How to cook the Perfect Steak. Reverse Sear vs Sous Vide
Hey everyone sorry I haven't posted in a few weeks. I just took a job as the GM of a breakfast place and it has forced me to completely change my sleep schedule. Instead of going to sleep at 3am, I'm waking up at 3am. Its been hard, but I think I have it down and now it is time for more posts!!!
This post was inspired by comments I've gotten from many different people. They choose not to cook steak at home because they can't do it correctly and it comes out dry. Both of the methods I'm going to show you today make it very hard to mess up any steak. There are two techniques that I am going to show you today: Sous vide and Reverse Sear.
I am using two thick cut ribeyes for this experiment. You can use whatever steaks you like. However, make sure they are at least an inch thick. Anything thinner will overcook when you sear the outside and ruin the hard work you put into getting a perfect steak.
Step 1: Salt the Steaks
Season the steaks liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Leave them to rest at room temperature for one hour (steak cooks more evenly if it is room temperature when being added to the heat source). The best is to leave them on a wire cooling rack, but I didn't have one so a plate with butcher paper works fine. This picture was taken after the steaks rested and you can see some moisture being pulled out of the steak from the salt breaking down some of the cellular structure. (this is good, it means the steak will be more tender)
The concept of sous vide is to cook something for a long period of time at a precise and low temperature. When using this technique on meat it means you cannot overcook the meat and you get a very tender product.
Sous vide is a technique that was first documented in 1799 but very rudimentary and experimental. Later in the 1960s American food processing started using a similar concept to cook processed foods. Later in the 1970s it was picked up by French chefs as a method for high end cooking. Sous vide still was not common place until recently though. Sous vide machines were expensive and difficult. It has been recently that companies have started making affordable home use sous vide machines. While they aren't going to handle professional use for $50 you can get a nice sous vide for your kitchen.
This is where you get to have fun. If you have a vacuum sealer then place the steak into the bag with anything you want to flavor the steak with, I used butter, bacon, peppercorn, thyme, garlic, and cognac, but you could use anything. Try getting creative and adding your favorite alcohols, fruit, etc. I recommend adding a fat into the pouch with the steak to help transfer the flavors you are adding to the meat but this could be anything from duck fat, to butter, to leftover beef fat from your butcher shop. Again get creative.
Once everything is in the bag. Seal it and drop it into your sous vide water bath at 120 degrees Fahreinheit. (you'll notice I had the sous vide set to 110, but I changed my mind and increased the temperature)
Leave the steak in the water at least 1 hour, but ideally you want to leave it in the water bath for 3 hours. This gives all the elements you added for flavor time to really work themselves into the steak. It also gives the steak more time to tenderize.
This concept has been around forever. Technically the first historical mention of it is the same as for sous vide because the underlying concepts are the same. Low and slow. However, this one made it into professional kitchens much faster because it does not require any fancy equipment. Then recently it has been appearing all over the internet as the way to cook a perfect steak for home cooks.
Pros and Cons of reverse searing:
Reverse searing a steak using the oven has some very valuable advantages. Firstly, it is easy to get an evenly cooked steak with equipment that every home kitchen has. Secondly, you can use this technique when cooking a lot of steaks to ensure an even cook on all of them.
The primary downside however, is that the ability to add flavor into the steak is limited. Cooking the steak in the oven verses on a wood or charcoal grill will not impart that woody smoky flavor we all love. Additionally, because it isn't slow cooking in a vacuum sealed bag like with sous vide you can't add things like bacon or cognac while it is cooking.
How to Reverse Sear:
Take the steaks you are going to be cooking and place them directly on the wire racks of your oven (preheated to 225F). On the rack below place a metal sheet pan to act as a drip pan. I recommend using Bluetooth thermometers that can be synced to your phone or an alarm so you don't accidentally overcook the steaks. Allow the steaks to cook until 15 degrees below the final cook temperature you are shooting for. I was going to medium rare so I pulled the steak out at 110. The time this takes will be entirely dependent on the size of the beef you are using, so just watch it carefully if you aren't using a leave in thermometer.
After you pull it out of the oven you want to allow it to rest for about 15 minutes.
Finishing the Steaks:
Once you have cooked your steak either with sous vide or reverse sear method it is now time to sear it. This gives the outside that nice caramelized outside. If you have a grill that you can get to 600F or higher you can do this on the grill. If not just heat a skillet on the stove top. Add a tablespoon of grapeseed oil or other high heat oil and let that heat up in the pan until it is just about to start smoking. Place your steak in the pan and sear it on one side. Once that side is seared enough. Flip it.
After flipping the steak add a few tablespoons of butter to the pan. You can also add any herbs and/or a few cloves of garlic. Cook the steaks in the pan until they reach about 5 degrees below the final temperature that you are trying to achieve (this is because they will continue to cook after you remove them from the pan. If your steaks are thin then you need to allow them more room to keep cooking than if they are thick). Pull them from the pan and allow to rest for 15 minutes before cutting into them so the juices can set into the meat and don't run out.
Comparing the two methods:
Left: Reverse Sear Right: Sous Vide
The reverse sear gives a very well cooked steak. If you do the initial slow cooking on a charcoal grille you even get the great smoky flavor. My only reason why I prefer sous vide is it makes the meat unbelievably tender and it's impossible to overcook. If you forget to set a timer it doesn't really matter. Regardless, both of these methods will allow you to cook fantastic steaks from the safety and comfort of your home that everyone will enjoy.
Try them out and leave a comment with your thoughts or anything you'd like me to do in the future!!!!