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Steak Sous Vide

November 28, 2012

When I got home today I was set on making sweet pancakes … so I did:

It’s a really simple dish – like in the classic Austrian dish called “Kaiserschmarrn” the “dough” is scrambled in the pan (it’s simply milk, flour, eggs and some salt) and then served with some sugar, apple sauce or all other sorts of sweet condiments (the black blob on the top is blueberry marmalade).

But I had also bought two very nice pieces of beef loin – so later I decided to implement the second stage of my beef cooking experiment. This time instead of searing it in the pan and then slow cooking it in the oven, I wanted to try sous vide and cook the steak in a water bath first and then sear it shortly before serving. Now, if you google “sous vide” and look for gear, you’ll find that it’s prohibitively expensive: It can easily set you back $1.000+. Luckily small pieces of meat (or other stuff) don’t require hours of cooking, so you don’t need a water bath that is kept at a precise temperature electronically. So here’s my setup:

The meat is in a zip lock bag. The typical suggestion in the 4 Hour Chef and Modernist Cuisine is to use a picnic cooler, which is well insulated and can keep the temperature for several hours. I don’t have a picnic cooler, but my oven has a stable low setting. So I figured: Just cook some water, let it cool to the proper temperature (which in this case is 60°C), add the meat in the bag and then let the oven aid in keeping the temperature. It only took 50 minutes, and the meat turned out fine. Of course having the food in a zip lock bag makes it difficult to insert a thermometer to control the core temperature – with sous vide cooking you typically have to do some testing and then find the right parameters and trust that it will turn out the same way every time you cook – which of course depends on the water bath keeping its temperature, the pieces of meat having the same size, form and starting temperature.

So here’s the complete meal:

As you can see the meat released a lot of juice, but it wasn’t dry at all. When I seared it I made a big mistake – I trusted that the small amount of oil that I had added to it in the bag (as recommended by Modernist Cuisine) would be enough for the searing. I should have read the book in more detail – next time I’ll use a silicone brush to add some more oil for searing. Anyway, because of this the searing took unnecessarily long and so the meat was heated more than necessary. Another mistake: For the side dish I used broth to create a sauce, when I should have used stock – as a result everything turned out a bit too salty.

But it still tasted pretty good – no potatoes this time, since I had already eaten the scrambled pancakes. Next up: I’ll simply cook this meal again and try to get it more perfect. Stay tuned!

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