This is a followup on last week’s post on beer cooler sous vide (cooking meat in a plastic bag at low temperatures for long times in a beer cooler filled with warm water, then browning it at the end).
Long story short it was delicious. I had eaten sous vide ribeye at a restaurant and the sous vide flank steak, though not as good, was very, very good. The meat was pink on the inside, like a medium rare steak, but uniformly warm. Thanks to the long, low temperature cooking times the meat is tender and juicy.
Sous vide beef tastes delicious, but it doesn’t look delicious before the browning step.
I grilled the steak before serving it to brown the meat. I kind of overdid it. I forgot how cooked the meat was from the cooler and left the meat on the grill longer than I should have. It wasn’t until I got towards the center of the grilled flank steak that I found pink meat. Next time I’ll just grill it or panfry it on each side for a minute or two.
At lunch I cut off some of the meat. The meat was better then than later that night (even before browning it), so I think 10 or 12 hours is all a flank steak needs, and the 21 hours was unnecessary.
On the other hand, last weekend I cooked a corned beef sous vide at the spur of the moment. That’s a tougher cut of meat. It got 10 hours of cooking and could have used more. I’ll give it 16 or 20 hours for St. Patrick’s Day.
A couple people asked about food safety and bacterial growth. First up, always start with fresh meat that’s well within its due date. Sous vide ain’t the technique to use for the expired steaks you found in the bottom of the meat drawer.
If you’re doing a final browning step on a grill or in a hot pan the heat will cook off any bacteria on the surface, so that gives you some protection right there.
Bacteria multiply rapidly in a range of temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F – The Danger Zone. Refrigerators keep food below that range. Warming ovens and buffet lines keep the temperature above it. With sous vide you want to keep the temperature above 140.
For a nice cut of meat you may want to preserve the texture by keeping the temperature as low was possible while still safe. For the flank steak I kept my water in the 140-150 degree range, so I felt comfortable. I could have gone higher. It was flank steak, not filet mignon, after all. When I cooked a sous vide corned beef last weekend I had to compress the cooking schedule and I wasn’t exactly concerned about the delicate texture, so I used 170 degree water.
Because sous vide cooking happens at the ragged edge of bacterial growth it’s important to have an accurate food thermometer. Dial-type analog meat thermometers can reportedly be off by 10, 20, 30 degrees or more.
I read the thermometer buying guide at Amazing Ribs and decided on the ThermoWorks TR600C. It’s NSF-approved for safety and gives a reading in just six seconds. It’s waterproof which is nice for sous vide and has a cover that goes over the probe. Amazon sells it for $19.