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A Step By Step Guide To The Perfect Sous Vide Steak (+Best Recipes)

There's nothing worse than ruining a great steak by cooking it wrong. 

We have the solution: cooking steak sous vide. 

This simple method guarantees the perfect cook every single time, so you never have to eat a steak too dry or too rare again.  

Why Sous Vide Steak?

You may have heard the term "sous vide" before. Maybe you've even seen some chefs using this cooking technique on TV before or eaten a dish prepared this way. 

But what exactly is sous vide steak, and why is it better than any other method? 

What Does Sous Vide Cooking Mean?

The French cooking technique "sous vide" is not as daunting as it may seem. We promise.

Quite literally, it translates to "under vacuum" — vacuum seal, that is. No heavy-duty equipment needed, just a vacuum sealer and bags

The sous vide method involves:

  • Placing food in a vacuum-sealed bag.
  • Setting it in a pot of temperature-controlled water.
  • Letting it cook.

It's as simple as that. 

To achieve the best, most flavorful results, you can add some seasonings to your food before vacuum sealing the bag like fresh herbs, sauce, or a marinade. 

Sous vide is one of the safer cooking techniques. It doesn't rely on high temperatures or hot oil, and it's pretty easy to master.

Sous Vide Steak Benefits

Cooking steak sous vide just may be the best method out there. Period. 

Once you've gotten the basics down, it's a fool-proof way to prepare steak. 

The great thing about cooking steaks in water is that the process is gradual. Since the beef never has direct contact with a hot pan, you have much greater control over your cook.

Your steak's internal temperature never goes above the temperature of the water, so there's no risk of overcooking. 

That's one of the main benefits of sous vide cooking steak: there's a huge time range for the perfect doneness. It takes "set it and forget it" to a whole other level.

Sure, the gradual cooking may be more time-consuming, but it also takes the guesswork out of determining when your meat is done. Plus, you don't have to hover over your grill anxiously. 

Another massive benefit to preparing beef sous vide? You can prep them ahead of time and finish them off with a nice sear. 

A couple of minutes on a hot barbecue or cast iron beautifully caramelizes the exterior. Yep, you can sous vide your steaks a few hours (or days) in advance, then char them before serving. 

As we said, it's kind of the perfect method. 

Best Steaks to Cook Sous Vide

Sous vide steak works well with any cut. Just beware of mechanically tenderized meat. 

This process of tenderizing meats before they hit your local grocery store can be concerning when it comes to sous vide cooking. These machines can transfer harmful pathogens into your cut of steak.

Pasteurization and cooking your steak to at least 145ºF reduces this risk.

Aside from the safety perspective, steaks with even fat marbling will give you the best results. Aim for about 1.5 inches thick in your cut as well. 

Some of your best options are ribeye, filet mignon, strip, and porterhouse/T-bone. 

If you need an excuse to splurge, this is the time to do so. Sous vide guarantees a perfect cook, so buying a prime cut will be money well-spent. 

And about that bone? It doesn't matter much whether you choose bone-in or boneless. It mostly comes down to personal preference.

Step by Step Guide to Sous Vide Steak

Okay, let's get to the meat of the matter (pun intended) and talk about how to sous vide steak.

1.Essential Sous Vide Accessories

    Sous vide cooking used to be exclusively employed by professional restaurants, but it's become a much more accessible technique lately. 

    Home cooks can nail the perfect sous vide steak quickly. It just takes a little bit of practice and one or two accessories. 

    Airtight Bags

    One staple tool of sous vide cooking is an airtight bag. While Ziploc will get the job done, consider opting for a greener alternative like reusable silicone bags

    Better yet, stay true to the technique by purchasing a vacuum sealer and bags. Not only is this the classic method, but it also creates the most reliable seal possible. If water sneaks into your bag, it could ruin your entire dish. 

    Sous Vide Machine vs. Pot

    You have options when it comes to your cooking vessel: a sous vide machine or a good ol' pot. 

    Sous vide machines do the work for you — but there really isn't much work to do. They may make your experience easier, though. 

    The trickiest part of cooking sous vide is maintaining the correct water temperature the whole time. A sous vide machine regulates this for you. Plus, it circulates the water bath for you, which means you won't have any hot or cold spots. 

    Alternatively, a pot of water, stove, and thermometer work just as well. Using these staple kitchen tools is a great option if you're new to sous vide or just don't want to invest in a new appliance.

    The stovetop method is a bit tougher to perfect. It's okay if it takes some trial and error to get familiar with your element's temperature and how it affects the water. 

    If you're using a pot, you'll have to keep an eye on your thermometer and regularly stir the water bath. Doing so ensures your temperature is correct and consistent. 

    2. Sous Vide Steak Seasoning

     

     

      Seasonings don't act the same way during sous vide cooking as they do in other cooking methods, thanks to the airtight seal. 

      If you salt your steak before tossing it in the bag, then let it sit before cooking, your meat will end up firmer than expected — almost like a slightly cured ham

      To avoid this, begin your sous vide immediately after salting or wait to season until after you're done cooking. 

      When it comes to spice rubs, it's best to use them after your sous vide is complete. 

      However, feel free to add in any aromatics or fresh herbs of your liking at this time. Garlic, thyme, and rosemary will level up your sous vide steak.

      Marinades also accompany sous vide cooking perfectly. Since the steak stays in a bag the whole time, you can marinate it while it cooks. You're essentially doing two tasks at once. 

      3. Seal Your Steak In Vacuum Seal Bags

      Once your steaks are (or aren't) seasoned, it's time to place them in your vacuum-sealable bags and let the machine work its magic. 

      After the bag has been sealed, set your steak in a pot of water or your sous vide machine if you have one. 

      You'll know you have a secure seal if the bag sinks to the bottom instead of floating on top. 

      If there's an air leak in your bag, remove the steak and seal it in a new bag. Any airflow can compromise the sous vide cook. 

      4. Cooking Your Steak Sous Vide

      Let's address the elephant in the room. Yes, it will take a few hours to prepare your sous vide steak: between one to four hours. 

      Don't let that deter you, though! While you definitely don't want to entirely abandon your kitchen while cooking steaks in water, you won't have to hover over your stove for all that time. 

      What Temperature Do I Sous Vide Steak At?

      Temperature is the most significant variable in sous vide cooking steak.

      Follow this time and temperature chart for strip, T-bone/porterhouse, ribeye, and butcher's cuts:

      Doneness

      Temperature

      Cooking Time

      Rare

      120°F to 128°F

      1 to 2.5 hours

      Medium-rare

      129°F to 134°F 

      1 to 4 hours*

      Medium

      135°F to 144°F

      1 to 4 hours

      Medium-well

      145°F to 155°F

      1 to 3.5 hours

      Well-done

      156°F and up

      1 to 3 hours

      * Do not cook steak below 130°F for longer than 2.5 hours at a time 

      The same general guidelines apply when preparing tenderloin, but with one minor tweak. 

      Since tenderloin is a lean cut, it dries out much easier than other fattier pieces. To maintain the perfect moisture, you can cook tenderloin for a minimum of 45 minutes (regardless of temperature) instead of one hour. 

      You may hear people explain sous vide cooking as boiling steak in a bag, but the water never actually boils. Your water bath's heat is incredibly gentle, which is what makes this method unique.

      If you follow these times and temperatures, you'll achieve a perfect cook every time.

      How to Finish and Sear a Sous Vide Steak

      After you've removed your beef from the water bath, you'll notice it doesn't have the mouth-watering crust of a grilled steak.

      Don't worry. We'll fix that. 

      You can finish your steak indoors on a cast iron or stainless steel pan. Or, if you want to make your neighbors jealous, you can hit the barbecue.

      Finish on the Stove

      Get ready for some smoke if you're searing indoors. Seriously, good ventilation is a must for this method.

      Heat about a tablespoon of neutral oil in your pan on the highest setting possible. 

      When the oil starts smoking, place your steak in the pan. Be careful — it's really hot. 

      Adding in a tablespoon of butter will help you achieve that iconic charred crust and flavor. You can also add in more aromatics at this point, like the ones you may have sealed in with your steak. 

      Flip your steak after 15 to 30 seconds. Continue flipping for about a minute and a half, or until you reach a nice dark color. Don't forget to brown the edges too! 

      If you aren't quite ready to eat yet, set your steaks on wire racks over baking sheets. 

      Once it's time to dish up, reheat the leftover juices and fat in your skillet and pour them over your steaks. Serve immediately. 

      Finish on the Barbecue

      For the perfect grilled finish, you'll blazing heat for a short amount of time.

      If you're cooking with a charcoal grill, light a chimney starter of charcoal. Let it burn for a bit.

      Once it begins to ash, pour the coals into the grill and let it heat for about five minutes.

      If you're using an electric grill, set the burners to the highest setting and let it heat for about 10 minutes. 

      Rub oil on the grates with a paper towel held in a pair of tongs to prepare for your cook.

      You'll use the same searing technique on both a stovetop or grill: set the steak on the hot surface and flip every 15 to 30 seconds until a brown crust develops. This should take about one and a half minutes. 

      Best Sous Vide Steak Recipes

      Now that your mouth is watering follow any of these steak sous vide recipes. Spoiler: they're all delicious. 

      Filet Mignon Sous Vide

      To make Sous Vide Guy's Sous Vide Filet Mignon, you'll need:

      • 2 filet mignon
      • Sea salt
      • Cracked black pepper
      • Avocado oil

      Season your filet mignon generously with sea salt, cracked black pepper, and any other aromatics you'd like.

      Place the steak in a bag and vacuum seal before cooking for one to two hours at your desired temperature. Remove from the bag and dry with paper towels.

      Sear the steak with butter and aromatics for extra flavor and crispness. Serve with the leftover juices from the pan. 

      Sous Vide Ribeye

      To make Tasting Table's Sous Vide Rib Eye Steak, you'll need:

      • One 16-to-18-ounce boneless ribeye steak
      • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
      • 2 thyme sprigs
      • 1 garlic clove, smashed
      • One 4-inch rosemary sprig
      • One 3-inch piece lemon zest
      • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
      • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
      • Flaky sea salt, for garnish

      Generously season your ribeye with salt and pepper before placing it in a vacuum-sealed bag with thyme, rosemary, garlic, and lemon.

      Cook the steaks for two hours at 129°F. Remove from the bag and dry with paper towels.

      Heat the vegetable oil on high heat in a cast-iron skillet to sear, and butter baste the steak. 

      Garnish with flaky sea salt before serving. 

      Sous Vide Strip Steak

      To create Bon Appetit's Simple Sous Vide Steak, you'll need:

      • 1 14–16-ounce boneless strip steak (1½–2 inches thick)
      • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
      • ¼ teaspoon onion powder
      • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
      • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more
      • 3 sprigs rosemary
      • 3 sprigs thyme
      • 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil

      Begin by rubbing your steak with garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Then, place the steak in the bag.

      Lightly bruise your fresh herbs and add them into the bag, then vacuum seal closed. 

      Sous vide cook steak at 130°F for 2.5 hours. Remove the bag from the water bath and let it rest for 15 minutes before opening. 

      Dry the steak with paper towels and season with salt and pepper before searing. 

      Final Thoughts

      Is your mouth watering yet? 

      Luckily, now you know how to prepare your perfect steak every single time. There's no guesswork in sous vide cooking. 

      Plus, you can prepare your dinner in advance, and no one will ever guess. 

      What's not to love?

      Be sure to send this article to your fellow grillmasters and let us know in the comments what you love most about sous vide cooking.

      Sources

      ChefSteps Team November 24. "How to Sous Vide Without the Fancy Machine." Martha   
        Stewart, Meredith Home Group, 24 Nov. 2015,    

         www.marthastewart.com/1500950/how-sous-vide-without-fancy-machine.

      Delany, Alex. "So, What Is Sous Vide, Anyway?" Bon Appétit, Conde Nast, 24 Jan. 2018, 

         www.bonappetit.com/story/what-is-sous-vide-cooking?.

      Environmental Public Health, and Alberta Health Services. "Food Safety: How to Cook 

         Mechanically Tenderized Meat Safely." MyHealth.Alberta.ca, Government of Alberta, 

         myhealth.alberta.ca/Alberta/Pages/how-to-cook-mechanically-tenderized-meat.aspx.

      López-Alt, J. Kenji. "Sous Vide Steak Guide: The Food Lab." Serious Eats, Dotdash, 27 Apr. 

         2021, www.seriouseats.com/food-lab-complete-guide-to-sous-vide-steak.

      Veselak, Jason. "The Best Sous Vide Steak Recipe." Sous Vide Ways, Mediavine Food, 26 Feb. 

         2020, sousvideways.com/best-sous-vide-steak-recipe/.

      Walsh, Danielle. "5 Mistakes People Make When Lighting a Charcoal Grill." Bon Appétit, Conde 

         Nast, 18 June 2013, 

         www.bonappetit.com/test-kitchen/common-mistakes/article/5-mistakes-people-make-when-

         lighting-a-charcoal-grill.