only two ingredients – steak and salt, using only two tools in your kitchen – your oven and a cast iron skillet.  My 10″ Lodge Cast Iron Skillet is perfect for two NY strip steaks or ribeyes.  It’s also a great size for making pizza.

For best cooking results, purchase steaks that are at least an inch in thickness.  Approximately one hour before cooking, take steak out of refrigerator.  Salt liberally on both sides.  This serves two purposes.  Allowing the steak to come to room temperature before cooking allows you to cook it more evenly.  Salting the steak helps to draw out the moisture from the very outer layer of the meat.  I know what you are thinking… why would we want to draw moisture out when the steak is supposed to be juicy?  Here is the reason.  Having a dry surface steak allows you to get that beautiful brown crust when it’s seared.  Dry meat sears, wet meat steams.  Only the very outer layer of the steak is affected by the salt and the inside will stay juicy and delicious. Promise.

After an hour or so, the salted surface of your steak will start to look like there is condensation.  This is exactly what you want.  Put your seasoned cast iron skillet in a cold oven and preheat to 550 degrees.  I’ve had ovens that would only go as high as 525 degrees, and that’s fine too.  You just want to cook at the highest temperature you can.  Once your skillet is preheated, give the steak a quick rinse, and dry with a paper towel so you have a perfectly dry surface for cooking. 

liberally salt the outside of the ribeye

liberally salt the outside of the ribeye

after an hour the surface will look wet

after an hour the surface will look wet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

seared steak in pan

Once the skillet is preheated, take out of oven, and put on the largest burner on the stovetop on high heat.  Leave oven preheated because you will need it again in a few minutes.  Sear steak on one side for approximately five minutes.  After five minutes, that side should have a beautiful brown crust, flip and sear on the other side for approximately three minutes.

 

After three minutes, put the steak and hot skillet back in the oven together for one minute.  Remove from skillet and let rest for five minutes before serving.  Depending on the thickness of the cut, you should have beautifully medium rare steak.

perfectly seared steakEnjoy!

Wine Pairings:
Pocas Vale de Cavalos Douro Red 2013