Sous Vide Sundays: How to Cook Perfect Steaks Without a Grill

Food & Drink

If, like me, you live in one of the many states where winter has overstayed its welcome, grilling outdoors doesn’t sound too appealing at the moment. But thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we can still satisfy our carnivorous desires by dropping bags of steak into a tub of water. Sous vide, if you’re trying to impress guests.

Submersion cooking really is as simple as it sounds: Heat water, bag food, dunk and finish. The sous vide method has grown in popularity in recent years because the results are consistent, it’s easier on your schedule and food is cooked evenly and retains moisture. Plus, it’s cool to have a meat aquarium for an evening.

Cooking sous vide also removes the clunky guesswork with internal temperature. As such, any idiot (::raises hand::) can cook steaks like a pro. What follows is a regular guy’s guide to wowing guests with precision-cooked, grill-less steaks, including a handy temperature and timing chart.

Step 1: Choose Thick Steaks

With submersion cooking, it’s better to go with thicker steaks so you can maintain that even doneness on the inside. Really thin strips may overcook when searing. We want to see those beautiful insides when this all done.

Step 2: Fire Up the Sous Vide Precision Cooker

Check the time and temperature charts below for your desired doneness. Depending on the size of your bath, it may take 10-20 minutes to reach your desired temperature.

(See it’s funny because there’s no fire involved at all. Little cooking humor, no big deal.)

Time and Temperature Chart

(Note: This chart covers strips, ribeyes, porterhouse/T-bones, and butcher’s cuts one- to two-inches thick. A more thorough chart can be found here. Steaks cooked under 130°F should not be cooked longer than two and a half hours at a time.)

Very rare to rare
120°F (49°C) to 128°F (53°C) for 1 to 2 1/2 hours

Medium-rare
129°F (54°C) to 134°F (57°C) for 1 to 4 hours (2 1/2 hours max if under 130°F/54°C)

Medium
135°F (57°C) to 144°F (62°C) for 1 to 4 hours

Medium-well
145°F (63°C) to 155°F (68°C) for 1 to 3 1/2 hours

Well-done
156°F (69°C) and up for 1 to 3 hours

Step 3: Prepare Your Steak

For this meal, I prepared two 2/3-pound black Angus New York strip steaks.

Do how you do with your seasoning, Susie. I prefer a little more salt than pepper, but it’s up to you. If you’re using spice rubs (like the wonderful mixtures found here or here), it may be best to wait until after the submersion cooking and before the searing.

I add a little rosemary sprig to each side because I’m fancy and saying the word “aromatics” makes me feel like a real cook.

Left: Old and busted. Right: New hotness.

Opinions vary, but there’s probably no need to add butter or oil at this point, as some of the meat flavor will just dissolve into the fat and be lost before completing the journey to your taste buds. This tragedy must be avoided at all costs.

Step 4: Gots To Bag It Up (♫ Bag It Up ♫)

Big Vacuum Sealer will try to convince you their expensive gadgets are necessary, but the reality is you can get away with regular ole resealable plastic bags.

If you’re taking this route, leave a small opening at the top of the bag while you slowly lower the steak into the water bath. The water should press the air out through the top of the bag

Step 5: Cook (And Wait)

Please do not tap the glass, you may startle the steaks.

Refer again to the chart above when setting your timer. Most sous vide precision cookers are wild futuristic, so they may even have an app that allows you to control the temperature and timer from your couch while you watch cat videos on your phone. Tesla would be amazed.

About halfway through cooking, the steak starts to brown.

Step 6: Preheat Skillet

Since we’re going grill-free, it’s just about time to put a beautiful finish on our steaks in a pan. But first, open some windows and turn on any fans or vents. This thing is going to smoke. (For me, the most thrilling part of this process is keeping the smoke away from the sprinkler head in my apartment building. Really gets the blood flowing.)

Crank the stove burner all the way to 11 and add some oil to the pan. When it smokes as if there’s a new pope, the skillet is ready for your steak.

Step 7: Sear It

::kssssssshhhhhhh::

Lay the steak in the pan gently. Add butter if desired (in general, I desire butter). Butter will enhance a char if that’s what you’re going for. Thirty seconds or so per side should be good, but depending on the size of your slab you may want to adjust or flip again.

Be sure to get the edges!

Step 8: Juice It

If you have a wire rack, place it in a baking sheet and set the steaks aside for a moment. Just before serving, with the juices from the pan still sizzling, pour them over the steak and sprinkle some sea salt to finish.

If you’re not planning on serving the steaks immediately after finishing, it might be worth quickly re-crisping the sides in the skillet so your steaks are piping hot for your guests.

Step 9: Serve It

Roll that beautiful steak footage.

I went for medium-rare doneness. They probably could have used another quick sear on both sides, but as you can see both steaks are cooked evenly throughout. Sous vide magic.

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