Wednesday, February 3, 2010

First Sous Vide Attempt

First Sous Vide attempt- 6 month old sirloin

You may wish to start with my original blog post for an idea of how to set up sous vide at home for $0-$55
Follow this blog on twitter: @sousvidedeeds

Not wanting to waste valuable steak, I decided to embark on my home sous vide cooking with a sirloin which had been frozen for upwards of six months. I looked up online and found out that, when frozen properly, steak can be saved for up to 2 years without sending you to a doctor. I also figured if things went horribly I could very easily blame the poor piece of meat and that would give me an excuse to try this again.

I heated up the crock pot as described in my first blog post. In the interim, i soaked the frozen steak in a plastic bag in hot water to thaw it out (I use microwaves for popcorn and coffee that's turned cold only.....that's it!). I put the steak in a plastic, zip lock bag (I didn't have the vacuum sealer then) along with some garlic powder, kosher salt, pepper, and something called 'camp mix.' I then added some olive oil and pressed as much of the air out as I could.

According to Douglas Baldwin's guide, I should cook the steak for around an hour and 15 minutes. Having read that I couldn't really overcook anything, I decided to shoot for around an hour and a half or more to be safe.

Everything went smoothly- I had a plate to keep my fish tank bubbler in place and a cover to a ceramic pot to keep the bagged steak from floating (I couldn't get all the air out). I had to toggle between the 'warm,' '10 hour,' and 'off' setting several times to keep it as close to 140 degree/medium. The temperature regulation was a little tough to manage, but I watched it maniacally. For the first time, I thought I did very well and assumed that I would get better at it with experience.

When my time was up, i removed the steak from the crock pot, then from the plastic bag, and set it on a cutting board. The good news?- it felt just like a steak cooked to medium. I use the 'hand test' where you make the 'OK' sign with your right hand. Then you touch your left index finger to the meaty part of your palm, just beneath and to the left of the 'O' in your 'OK' sign. When your right index finger is making the 'OK' that's how a rare steak should feel. When you use your middle finger (or just got cut off by someone finger), that's medium-rare. Your ring finger is medium, and your pinky is medium-well. Anyway like I said, the steak seemed to feel medium.

The bad news?- it looked liked an organ transplant gone terribly wrong, not a steak. It was grey in color and looked water-logged even though it appeared as though no water got into the bag, only the olive oil I put in there.

I had my gas griddle heated up, so I brushed the steak with some vegetable oil and threw it on to get the grill marks and make it look more appetizing. Then I put it back on the cutting board and cut the steak on an angle with a sharp knife.

Wow! After spending no money whatsoever (I already owned the crock pot, fish tank bubbler, meat thermometer, steak, and plastic bag), I was shocked with how good it turned out. First of all, everything I had read was true. The steak was cooked perfectly even from top to bottom. There was no 'bulls eye' effect where the middle is cooked perfectly and then gets progressively over-cooked as it reaches the end.

Beyond the consistency, it was incredibly tender. It wasn't as tender as a piece of tenderloin, but it could still be cut with a fork if need be. What I had read about the natural juices having nowhere to go when sealed in a bag was entirely true, it was exceptionally moist.

The flavor was also different from you garden variety grilled or broiled steak. Typically I have always had to over-season the outside of a steak in the vain hope that the seasoning would either invade the inside of the steak, or that the over-seasoned outside would compensate for the under-seasoned inside. This steak was completely imbued with the seasoning I had used. It wasn't as if it existed on the surface, it was as if the spices flavorfully contaminated the entire steak. The flavor was much the same as the temperature throughout- consistent from top to bottom.

I couldn't believe that one of the better steaks I had had in recent memory came from a freezer and a Frankenstein-looking cooking device, but it did. Obviously, I couldn't wait to try this again.

My next project, and blog post, will be a piece of tenderloin. Filet is my favorite steak partly because of how tender it is. My personal taste is probably a little more consistency-based then for most, so I love filet and all it's tenderness even if it lacks some of the flavor you can get in a ribeye or other steak.

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