Steak Night Part 2 – Feather Blade Beef Two Ways.

Featherblade steak (2 of 9)Steak night is a great concept. Particularly if one can get one’s hands on top quality meat. We are lucky in that respect. But, steak night would be no fun if we just cooked and ate a steak. We needed a bit of experimentation as we did with part 1. For part 2, we decided to check out the merits of Feather Blade steak both flash fried and sous vide. 

There was very little to be done by way of preparation. For either way of cooking, we needed only some seasoning and some oil or butter. First I sliced both steaks in half. This so I could get them to fit into the frying pan.

Featherblade steak (5 of 9)

Both steaks were seasoned and cut in two.

I added a bit of butter and cooked one of the steaks in the sous vide at 55ºC for an hour. When it came out of the bath, it looked pretty grim. Most stuff from the sous vide looks this way.

Featherblade steak (4 of 9)

Sous Vide on the left, looking grim. Raw on the right, looking great.

I then heated a frying pan to very hot and flash fried both steaks side by side.

Featherblade steak (1 of 9)

Both got the same treatment. Which would be best?

Side note on bias in experimenting: It is in my nature to favour the one on the left. That is because I am a big sous vide fan. However, I had to put my inclinations to one side and conduct the experiment without inclining towards either. The uncooked one looks better….

I turned them within two seconds of each other and when I reckoned they were done, I removed them and let them rest.

Featherblade steak (9 of 9)

Sous vide on the left. Getting more difficult to tell them apart now.

I let them rest for 5 minutes and then carved them into small slices across the grain.

The evidence

On first eating, we agreed that the ‘flash fried only’ was superior to the ‘sous vide’. It had a nicer texture, tasted jucier and had a stronger beef flavour. However, having sat around for a while swilling some wine and picking at the cooling beef, we discovered that as it cooled,  the two contenders switched place. The ‘flash fried only’ became a bit too chewy. The ‘sous vide’ firmed up a bit and became more tender and tasty.

Featherblade steak (8 of 9)

Sous vide on the right this time. Flash fried only on the left.

The verdict

The verdict is that there really is no verdict except “try it yourself”. The simple, flash fried version was delicious. I can only recommend that you fry it fast, slice it thin and eat it just as quickly. Delicious. If you want to take your time, give it a sous vide bath and eat it having let it rest a bit longer. But, do give this cut of steak a go. Don’t overcook it, it tends to get very tough if you do.

Now, what’s our next steak night experiment? Suggestions welcomed.

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Latest comments
  • Interesting experiment, especially as I’m biased in the other direction (too mean to buy a sous vide machine). I’m guessing you bought the steak from a good butcher so here’s a challenge guaranteed to make your toes curl… make something tasty using those skinny little ‘minute’ steaks sold by supermarkets. I have a vested interest in this as I have a pack of the sad wee things sitting in the freezer, bought in a rash moment mid-way through an online order.

      • Drat. It was worth a punt (no pun intended). 🙂

  • Never heard of that cut … does it come from the flank area?

  • Great experiment! I was just going on to my wife about how I’m still not sure if sous vide is superior to a good pan fry (and possibly bake). I think, as you said, you get two different products that each have their merits. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a feather blade cut of beef. I’ll have to look into it! Since it comes from the shoulder, I bet it’s very flavorful and you cooked it perfectly to a medium rare.

  • Time after time, you put yourself on the line for us, performing acts of supreme self-sacrifice so that we can eat a better product… This does look exceptionally tasty, but I’ve never seen the cut in our good butcher, which leads me to believe it’s not an Aussie ‘thing’, unlike Steak Night, which is a very frequent Aussie ‘thing’!

  • Hi Conor, did you get these locally. I’ve been able to get flank steak from our old school pal’s butchers shop in Deansgrange but haven’t seen this cut before. By the way the monkfish was fantastic.
    Best regards,

  • Tasty looking steaks! While I appreciate sous-vide technique when it comes to preparing large amounts in restaurants, I’m not a big sous-vide fan when it comes to home cooking. It looks like your experiment definitely proves that. 🙂

  • They both look fabulous! I’m a fan of the grill or the hot pan for steaks, myself. That is one sexy cast iron skillet!

      • You’ve done a heckuva job seasoning it. I admire your cookware (often as much as what you’re cooking on it!). 🙂

  • Why not go to the other end of the spectrum for your next experiment and cook a couple of impossibly fat steaks? This suggestion is in no way influenced by my tendency to burn the outside of this type of meat whilst barely increasing the temperature of the middle by one degree. Honest.

      • An excellent idea, just as long as you’re careful, and you remember that I am a culchie who has enjoyed many a rare steak.

        I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere.

  • Thank you for the ‘lesson’: the name ‘feather blade’ rang a distant bell so Mr Google and I had a ‘talk’ – yup, only two very special small steaks from the shoulder – the butchers supposedly selfishly take such home for their own dinner and don’t want you asking 🙂 ! Now, since high school debating teams I have that tendency to ask and ‘argue’: if you saw no great difference in the outcome of your interesting ‘control experiment’ why spend the extra time on using the ‘sous-vide’? I mean evenings after work are such wonderful busy times, why take even a minute away from other activities 😉 ??

  • I have not seen this cut of steak either, but we can readily get flank steak or skirt steak (and most probably an entirely different part of the cow). I enjoy reading about your experiments. Have you tried to sous vide some bacon yet? I don’t recall right off the bat. I can only imagine how disgusting those look straight out of the water bath. ;P

      • I just went and found it, I do remember that post but it didn’t stick in my head as bacon. US of A bacon is cut into strips without the bone. Do you call those rashers?

  • Dammit janet that looks perfect. I’ll have to ask around for the cut. Also not familiar in these parts. cheers!

  • Hi Conor, great post and interesting result of the experiment. There are two variables you could play with:
    – sous-vide cooking time, which you could take up to 12 hours for a more tender result and a bigger difference between the two
    – starting temperature before searing. You didn’t mention whether you seared the sv steak straight out of the water bath, or allowed it to cool first. Because the steaks are so thin, that could make a huge difference in the final core temperature. For an apples to apples comparison, refrigerate the sv steak after cooking, and then take out both steaks out of the fridge at the same time.
    The second point could perhaps explain the development in the two steaks that you experienced.
    Oh and a third option would be to try warm aging, but that only makes a difference if James hasn’t already aged the meat for at least 3 weeks.
    For the US folks: this cut is called blade steak or flat iron steak there (both the same part of the animal, but cut in a different way). I cook it 12 hrs at 55C/131F.

  • I enjoyed the post Conor and Stefan’s comment as well. We’ve been doing steaks but sv and on the grill. I actually like them both ways but the sv method seems to produce a better result on certain cuts.

      • My but wouldn’t that be nice. 😀

  • This looks great, too. I wonder what cut feather blade would correspond to Stateside… ? Looks rather like what we would call a flat iron

  • Did a 12 hour featherblade alongside a 1 hour fillet, both at 55 … was impossible to pick a winner.

  • Hello
    Thanks for a sous vide cooking time starting point – the only other cooking time I could find was 60 hours and I was too hungry to wait.
    I cooked my steak for 2 hours at 56C – it was superb ‐ I’ve make myself tough FB in the past.
    Too lazy to make a proper sauce , so micronuked slit into, well salted cherry tomatoes for two minutes ‐ almost all of the moisture goes, then drizzled on pomegranate molasses,balsamic,onion powder,pepper ,ghost chili powder and some broken up blue stilton ‐ so good!

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