The Perfect Steak – An Hour at 55

Many of you will read this and think “Does he live fifty five kilometres from a steak restaurant?” Others of you, on the far side of the Atlantic may think “Does he live 55 miles from a steak house?” And some of you might even, quite cruelly in my opinion, think “Is the old fool trying to lie about his age while overcooking a bit of meat?” No, this is a pretty pathetic introduction to a post about cooking a great quality rib eye steak for myself and the Wife using the sous vide. 

I am a member of a number of sous vide cooking groups on social media. It depresses me to see some of the dire quality meat that gets thrown into the water bath. There is absolutely no doubt that sous vide cooking, when done by somebody (anybody) who knows what they are doing, can produce pretty excellent results. But, dire meat, will be dire meat no matter what you do to it. Boil it for three days and take a weed burner to it, it will still be dire meat. It might taste a bit better than if it were fried or grilled, but, it won’t be any better than the process of growing the meat allows. There are a number of important elements, that are often ignored by home cooks like me, that make a significant contribution to the quality of the beef one enjoys. 

Terroir

The first (if the wine buffs will pardon my borrowing the term) is terroir. If the animal gets to live a free enough life, eating rich, green, lush grass, grown on a naturally nutrient rich soil, in temperate climes, then the resulting meat will be better than some poor unfortunate animal grown in a confined pen in a hot climate and fed only processed feed laced with hormones and whatnot. 

Husbandry

Secondly, comes Husbandry or more simply put Animal Management. If the animal has a good life, being well cared for by a professional farmer, this will go a long way to working with terroir to produce some fantastic meat. This doesn’t happen in many parts of the world. 

The Grizzly Bit

Thirdly comes the blunt bit, slaughter. If this is not done right, the animal suffers and the resulting meat will reflect that. It will be tough, can be acidic and the flavour takes a hit too. There is lots of peer reviewed research (not Internet bull) on this subject. Look it up. 

The Butcher

The butchery process thereafter is also very important. Dry or wet ageing must be considered and the supply with the right amount of fat for the cut of meat must also have a role to play. It makes me shudder when I hear a butcher refer to “a nice lean steak”. Reserve this for the fillet please. 

Then it comes down to the guy or gal who decides to cook it. Imagine you have got a piece of meat that fails on all or most of the above. I recommend not cooking it at all. It will only be awful. But, it’s your choice. 

For me, this prime Irish Angus steak that comes from a farmer, known to the butcher, known to me, who maintains the highest standards is just about as good as it gets. It was dry aged by the butcher for 37 days before he presented it to me.

Plenty of fat. Fat equals flavour.

I seasoned it with black pepper and smoked sea salt and gave it an hour at 55ºC.(131º Biden) in the water bath.

I then seared it on a hot cast iron pan (skillet) and carved it. It really doesn’t get any better. 

Don’t be shy with the seasoning.
After just one hour in the water bath.

In short, choose your butcher wisely and be prepared to pay a bit over the odds. You won’t get the kind of quality to which I allude out of the freezer section in a budget supermarket. Not even the water bath and weed torch can save that sort of stuff.

Make sure that skillet is very hot. Then add a little oil.
For me, this is the perfectly done steak.
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Latest comments
  • Great to see you blogging again, you were missed! Had fun with your gravadlax recipe last week, the steak should be a skoosh providing I can get some high quality steak to start with!

  • I was not ‘one of the many’ but read your heading correctly the moment I saw it – you will know why ! I fully agree on the terroir and the husbandry . . . .the Irish Angus methinks far outranks its Australian counterpart . . . Kate may experience different circumstances . . . . I have shown my butcher enough samples of your produce for him to give me ‘that’ look ! Beautiful steaks cooked your way and still not mine ! Glad you enjoyed . . . also glad you posted, giving me a chance to wish The Wife, yourself and all you hold dear the very best for that side of the year to come. Would be unreal to be able to get on a plane and come ask you to prove all that sous-vide cooking to me in person . . . . best . . .

  • Presumably said butcher is our mutual friend?

  • Even though I live in the land of Fahrenheit, I knew exactly what your title meant. 😎 Definitely wish I had a butcher friend and ready access to that kind of beef — more for the animal’s sake than for my own. Unfortunately, that would involve driving 1 hour (or more) at 55 miles per hour. Wishing you and your family the best for the coming year! ❤️

  • Those are beautiful steaks. Just out of curiosity, did you enhance the saturation to make the steaks look so red?! They are so pretty. I agree with you about meat, which is why all of ours is mail-ordered from reputable sources. Happy New Year to you and yours!

      • You are lucky Conor! In many ways!

  • I totally agree that terroir makes an enormous difference to flavour, but I’d also argue that climate/heat is not necessarily a primary offender in affecting flavour adversely. You only have to try Australian saltbush-fed beef or lamb to know that even a hot climate can produce an outstanding result. Angus is wonderful for cooler climates, and our Brahmin/Shorthorn cross Droughtmasters are great for hot climates. And finally, yes, a good butcher is all: he knows his sources and his craft and can improve the eating experience beyond measure. May the New Year be good to you, with many more delicious steaks in your future!

  • There is no doubt truth in what you say about how beef is raised and the butcher that sells it. The kind of quality to which you mentioned is hard to come by here, especially a butcher that knows the farmer. With that being said, we had a delicious steak that looked similar for our Christmas meal. One thing my husband does is salt the meat and let it air dry in the refrigerator for about an hour…have you tried that? Wishing you, the wife and your family a healthy and happy New Year Conor.

  • I must admit, having just browsed you post, that it was the latter.
    BTW I took your advice and made gravidlax for Christmas.
    It was brilliant.
    We still had ham though.
    Best wishes to you and yours for the new year.
    Tim

  • Those are some glorious steaks! I’ve found that of all the factors you mention, the fat is the most important one. If the meat has enough intramuscular fat (marbling) it can be pretty good, especially if cooked sous vide for a bit longer.

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