As some of our readers may recall, on our recent visit to Hancock Family Farms (see Hancock Family Farms opens for the season), we bought a lovely ribeye steak. Weighing in at 1.63 pounds, at least an inch thick, and beautifully marbled, it’s what we refer to as a Fred Flintstone cut of meat — more than enough for a dinner for just the two of us. Purchased frozen, it sat in our refrigerator to thaw for about 30 hours before I was ready to cook it.
In the past, we probably would have seared it in a pan atop the stove, and then moved it into the oven to finish (we’re not big on grilling). But sous vide means a whole new approach. It takes more time, as the steak slowly cooks in a hot-water bath, but it also means that you’re far less likely to over- or under-shoot the target temperature, so you’re not going to come out with either a raw piece of meat or a dry piece of shoe leather. Also, since it’s cooked in a sealed bag, it keeps its juices inside, so needs very little resting time after cooking — the time from the kitchen to the table will pretty much take care of it.
Preparing the ribeye for its bath
Removing the ribeye steak from the vacuum-sealed package, the next thing to do is season it. I read a lot of recipes before undertaking this project, and they talked about adding such things as herbs and garlic, but I decided to go for the most pared-down seasoning possible: salt and pepper. Put the steak on a plate, grind fresh pepper over it, and then sprinkle it with kosher salt (it has no additives such as iodine, and its large grains are supposed to help the meat maintain more of its juices). Flip it over, and repeat. What could be simpler?
Fill a pot with water, place the sous-vide device in the pot (ours is a Joule, from ChefSteps), and set the target temperature for the hot water. For this preparation, I set it for 133° F (120° F would be rare, and 140° F would be medium, so we were aiming for a nice medium rare — sorry, but there’s no way you can aim for that type of exactness with a grill or oven). The water coming out of the tap isn’t that hot of course, so it took 8–10 minutes for Joule to heat the water. If you’re in a hurry, you can speed things up by turning on the eye under the pot, but just be careful not to overshoot your target temperature! The best thing to do would be to watch the temperature carefully, and then turn off the eye under the pot a few degrees before you hit the target, then, of course, leave it off.
Next you have to prepare the steak for its hot-water bath. Fancy-folk may use one of those vacuum-sealing machines, but nothing that elaborate is really required. Just slip the ribeye steak into a gallon freezer baggie and squeeze out as much air as you can. To get out even more air, just use the water-immersion method: close the bag almost completely, leaving just a small opening at the end (inserting a straw there may help); then, place the bag in water, slowly lowering the steak to the bottom, thereby forcing the air out the small opening. When the air’s out, just finish closing the bag.
With your water at 133° F and your steak seasoned and sealed in its bag, just put it in the water, set the timer for 60 minutes, and find something else to do while you wait. Joule’s app, which I’ve got installed on my iPad and iPhone, has its own timer built in, so that’s the simplest way to keep an eye on the time. I used the cooking time to prepare the sides for our meal, creamed spinach with nutmeg, and scalloped potatoes.
I also set another timer for 45 minutes, as a reminder to prepare for the final step in preparing the steak: searing. About 10–15 minutes before the steak is finished cooking in the hot-water bath, I put a cast-iron pan on an eye set to medium-high to get it nice and hot, ready to sear the steak. The high heat of the pan causes the Maillard reaction, which is what browns the meat and adds flavor.
Searing the ribeye
Once the cooking time is up for the steak, just pull the bag out of the water and open it up. Put a knob or two of butter in the hot pan, and use a pair of tongs to remove the steak from the bag and place it in the pan, now sizzling with butter. Turn the steak over after 30 seconds or so, and you can put some more butter on it, too. Turn it again, and again, after 30 seconds each time, so that you get about a minute on each side. Holding it with your tongs, you can also hold the edges down against the pan to sear them, too.
That’s it! Pull the steak out of the pan, set it on a plate, and put your tongs down. Now you just need a knife and fork for cutting it into serving portions. I cut off two nice portions for Cindy and I, which still left some to gnaw on later. We enjoyed a lovely bottle of local Chambourcin wine with our meal.
If you’d like to know more about cooking steaks with the sous vide method, here are some items to check-out:
- The Food Lab’s Complete Guide to Sous Vide Steak (article)
- Attention Grill Masters: Sous Vide Steak with Chimichurri Sauce
Or, just fire-up your favorite search engine and look for information on “sous vide steak.” ♦0