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Sous Vide Steak Experiment

Discussion in 'Food and Drink' started by DougS, Nov 1, 2016.

  1. This past Sunday I undertook a Proof of Concept test of Sous Vide vs. my Standard Steak prep. I wanted to determine if the extra work was worth the effort. The project was informative and I figured you all would appreciate what I learned.

    Steaks were obtained from Westtown Meat Market of West Chester, PA. Dry-aged, prime beef is one of their specialties. Jerry picked out a particularly nice loin
    and cut and trimmed two 2" thick strip steaks. The weighed out at 26 oz (control) and 30 oz respectively.


    The steaks were vacuum sealed and kept refrigerated for 3 days prior to the cook.

    Prep for the sous vide steak was simple pink salt and black pepper, then resealed under vacuum, double bagged for safety and held at room temp for 15 minutes prior to submersion.

    Prep for the control steak was marinade in Black Soy (Kwong Hung Seng), thin soy (Golden Mountain Seasoning) sauces, Gin, Crushed Garlic, Black Pepper, Laoganma Spicy Chili Crisp and toasted sesame oil. Sorry, no exact proportions, but approximately equal amounts of soy sauces and gin. I know the control steak has a seasoning advantage over the sous vide steak, but I wanted to compare against my standard reference steak recipe.

    Here is the setup. I used an Omega CN8501TC controller, type K thermocouple with a 25 amp SSR to control a 1000 watt bucket heater in a medium sized cooler. I also used a $6 submersible pump from Amazon to circulate the water. Note the 5/16" fuel line from Pep Boys in the cooler to feed pump from cool side. I used a large system because I want to be able to prepare 12-16 pounds of steaks at once in the future.


    Cat food bucket was just used as a stand for the controller. There is a fire brick in the cooler adjacent to the heater, but it was probably unnecessary. I went with 130F and decided on 2 hours immersion. The control steak sat on the aluminum pan next to the controller at 75F for 2.5 hours prior to the cook. I figure the gin and soy do a pretty good job of keeping bacteria at bay. The sous vide steak was removed from immersion, wrapped in a dish towel (still in vac bag) to slightly cool for 15 min while grill was re-stoked with charcoal to maximum heat.

    The steaks were grilled on my Kamado at screaming hot (well over 1000F) over lump charcoal with a stick each of pecan wood and cherry wood which pretty much burned up prior to the steaks going on. Grate was positioned about 2-3 inches directly over coals. Sous vide steak was nicely charred after 90 seconds per side, then removed to cutting board. After charring the control steak for maybe 60 sec per side, I removed it from grill, moved the grate up to maybe 18 inches over coals and shut off air. When temp stabilized around 450-475F, I returned the control steak to the grill to dwell with target temp of 112F, at which point I removed it. I don't have an actual time on the dwell but it was maybe 10 minutes or so.

    Steaks were tasted alone and with additional salt and garlic butter. Control steak is on the right below. The internal temp on the sous vide steak was 130F when we sliced. Control steak drifted up to 135-137F while on the cutting board, a little higher than I would have liked.


    The sous vide steak was thicker, juicier, and more tender than the control. The control got a little more heat than I would have liked. Both were tasty and the general consensus was that the sous vide process was beneficial. This next pic pretty much sums it up. No need to tell you which is which. :)

    Tungsten lighting for this pic as we had to move inside to dodge the thunderstorm.


    I hope you find this interesting and potentially useful. I enjoyed the experiment and look forward to applying the lessons learned. Thanks for reading along. Take care. -Doug
  2. Jim

    Jim Old Curmudgeon Founding Member

  3. Looks fantastic Doug!
  4. butch

    butch Founding Member

    yep looks like i have a build to do now
  5. MotoMike

    MotoMike Founding Member

    Man, those look awsome. I have never done it with a great steak that would have done well the traditional way. Done it with lesser cuts and found it did serve to make them tender. I think my fire was not 1000 degrees though. Probably around 800 though. My sous vide is a crockpot with a temperature controller and an aquarium bubbler.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2016
  6. WildBoar

    WildBoar Founding Member Contributor

    Beautiful cutting board, Doug!
  7. Thanks everyone. Corrections to the steak weights. They were 34oz and 38oz respectively. Converting from pounds and ounces is confused by the 16 oz to a pound unless it is 12.

    @David - Thanks. This was it's first usage. Had to make it something worthwhile.
  8. larrybard

    larrybard Founding Member


    A careful, logical approach, as I would have expected from you. And both of those steaks sure looked delicious. (Next time you conduct a similar scientific experiment and would like the benefit of a second opinion as to taste, just give me a call and I'll be right over.)

    One question: Why couldn't you have used the same seasoning for the sous vide steak as you used for the "control," instead of simple pepper and "pink salt" (which for a moment confused me when I read that, thinking it might have been Prague powder/sodium nitrate; I suppose you used something like Himalayan salt)? Seems to me that using identical seasoning would have eliminated one potential source of different outcome in your control experiment.
  9. Larry,
    Thanks. I certainly could have kept the seasoning the same for the control steak, however I wanted to use my standard steak prep instead to give the control every possible "advantage". You are correct in deducing that "pink salt" is the Himalayan variety.

    I did another cook a couple weeks ago where I did have a direct comparison between Salt&Pepper vs my Teriyaki marinade using Westtown's prime tri-tip with interesting results. I should have heeded my butcher's advice, which was to skip the marinade. In a non-blind taste comparison, the Salt&Pepper prepped tri-tip was preferred by everyone in attendance. Sometimes simple is the best approach to seasoning.

    I also cooked a couple of Westtown's Special blend (prime short rib and NY Strip tails) burgers and they were fantastic. I ran them 2.5 hours @ 130F starting with frozen solid/vacuum sealed with no seasoning. It was the best burger I have ever prepared. Looking forward to doing burgers again, especially when good local tomatoes are back in season. I would probably back the duration to 2 hours as a fair amount of the fat rendered out and remained in the bag.

    In the same cook, I did seven NY Strips all with the previously described process and they were amazing. I must thank all of my friends who participated in this event which would not have been possible without them. -Doug
  10. larrybard

    larrybard Founding Member

    All sounds mouth-watering. I assume you've tried the "special blend" previously, but not sous vide. By any chance did you weigh the burgers? I'm curious because Kenji seems to think that it's not worth the bother if they're 5 ounces or less (in which case he says grilling/griddling will yield excellent results). And, somewhat surprisingly to me, he prefers to use the water displacement method for bagging, saying that the normal vacuum process tends to compress the meat too much, making it denser. But if you bagged yours and froze them first, I think vacuum sealing would be preferable.
  11. I have had the "special blend" before, but never grilled on charcoal or sous vide. The burgers were just over 8 oz each. I could see where water displacement would make sense for fresh ground meat, however these were purchased already frozen, and as such, and thus basically non-compressible at the time of vac sealing.
  12. pleue

    pleue Founding Member

    Nice experiment and nice meat form, any idea who makes it? Thanks for sharing

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