Steak Sous Vide or “How Boil in the Bag is changing my life.”

Steak Sous Vide (1 of 12)Let’s agree on something. This Sous Vide thing is pretty upscale. It delivers accurately, perfectly and deliciously cooked food every time. The soft texture of a piece of fresh fish cooked at 50º C for 30 minutes is sublime. The meaty taste and consistent ‘doneness’ of a nice steak given 53º C for between 1 and 2 hours will not be experienced by everyone. I have now, unwittingly become part of a distinguished, elite echelon of international gourmets.

Side note on echelons and gourmets: For those of you not in the know, echelons are always elite and gourmets always international. That’s just how it is. 

But and however, my parents brought this boy up with his feet on the ground. I do not slip easily into the rarefied air occupied by the elite echelons and the aeroplanes transporting the gourmets. I need to pay heed to the majority. I must not forget the “Boil-in-the-bag” brigade. Those who really don’t understand this simple, effective cooking method. I feel I need to keep it real. That’s why I bring you Sous Vide Steak and Chips. An upscale approach to a crowd pleasing standard.

The ingredients list (for the more esteemed and sous vide owning amongst you) is short.

  • 2 striploin steaks.
  • 5 or 6 potatoes cut into chips
  • Black pepper
  • Thyme
  • A glass of Marsala wine

Season the steaks with the pepper.

Even in the upscale posts, there is room for a gratuitous meat shot.

Even in the upscale posts, there is room for a gratuitous meat shot.

Press the thyme into the flesh so it holds while you vacuum seal it into a plastic bag.

Good beef really helps get a great result.

Good beef really helps get a great result.

Side note on really good beef: It helps to use great Irish ‘grass fed’ beef. In my innocence, I though all beef was fed on grass. I now understand that in some markets (Yes, I mean you America) most cattle wouldn’t know grass if they tasted it. 

Place the bag (or have your man place the bag, if you are that eminent) into a sous vide bath at 53º for two hours.

We like to get the steak done exactly right. Hence the exact temperature.

We like to get the steak done exactly right. Hence the exact temperature.

The chips / French fries / freedom fries need to be cooked twice. This involves soaking them in water to remove starch, drying them in a cloth and first cooking them in 160º C vegetable or sunflower oil for 5 minutes. They can then be drained on newspaper / kitchen paper / cotton cloths before being refried at 190º C until crispy and brown. Time the second frying to coincide with the cooking of the steak.

I know. You are shocked to see deep frying going on in an upscale post. Sorry about that.

I know. You are shocked to see deep-frying going on in an upscale post. Sorry about that.

When the steaks are cooked (After 2 hours, that is. They will not look cooked.), remove them from the bag, reserving the liquid.

Cooked but not looking the part. Is this sous vide thing really that amazing?

Cooked but not looking the part. Is this sous vide thing really that amazing?

Place the reserved liquids into a pan and add the Marsala.

This gets the very best of the beef flavour into a concentrated gravy.

This gets the very best of the beef flavour into a concentrated gravy.

Reduce by about half and strain into a very small (in an exclusive sort of way) jug. While this is going on, brown the steaks on a very, very hot skillet. This takes less time to do than it takes to type this sentence.

Side note on upscaleness: The upscale bit comes from getting an exact 35º angle on the lattice-work on the steak. In truly exclusive restaurants, chefs are beaten with egg whisks and small saucepans if they fail to hit this exact angle. You heard it here first. 

Yes, the lattice work angle is exactly 35º offset. Perfect steak.

Yes, the lattice-work angle is exactly 35º offset. Perfect steak.

Serve it with the slightly down-market chips and the very upscale, upmarket and delicious Marsala sauce.

OK, my little jug is not very upscale. The gravy boat that matches the plate is too big.

OK, my little jug is not very upscale. The gravy boat that matches the plate is too big.

Wine paring: It’s important, when cooking at the very apex of the market, to recommend a wine of which most people will never have heard. Why break with tradition? We enjoyed a glass of Chateau Le Loup, 2010 with and after the meal.

The gold label adds to the aura of exclusivity. "Aura" adds to it too.

The gold label adds to the aura of exclusivity. “Aura” adds to it too.

If I told you what it cost, it might tarnish the gold-plated and prestige appearance of the lovely wine.

Perfectly cooked, delicious, upmarket, yet of the people. That's how I like it.

Perfectly cooked, delicious, upmarket, yet of the people. That’s how I like it.

That’s a butter knife I used to cut the steak. It really was incredibly tender and very, very flavourful. My dalliance with the world of upscale cooking may yet turn into a love affair. I wonder could I cook a beef burger sous vide? Or, would that be going too far?

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  • Very impressive, Conor…really. I’m never ( I don’t think) going have a sous vide bath, much as I would like one, nor a vacuum sealer, so I can but slaver at this end of the ether. Excellent:) ( I do have the St.Emilion so a small part of the equation can be shared)

    • The best part of the equation, for sure. I cooked a French onion soup a the weekend. I look forward to posting it. No sous vide involved at all.

      • Jheez Conor, you mentioned this French onion soup, but, alas, no post, yet? I imagine a guy who can wait two hours for a steak *ahem* might be on a different scale of time, but I’m waiting with bated breath, here. 🙂 As I’m sure your many other readers are, too!

        Forget the steak, I want the soup! 🙂 Chants: soup, soup, soup…

        • I enjoy tantalising my audience, teasing you and generally building tension like Hitchcock did in Psycho.

    • A sous vide novice as of this week- first go was flat iron steak, new potaoes & carrots. Oh my word the flavour was wonderful- first time I’ve ever cut a medium rare steak with a spoon !

      • Hi,
        Thanks so much for commenting. I am at it since last Christmas and almost everything I have attempted has turned out fantastic. I did have a couple of beef cheeks go the wrong way but, I have learned from it. It’s great fun and the end result can be incredibly good.

  • Yes you can cook a burger sous vide – think safe rare burgers. you just need to ensure that you don’t put too much pressure on during the vacuum seal (I recommend using the immersion technique).

    • I will have to give it a go. It appeals on a number of levels.

  • I confess I have a bit of trouble getting my head around the idea of cooking a steak for two hours, but I like the idea of it being so tender you can cut it with a butter knife. I look forward to the burger post.That should redefine the concept of fast food. 🙂

    • Slow fast food Linda.
      (What am I saying? I must be losing it.)

  • Australian Man would not permit this. It would undermine their traditional role of Barbecue Master, involving tasteless apron, oversized tools and a lot of authoritative steak and sausage carbonisation…

    • God help them Kate. They probably wouldn’t recognise a good steak if it jumped off the barbecue and knocked over their tin of Fosters!

      • Oh, up here it’s XXXX, we don’t drink any of that Victorian rubbish! Seriously, we do produce some wonderful beef here, but sadly the best stuff is usually exported. And it’s all grass fed here, no hideous feedlots for us. Cattle were not designed to eat grain exclusively…

  • I’m so glad you’re enjoying your sous vide!

    • Thanks Mimi,
      I have an oriental sous vide to post over the next couple of weeks that was awesome. I really am having a great time.

      • Just don’t let it drive….

        • sorry, bad joke. my husband made me do it. he had worse ones about your oriental sous vide…


    • Freedom from overcooked steak more like!

      • I totally forgot that they were called Freedom Fries for a while. People are stupid.

        • I remember and I remember why. All good fun.

  • Mmmmm…steak….(Homer Simpson drool)

    That would be a fine breakfast (“freedom fries” are just bigger home fries, I guess), and a big juicy sous vide burger would definitely hit the spot for brunch, lunch, or dinner!

    Mmmmm…steak….(Homer Simpson drool)

  • Reblogged this on sixdegreesofstoogeration and commented:
    This is how I’d eat if I, you know, actually cooked, or ate more than tuna, cereal, and apples or drank more than diet Coke or diet Mountain Dew.

    Meh. I’m too old (and lazy) to change. I’ll just live vicariously through others!

    • Thanks for the funny comment and the reblog. All the help I can get is greatly appreciated.

  • Love, love, love my sous-vide… the only piece of beef that did not match my expectations was a tri-tip-steak, a cut that might be similar to what in France is sold as “bavette” – it was a bit too chewy for my taste, even if perfectly cooked all the way through.

    but we’ve enjoyed T-bone steaks, sirloin steaks, flank steaks – same basic technique you showed, works every time!

    • Thanks Sally, since writing this, we have had a few truly excellent sous vide experiences. My one disappointment was a sous vide Jacobs Ladder that I cooked at too high a temperature. 48 hours waiting and not as excellent as it could be. Still, I’ll know better next time.

  • Ok, you’ve sold me. I am going to try this. I goes against everything I know about cooking steaks, but it looks too good not to.
    However I will substitute with Quebec, grass fed beef. 😉

    • Those Quebec cattle are feeling the cold right now. Grass fed is the only thing we know her in Ireland. We are spoiled that way.

      • Yes they are cold! -24 at the moment. I live in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. (Farm country) Our butcher buys local, so I practically know the name of the cow I’m eating. 😉

        • We have a traceability scheme in Ireland and every steak can be tracked back to the farm and even the cow. Though by that stage, the cow would have lost interest in the whole affair.

  • Good looking steak. Glad you’re enjoying your foray into the world of the elite echelon of international gourmets. The sous vide thing is fun and the results are delicious. The poached fish is easier, tastier and not nearly as messy in sous vide. Meat comes out perfectly cooked and tender. Veggies are wonderful. I even made lemon curd in mine and it turned out perfectly. You now need to get a chamber vacuum and play with the textures of fruits and veggies. 😀

    • Thanks Richard. I am having great fun with it. We have had a few meals out of it now and each one tastes better than the last. I am having to control myself so the blog doesn’t become a space of no interest to ‘normal’ cooks. To that end, some cookery to follow using pots and pans…

      • Oh I know that problem. Sometimes I cook something in the oven just to keep the audience for the recipe a bit wider. Glad the upscale audience is expanding 🙂

        • Not what we should want Stefan. If we were to be really up there, we would want to be limiting access. I don’t see a market in Luxury For All, despite Lidl promoting it every Christmas. Very confusing.

  • Oh lovely. Yes, stateside most meat is grain fed. Such a shame. Grass fed tastes better and it’s better for you. Grain, not so much. It skews the omega 6 to omega 3 ratio. Thank goodness for local farms!

    • Hi Virginia,
      Given the size of Ireland, everything here is local.

      • And grass fed! I worry about our food supply stateside.

        • Not much else for them to eat around here…

          • At least it’s good. I get envious of what is availble near you or those in France, etc knowing I won’t see it here. We get decent produce but sometimes it’s limited.

  • Next up, bizarre things you can do with eggplant and a a microwave. Join… Us… Looks like you are having some fun. Thanks for sharing!

    • Great fun indeed. I am replying on my phone so will study the microwave stuff later. Though, my gut reaction is not positive on anything going into the microwave, bar the cat.

  • It’s not all bad over here in the states. We are in Wisconsin and buy local from this producer (see link) and his beef is very good. We also get lamb from a different farmer.

    • Great to see there are producers who really care. We are very lucky here with our climate.

  • I’ll agree. It’s a damn fine thing you have done here Conor 😜

    • Thanks. Steak and chips – what could go wrong?

  • The wine.

  • I think I asked Stefan if you could souse vide a sponge cake. a long time ago. He was very gracious and didn’t take the piss. And I think I was when I asked the question. Pissed that is. And stupid. Obviously.

    • I can see him reading your comment. Hilarious!

  • I don’t know if I feel like waiting 2 hours for my meat to cook, but I sure want to have some of this tender meat. Looking forward for you onion soup recipe!!

    • Thanks Maya. Thankfully, the timing is not critical and one can relax rather than wait. The trick is to stay away from the wine while relaxing / waiting.

  • I dunno Conor, I really don’t mate. I can’t square cooking a steak in a bag. Personally I think flame is the only way to cook red meat like this, of course not always an option given our weather but I just don’t dig Steak N Bag.

    • Rory, you just have to taste it to appreciate it. It really is pretty spectac!

      • Go flames or go home 😉 I’ll take your word for it CB!

  • I always tell my students that when writing about food you should make your reader hungry. Huh. Good thing dinner time is coming soon…

    • Thanks. That’s the kind of comment I like.

  • Roger and Kate have made me laugh and clap!! Definitely with XXXX always in the house [am not a beer drinker but know which will be drunk !] I do know how to cook a marinated or dryrubbed grass-fed steak so I can almost cut it with a fork without waiting two hours to enjoy . . . yes, ‘boiling it in a bag’ it would be quite against my religion also 😀 !!! But do enjoy!!!!!!!!

    • Thanks for your honesty Eha. I have some dry rubbed pork on the way. It was fantastic.

  • It’s doubtful I will ever be the owner of a sous vide contraption, but I still enjoy reading the posts. And tsk tsk Conor. While a majority of the beef in the U.S. of A. is grain fed, us small-town folk can enjoy grass fed beef the same as Ireland! In fact, I’ve got a quarter side of grass-fed beef in my freezer we bought a couple of months ago from a local farmer! That beef is no comparison to what is typically sold in the grocery stores. While we do have to defrost/cook it from frozen since buying fresh grass-fed beef every time is out of the question money-wise, it still beats out grain-fed.

    Keep up the good work and sense of humour Conor!

    • Thanks. Great to see so many Americans flying the grass fed flag. There’s hope for ye yet!

  • You’re so posh! I do love the “cut with a butter knife stuff” in a way totally unlike the way most Americans use the phrase. Ugh, ugh, ugh, on the feedlot beef. Luckily, unlike most of our countrymen, we have grass-fed beef raised just up the road.

    • Thanks Michelle,
      Again, see my comment directly above. Theres hope for you yet. Though I do understand that Gourmandistan is an independent republic of taste.

  • i just recently made sous-vide Korean tenderloin beef tartare or yukhoe and sirloin steak, i guess sous vide method is totally worth the effort conor…..

    • No doubt about it Dedy, my friend. I must check yours out.

  • Wow that looks amazing! Slow cooked steak though, till trying to get my little head around that one 😉 I look forward to your French Onion soup recipe

    • You have to try it to appreciate it. I am converted.

  • I’m not a huge fan of sous vide, but I have had good steak and a leg of lamb done that way, so I’m sure your steak and chips were delicious 🙂

    • Thanks MD. I’d say they were, even if they weren’t.

  • Both impressive and inspirational, Conor. In keeping with the highbrow nature of your post, I would like to quote an extremely eminent – in the shock-extreme vein – literary genius I once dined with, who said: “Om nom nom nom. Nom nom nom. Nom.”

    • Tara, you shock me completely. Stay away from those people.

  • Hi Conor,
    first comment from me, congratulations on an excellent and inspiring site.
    I too have a new sous vide machine and the sirloin steaks I cooked were the best ever. The BBQ can be relegated to being an expensive herb-pot stand. I never really liked the thing.
    This weekend I am going to try a large 2kg+ piece of Picana for 24 hours at 54 degrees.
    Have you ever tried a large joint of beef using the machine? Any tips?

    • Hi Steve,
      I managed to overcook short ribs. (62 for 48 hours). I did a couple of lamb shoulders last weekend (57 for 36). This was epic. In short, no. But, it’s on the list…
      Thanks for visiting and for the comment.

  • I doubt, too, that I will ever own a sous vide, but I have made omelettes in simmering water – and was much intrigued (although have never tried it) with an old method of cooking in bags (or jars) in the dishwasher! *G*

    Regardless, I’m very impressed with your steaks and your contraption! I hail from Iowa, in an area that used to be quite famed for their beef. We always considered the best beef to be pastured until their end was near, then fed for a week or two on grain. I remember eating at very upscale restaurants that used to note “Iowa Beef” on the menu in places like Washington D.C.

    • There really is no substitute for the rich, deep green grass here in Ireland. It’s as natural as it gets.

  • Beautiful, Conor. So glad that you served this with French fries. You really are a chef. I’ve always been afraid of the sous vide, but maybe I’ve got my feet stuck too firmly in the ground. I hope you’re doing well. So good to see you. -A

    • Thank you Amanda. I think it’s fair to say that I’m an enthusiast. Chef might be pushing it. I am so grateful to eldest for the sous vide. I have a number of things cooked and due for posting. It’s great fun. Thankfully, I’m in pretty good form and am delighted to see you back here.

  • You’ve joined us on the dark side, Conor! I got my Anova a while back I’m based in London now and it’s back in the house in Dublin so I still haven’t cooked with it yet! I have plans for a 72hr brisket and also I’ll finally be able to cook vegetables in the bath, my old rig couldn’t maintain the high temperatures (85C+) required for that. Means I can have a proper go at Heston Blumenthal’s pommes puree recipe.

    • I put a brisket on last evening. 48 @ 57. Really looking forward to it. I have done a few different meats and fish so far. All bar an over-temperature short rib were wonderful. Loving it.

      • I’ve had problems with fish before, especially sat the lower temperature end of the spectrum. Five or ten minutes too long and you can have mush on your hands. Many fish have an enzyme that is only deactivated at 60C so you have to work quickly.

        I’m also surprised at the people who think it’s a choice between sous vide and cooking on a flame: one of the best use cases for sous vide is to cook the meat to desired temperature beforehand, store until needed and then retherm and thoroughly brown the meat over charcoal.

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