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Sous Vide and Meat: Part I

This article started out purely as a rant on overcooked steak, but it turned into a full discussion on sous vide and meat. I may end up writing a series of articles on this topic.

The Initial Rant

Okay. It is time for me to rant about the abuse of steaks by so many people. A steak is a wonderful thing. It is a delicious piece of cow. It needs to be treated well. But what do people do? They smother it with sauces, hide the flavor of the steak itself, and overcook it. Personally, I eat my steak black and blue: seared on the outside and raw on the inside. It’s great. But not everyone likes that, and it’s fine. So a rare steak is fine. Anything over that and you’re already pushing it. When I cook a steak, if I’m cooking it for myself, I just throw it on a hot cast iron skillet and sear it on all sides. If I’m cooking it for someone else too, I’ll try to get it cooked through to rare. That’s hard though, and sometimes it goes over to medium rare, or god forbid, medium.

Sous Vide

Because I pretty much won’t eat a steak cooked to medium, except in a few cases. I’ve decided to bite the bullet and get an immersion circulator and accessories. An immersion circulator is a device which heats up and moves around water in a tub. It’s used for a process called sous vide, in which an item is cooked at a highly controlled temperature. The usual method of cooking exposes the surface of food to high heat, meaning that the food can be overcooked on the outside and still under-cooked on the inside. But sous vide allows you to cook something all the way through at the exact temperature, so you can get a steak cooked rare, all the way through.

There are a ton of immersion circulators on the market. I went with the Gourmia GSV130 and a Rubbermaid tub. There are also all-in-one units, like the Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven, SVS10LS, but I don’t think I’ll be doing enough sous vide cooking to warrant spending over $400. A few things right off the bat, regarding the Gourmia. Some of the negative reviews are about the controls. There are two buttons and a wheel. The power button turns the power on and off, but also turns the device on and off for cooking. The setting button scans through temperature and timer settings, and the wheel increases or decreases the setting. If you want to turn the unit on or off, you need to keep the button pressed for an extended period of time (the quick start guide even says to keep it pressed for 5 seconds), while the setting button you want to release right away. I can understand why there are negative reviews about the controls, but it is a $70 item as opposed to a $100 – $130 item for some of the higher end models. And some of the negative reviews are just a matter of people not reading. The quickstart guide says that when the unit heats to temperature, you press the setting button for two seconds to stop it from beeping.

I also decided to try out some mail order steak companies. The first one I’m trying is Butcherbox. The company focuses on grass fed or finished beef, heritage pork, etc. However, they do not offer aged steaks. I ended up getting the smaller of the two boxes and did a custom selection including ground beef, flat iron steaks, flank steak, chicken thighs, pork tenderloin, and bone in chops. It also came with a free package of bacon. Everything shipped well, though you’re going to get all the meat frozen. That’s great because you can throw it right in the freezer, but if you want fresh cut, never frozen steak, Butcherbox might not be for you.

So here are a few pictures. I didn’t take a picture of the final cut product because I didn’t do a great job of cutting everything. If I had some more free space, I would have spread everything out. But the Butcherbox was nicely packed and definitely ice cold. The first thing I cooked was one of the flat iron steaks. It came out alright, but I think I could have done better. The next item I’ll be trying out is probably going to be the pork chops or loin.