Sous Vide Rib Steak – The Best Way to Cook a Steak

About a month and a half ago, while enjoying some quality family time at the Pig & Whistle in Manhattan, I happened to overhear a conversation my cousins were having.  They were talking about a cow that was to be slaughtered for Thanksgiving.  Now, I realize that sounds morbid, however, I was intrigued.  I asked what his plans were and he told me if I was interested, I could purchase a quarter, which was anywhere from 50-75 pounds of beef.  Normally, I wouldn’t consider such a large investment, however, this was no ordinary steer.  It was a grass fed, antibiotic & hormone free cow grown on an all organic farm belonging to my cousin, James and his wife Jane.  The farm is aptly named Beyond Organics Farm located just south of Fayetteville, Arkansas in the beautiful Boston mountains of Winslow, Arkansas.  I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the area.  Having been to the farm a few years back, having fed their cattle, I knew what I was in for, something amazing.  This past week, I took delivery of 75 pounds of a variety of different cuts of meat, from soup bones, to filet mignon and everything in between.  I had decided to make our first dinner of the weekend with a two-pound package of rib steaks.img_2287

For this type of steak, I think it’s very important to keep things simple.  You want to be able to taste the meat.  I decided to skip any special rubs or marinades and do a very simple, yet elegant recipe.  In the past year, I have become a big sous vide proponent, knowing it’s one of the best ways to cook almost anything, including crème brûlée!  For those of you not familiar with sous vide, the best way to describe it is cooking food in a plastic bag in “warm” water.  I know, how is that safe, both from a temperature as well as a plastic leaching perspective?  Here’s two great articles that will explain sous vide and address safety questions that arise all the time.

Is it safe to cook in plastic?

A Complete Guide to Sous Vide Packaging

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s talk beef.  First thing, get your Ziploc freezer bag.  Make sure they are Ziploc, knock offs may contain BPA which is bad and can leach into food at higher temperatures.  Place your beef in the bag with about a teaspoon of good quality olive extra virgin olive oil.  I prefer Trader Joe’s Kalamata oil.

Add whatever herbs you’d like.  Again, with simplicity in mind, I used some Italian flat leaf parsley.  Close the Ziploc almost all the way leaving just the last inch or so unsealed.  You will see why in a minute.

From here, we will fill our plastic foodservice container with water up to the “maximum” marking on your sous vide device.  We are going to use the water to force the air out of the plastic bag, which is critical for proper sous vide cooking.  You can use special bags and a vacuum sealer, but when dealing with any liquids in your recipe, the vacuum sealers can be pretty temperamental.  Place the bag in the water, slowly, and push into the water until you get to the corner you left open.  As you are pushing it into the water, the water pressure will force the air out of the unsealed corner.  Once completely air free, seal the corner.  If the bag floats, weigh it down with something such as a utensil in the bag or another weight of some sort on the bag in the water.  For this recipe, I am going for medium rare to rare so I am going to set the sous vide machine to 127F degrees and place the beef in the water.

Leave the beef in the sous vide bath for at least two hours, and up to four hours.  If you let it go to long, the texture of the beef may be compromised and become almost mushy.  While cooking, get ready to sear.  I recommend one of two ways (although there are many more including a blow torch, gas grill or even in the broiler):

  1. Cast iron skillet – At the end of your cooking cycle, place a heavy cast iron skillet on the stove on high.  Using peanut or canola oil, heat the pan until the oil smokes.  Remove the meat and herbs (discard the herbs) and sear the meat one minute per side or until cartelized.
  2. Charcoal grill (my personal favorite) – I prefer lump charcoal in a chimney to get the grill started.  Fill a chimney with the charcoal and light it.  It will take about half an hour to prepare the coals then another ten minutes to heat the grill grate, so leave at least 45 minutes between when light the grill to when you are ready to cook.

Now that our coals are ready, it’s time to remove the fully cooked meat from the sous vide.  Yes, it’s fully cooked and ready to eat, but it certainly doesn’t look very appetizing.  Not to worry, a couple of minutes on an 800F degree Weber grill will do the trick.

Make sure to remove any herbs and using paper towel, dry the meat as much as possible which will improve the caramelization on the grill.  Generously salt and pepper the beef, get to your grill and again, only a minute or so on each side until the you achieve the sear you prefer.  Now you can also pre-sear the meat prior to sous vide, but I think the post-sear is just a little better.  Let your masterpiece sit for up to 10 minutes so the juices can redistribute themselves.  Now that you are done, you should have a medium rare steak that’ll just melt in your mouth!  Some people will add an herbed garlic butter or some other topping, but for this particular steak, I’m sticking with simple salt and pepper, YUM!

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