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The Perfect Steak, cooked the cheater’s way. [RECIPE]

For a long time, I’ve been wanting to get a Sous Vide machine, so I could cook meat the way a lot of great restaurants do. For those unfamiliar with the Sous Vide process, you take an ingredient, like a steak, seal it in plastic with a vacuum, and then cook it in a water bath regulated by an immersion circulator, which keeps the water at a precise temperature. The goal is to gently raise the temperature of the meat to your desired done-ness and then hold it there, to prevent overcooking.

If you’d like to know more about Sous Vide cooking, I’d recommend checking out the free online course at Chef Steps, available here.

The problem with Sous Vide, is that the machines can cost $550 to over $1000. I’d heard about home-style Sous Vide alternatives on several websites, but I always assumed they produced a far inferior product, since they weren’t very exact in their methods. After watching a video from the Food Labs at Serious Eats demonstrating an article they wrote 3 years prior, I finally decided to give it a try!

Steak Sous Vide(Cheapo Style)

Steak Sous Vide(Cheapo Style)

The only things you need to make this work are:
A steak (I used a Ribeye, but any quality steak will do.)
A Ziplock bag
A cooler (A seal-able beer cooler would work best, but I made it work with this lunchbox style cooler)
A digital thermometer
Hot water (depending on how hot your tap gets, you may need to add boiling water from a tea kettle or pot)
A hot pan to give the steak a finishing sear, along with a little oil and butter.

That’s all you need to make THIS perfectly cooked steak!
ForkVsFood_Rested Steak

Here’s how.

Start by filling up a cooler with hot tap water. The temperature you’re shooting for is 130° for Medium Rare.

ForkVsFood_WaterWarmMy tap only gets up to 110°, so I had to add hot water from a pot to bring the extra heat.
Put your steak in a ziplock bag with a little splash of olive oil. You can choose to season your steak before or after cooking, but I wanted to add some more flavor during the cooking process, so I seasoned with Salt, Minced Garlic and a sprig of Rosemary.
Put the bag into your cooler leaving the bag slightly open at the top. The water will act as a vacuum, pressing all the air out of the bag.
Once the bag is nearly submerged, seal the bag and let it drop into the water. Now check your thermometer and make sure it still reads 130°. You may need to add a splash more hot water to get there.
Now you just wait, and keep your eye on the thermometer. With a proper beer cooler, you would not need to add more hot water, but with this cooler, I had to adjust 3-4 times during the cook. It will take 45 minutes to achieve Medium Rare, but you can hold the steaks in the water bath indefinitely, with no risk of overcooking.

While we’re waiting, this is a great time to make a nice rich sauce to accompany the steak!
ForkVsFood_Frozen Jus
Start by sautéing some onions over medium heat for a few minutes, and add Chicken Stock. This giant rectangular block is actually Chicken Stock that I made ahead of time and froze, but you can use canned if you don’t have any fresh stock available.
ForkVsFood_SauceCombo copy
Reduce the chicken stock by half and add a cup of red wine. Reduce another half and strain out the onions. Save the delicious onions for topping the steak later. Return the strained sauce to the pan and reduce to desired consistency, finishing with butter to give it a nice shiny gloss.

Now back to the steak.
After 50 minutes, remove the steak from the bath.
Now doesn’t this look delicious? No, I agree, it looks awful, but it’s completely cooked and perfectly Medium Rare inside. Still, a proper steak needs to be browned on the outside to achieve maximum flavor.
Get a cast iron pan(or stainless steel if you don’t have cast iron) on high heat and add oil. When the pan is extremely hot and the oil starts to smoke, drop in the steak and add a couple pats of butter. I also added a sprig of Rosemary for added flavor.(side note: I picked off most of the minced garlic, or it might have burned)
Flip the steak after about a 60-90 seconds on each side to get an amazing crust.
Don’t forget to sear the fatty edges, too. Once it’s all seared, remember to rest it for at least 5 minutes before serving, to allow the meat to hold all it’s juices when cut into.
Perfect steak, every time. I think this will be my “go to” method from now on.
Succulent and juicy. Perfectly Med-Rare from edge to edge. It’s so easy I almost feel guilty. Almost.

What do you think of this method? Let me know in the comments below.



  • barbaratoombs

    Great stuff, Scott! I really like the way you include the step-by-step visual instructions! I definitely have to try this now…my cousin was trying to convince me that it worked, but I, too, thought it would be inferior. How long would you have to leave it (or how hot the water) for a medium steak, or medium-well (thinking of my husband here!)??

    • ScottAtFork

      The time really depends on the thickness of the steak. According to Chef Steps, here are the temperatures for done-ness, and time based on thickness of steak:

      0.5″-15 minutes.
      1.0″-45 minutes
      1.5″-90 minutes
      2.0″-2 hours

  • Philip Williams

    You just made my evernote Recipe cue with this one.. Great job Scott.