Sous Vide Obsession Inspired by Steak

The annual Big Beef Night at my house with a small group of regular attendees always inspires anxiety in this home chef. Will we burn down the house when the trek deck catches on fire from flying embers or ruin a half dozen steaks that retail at $20 +- per pound? I am not part of the crowd that thinks cooking steak is easy. I cry real tears when it's over cooked. Why do I torture myself every year with this event?

This is how I want the steak to look: perfect pink all the way to the edges with the sous vide technique.

This is how I want the steak to look: perfect pink all the way to the edges with the sous vide technique.

Because I love a juicy, rare steak and I try not to eat it very often for all the well publicized reasons. So this excessive, extravagant event is an essential element in my summer calendar. The menu typically includes classic side dishes of corn or potatoes, iceberg wedge salad with blue cheese or heirloom tomatoes, but never the same ones. The pre-dinner cocktails will be mighty classic martinis. The wine is the best in the cellar of Walla Walla or Bordeaux. The finale is always a ludicrous concoction that features chocolate, an old fashioned hot fudge sundae or similar that is ludicrous only in context of the rest of the menu.

The water is 125 degrees F and the steak is rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper before inserting in the resealable bag. For 1-1/2" thick steak about 1 hour in the cooler makes it 125 degrees throughout the meat.

The water is 125 degrees F and the steak is rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper before inserting in the resealable bag. For 1-1/2" thick steak about 1 hour in the cooler makes it 125 degrees throughout the meat.

This year I brought new technology to the party that is designed to alleviate all my anxiety about overcooking the meat. After years of resisting and phoo-phooing the technique, I have embraced SOUS VIDE with the ardor of a new devotee. Any food can be cooked this way, but expensive meats or fish should demand it, as well as low fat proteins that dry out in a heartbeat. No more over done fish, grey steak, tough pork chops or stringy chicken breasts at my house!

This is what the steak looks like after one hour at 125 degrees. Drying on the paper towel is essential to a crisp exterior crust.

This is what the steak looks like after one hour at 125 degrees. Drying on the paper towel is essential to a crisp exterior crust.

When Nathan Myhrvold and Maxime Bilet published Modernist Cuisine at Home after press frenzy over the original version, the race was on to bring the sous vide technology out of industrial and restaurant kitchens into the home kitchen at a reasonable price. Although there is tons to be learned from the Cooking Lab folk beside the sous vide method, that's where I am beginning because I can use it frequently every week. In November, my Anova One Sous Vide Device is scheduled to arrive. In the meantime, I'm following my friends' recipes at Serious Eats and Dad Cooks Dinner with my cooler, which works quite well for free with a candy thermometer.

After drying on a paper towel, one minute on each side in a really hot frying pan yields this exterior crust and the inner color at the first photo where it is cut in three slices. The steak weighed 1-1/4 pound raw which makes a fine portion for three people or one cowboy.

After drying on a paper towel, one minute on each side in a really hot frying pan yields this exterior crust and the inner color at the first photo where it is cut in three slices. The steak weighed 1-1/4 pound raw which makes a fine portion for three people or one cowboy.

By Thanksgiving I should be able to tap a photo of the food on my iPad and select my favorite temperature for the food and the Anova device will take care of the rest. This is the best example I can think of at the moment of technology making life easier.

Here I am cooking 14 lunches for the week sous vide with my assistant.

Here I am cooking 14 lunches for the week sous vide with my assistant.