Steak Jacuzzi – Adventures in Sous Vide Cooking!
Adventures in Sous Vide
Who knew you could cook a steak – cook a steak perfectly, in fact – in a Jacuzzi? Recently, a dear friend of mine I hadn’t seen in ages contacted me to see if I wanted to have a Sous Vide playdate. Not knowing exactly what that meant, I said yes. Because I like to live dangerously.
My friend Shane said he was bringing the equipment to my house. He would also bring a good steak. All I needed to provide was butter and fresh rosemary, he said. But you know me, I also made a loaf of bread, potato pancakes I had been experimenting with for a client, and a Plum Nectarine Upside-down Cake.
You know, the basics.
Clearly, I knew very little about Sous Vide technology because when he got out of the car carrying what looked like a large immersion blender and a stainless steel pot, I was a little confused. Wasn’t it going to be a large tank of some sort? Like in that movie from the 80s, Altered States… a sensory deprivation chamber for meat ? I had a lot to learn. This device was so small and portable that Shane had once packed it in his carry-on bag for a flight (Apparently the security people had a few questions for him…but that’s not my story to tell).
He set up the Anova Sous Vide, and we got to work. The work began with a lesson in the principles of Sous Vide. To prove that I learned the lesson, I will do my best to explain it to you now.
When you cook a steak to medium rare (or à point, as they say in French) in a pan or on a grill, you are aiming for the middle to be 130-135°.
To do that you need to sear the steak on all sides and the temperature of the edges of the steak become much higher. Essentially, only a small part of the steak is done the way you want it.
With Sous Vide, you are bringing the entire steak to the desired temperature. We chose 133°. To be clear, this means that the entire steak is medium rare. All of it. Then, once it emerges from the Sous Vide, you sear the outside – only 30 seconds per side – and you have a perfect steak.
And this, I learned, is the point of the Sous Vide. It’s not about cooking the steak quickly – because it took 1.5 hours plus searing to get the finished produce on the plate- but it is about cooking the steak with precision. No wondering if the temperature is correct. No meat thermometers. No test cutting. No estimating by using the muscle below your thumb. You set the temperature and then…it cooks the steak to exactly that temperature.
And it’s pretty cool how it works. Jokingly, I called it a Steak Jacuzzi, but I’m not that far off. You program the device to heat the water and then circulates it the hot water in the pot. Hot, moving water. That’s it. Just like a Jacuzzi! You put the steak in a BPA free Ziploc bag, suck the air out, clip it to the side of the pot, and you’re cooking!
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I make a damn fine steak in a cast iron pan with butter, and I generally like to play with my food while it is cooking. But this method, this “set it and forget it” method produced a spectacular steak. We seasoned with salt and pepper, and threw some rosemary in the bag before we started the machine. When it came out, it was a little sad looking…just sort of pinky-brown, but then we seared it in cast iron with butter and re-seasoned a bit. And the meat…oh, the meat. Tender. Juicy. No tough, overdone bits, and all the satisfaction of a sear.
As we ate and savoured this delicious steak we talked about how to cook other proteins with the Sous Vide, and the practical benefits of the technology. There was a clear convenience benefit I immediately saw. I have a dog. Shelby. That’s her below.
So that she can have a good run, I often like to walk my dog before it gets dark. Excluding the summer, this pretty much always interferes with dinner. Although I have left food cooking in the oven while promenading my poodle, I don’t like to. And I certainly won’t leave food cooking on the stove. So, this means that dinner is often served quite late in our house. But I would be totally comfortable starting the Sous Vide and heading out for a walk. And I would know that my dinner would be perfectly cooked and at exactly what time. The control freak in me LOVES this feature.
I asked my friend about duck breasts. I love duck breast. I had it for the first time in Aix-en-Provence and it changed my life. Could I Sous Vide duck breast? Because I have had trouble cooking them in the past. I want the breasts medium rare, and I want to render the fat effectively, and I want the skin crispy, and I don’t want to fill my house with smoke. Duck is demanding. And usually I wind up with flaccid skin, overcooked meat, spatter marks all over me, and a house full of smoke. But with the Sous Vide, I am told, I can sear the skin side first, then put it in the duck Jacuzzi, then re-sear it when it comes out, and enjoy a delicious duck breast in my smoke free house. This I need to try.
As we ate our meal, we talked about all of the delicious meals we could make with the Sous Vide. And we made plans to cook up a feast and have a big dinner party in the fall. Great friends and great food. I’m excited already.
I’m on this food journey because I love to learn and I love to teach.
Sous Vide technology was something I truly knew nothing about and I had my eyes opened to a whole new way of cooking. Was it the fastest way to cook a steak, absolutely not. Was it a delicious way? Yes. A mess-free way? Yes. A way that allowed me to catch up with an old friend for an hour and a half while drinking tea and not standing over a hot stove? Absolutely yes. Often when I have a dinner party I miss out on the opportunity to catch up with my friends because I am working away in the kitchen. And while I love being in the kitchen – it’s my favourite room in the house – how could Sous Vide help me find a little more time to spend with my friends? Hmmmm…an interesting thought.
I don’t have one yet, but I have bookmarked the Anova website. And who knows what Sous Vide adventures await me…