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How to best sear sous-vide-cooked beef

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi All,

 

I'm starting to play with sous-vide and made a few batches of steaks. I do enjoy the fact that they are beautifully medium rare though out the thickness, but I can't figure out how to give them a nice crust.

 

When I sear raw meat, after quite some practice, I manage to get that reddish/brown, which is neither grey nor burnt and tastes awesome.

 

I tried searing sous-vided tenderloin on a skillet at roughly 500F (measured the surface of the skillet with an IR thermometer) and they are either grey (if I leave them for 30s or so) or burnt black (if I leave them for a minute or so).

 

I tried with a blowtorch, same result, either grey or black.

 

I tried dusting with powdered sugar, to help the Maillard reaction happen, but it did not help. I tried brushing with sugar syrup, but again, did not help a lot.

 

Any advice on getting a good crust on sous vide? Is it even possible?

 

An additional question: when do you season? Before or after sous-videing?

 

Thanks in advance! Have a great evening!

post #2 of 13
Obviously pat dry first. Most tutorials will have you use a screeching hot pan. This is true, but I find start really hot, and then drop the temp. Might take a try or two but it's pretty easy. Searing a low temp steak goes much faster than raw, you don't get as much instant cooling of the cook surface from water escaping the meat.
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

Very interesting, thank you!

 

To clarify on "pat dry": you mean after sous-vide and before searing, right?

 

That's interesting, I never did that (although I always do on raw meat).

 

Thanks a ton!

post #4 of 13

If it's not dry, you won't get the nice crust. In fact, take a hair dryer to it before searing to make sure it's dry.

post #5 of 13

My son showed me this the last time he was home. He sous vides a lot. He took some crushed garlic and added some olive oil. We had a few prime rib steaks. Took them out at 110, he dried them with rubbed some of the oil+gar.   He then used my small cast iron skillet to finish. Salted them when they were done. Pretty good. Nice sear.  I'm not a big believer in putting any tender cut of beef in a super hot skillet.

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post #6 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by panini View Post
 

My son showed me this the last time he was home. He sous vides a lot. He took some crushed garlic and added some olive oil. We had a few prime rib steaks. Took them out at 110, he dried them with rubbed some of the oil+gar.   He then used my small cast iron skillet to finish. Salted them when they were done. Pretty good. Nice sear.  I'm not a big believer in putting any tender cut of beef in a super hot skillet.

How did the pieces of garlic not burn when hitting the super hot skillet?? :eek: 

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks all for the advices and comments!

 

On patting dry: for some reason, the way the meat looks after sous vide cooking made me think that it was not possible to pat it dry. I guess on the contrary, with all the dew, it is even more crucial.

 

Quote:
 How did the pieces of garlic not burn when hitting the super hot skillet?? :eek:

That's a million dollar question...

 

I switched to making my own garlic oil... Roughly chopped garlic, leave in refined avocado oil (best for high heat) for a week, put it in the sous-vide bag (with garlic too) & also drizzle on hot pan before searing (no garlic this time).

 

If anyone has a better solution, I'm sooo all ears.

 

Btw, much less of a problem, but pepper burns too (especially with blowtorch).

 

Thanks again!

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by French Fries View Post
 

How did the pieces of garlic not burn when hitting the super hot skillet?? :eek: 

The garlic did not burn. He made the mixture very thin and used a mortar and pestle. The cast iron skillet was hot, not super hot, as I mentioned.

I used the word sear but it was more of a caramelization/sear. He mentioned that he used to use salt with the OO&G but the garlic always burned. So it is important not to salt until sear is complete. I'm sure that goes against everything the real hot side Chefs will tell you. But it was a really good steak. As he let it nap for a bit it did not spit the juice but almost looked like it was bruleed.

My kid seems to have a Zen for cooking. Although he is a total computer geek and does that for a living. Also makes really good beer. Flies to different parts of the US to buy water. Go figure?

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post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by panini View Post
 

The cast iron skillet was hot, not super hot, as I mentioned.

Ah, good point, I originally misread that. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZapoTeX View Post
 

If anyone has a better solution, I'm sooo all ears.

Not sure about "better", but here's my method: I season the steak (S & P), warm the pan until very hot, add the oil and immediately add the steak after it was pat dry. I give it a good sear on both sides. Then I may or may not lower the heat, depending on the size of the steak (the bigger the steak the more chances I'll have to lower the heat so I can cook it longer) add crushed garlic cloves and thyme to the pan and a good knob of butter, and speed baste the steak while it's cooking.

post #10 of 13

Ok, here are my two cents.

 

I did sous-vide a lot when I was starting out, mainly big pieces of meat and chicken breasts.

 

Here are some basic steps to great steaks sous-vide:

 

  1. Salt the meat to your taste and leave in a rack inside the fridge by itself for 24h(in order to avoid weird smells). A little salt goes a long way when cooking sous-vide. Watch it. 
  2. The next day the meat will be dry and perfect for the 1st crust-making. Now I prefer grilling, fell free to pick your poison though. The important thing is to get a really nice crust on the outside, it really doesn't matter how you do it just get it done. Of course we need something really hot in order to get the crust without changing the internal temp to much. Once you are satisfied with your crust chill the meat.
  3. Once the meat is chilled, you should pack it with whatever you want and get the cooking started. Now this are my personal preferences the are in noway necessary, but I feel they will get you the best results. First get some nice fat and meat trimmings put them in a pot with some water and set to low heat, the water will melt the fat and eventually evaporate. This will essentially leave the fat frying the meat trimmings. It will be done when the meat starts floating around without doing anything, just nothing its funny really.Be very careful about not burning this, as it is a very fine line and burnt fat will ruin your steaks. When it is done you will get some really really fried "meat" and some beef fat. It is the same process used to make pork rinds if you are familiar with that. Strain that, cool it down and store it in the fridge. This is what you will be putting in those sous-vide bags alongside those nice steaks that you have there, a couple of spoons of solidified fat and a couple of spoons of fried meat. Some  freshly cracked pepper is nice too(a little goes a long way, remember). Once you have your vacuum sealed bags ready to go, let them get to room temperature before cooking. After that put them in the water at the desired temperature.
  4. Once you have finished the cooking process, you will have two options. Eating them at once or getting the temp down and storing them at once. Either way the process is kinda the same from here on out for the both of them. FYI storing and then bringing them back up to temp will yield the best results in my experience. If it is a big piece of meat it is best to make and serve, no storing for food safety issues.
  5. Once the steaks are at the correct temperature, take them out of the bag and sear again. Put it on the heat till you are satisfied. I think of it, as if the first searing is for taste and the second one for texture. If that makes any sense at all. 
  6.  Enjoy.

 

 

As you guys see there is a lot of manipulation going on so it is really important to document everything and be really precise with the temperatures. It is still really important at home if you do it often enough, more so in any other operations.

 

As for the searing issues, it all goes down to temperature and if the meat is dry or not. That is it. Salting 24h before has given me really good results consistently as the meat first releases juices but after a while it starts absorbing them again so there is really not a major "juice loss", also the cold will dry up the meat in a way that is perfect for the best possible crust. I cannot stress enough the importance of this single step(watch it for the smells). If you cannot do the salting with a least 4h of anticipation, then just do it a la minute. There is no middle ground on this for me.

 

Cheers and good luck.


Edited by mgm0 - 7/7/15 at 1:09am
post #11 of 13

I've done a lot of sous vide too, without meaning to disagree with any other chefs here, you're going to find it extremely difficult to a dry crust on anything, unless you allow the meat to dry after the initial cooking process. 

 

Sous vide has got the advantage of precise temperature control, depending on the cut of meat you're using, this is extremely important:

 

If it's a steak piece, hold the meat between 40-50 degrees Celcius for as long as your patience will allow, this will keep the meat's protein digesting enzyme highly active, tenderizing the meat and creating lots of flavor. The enzymes deactivate at 50. So when you're ready to eat, just raise the temp. That's a great opportunity to stop the sous-vide, brown it further and let the surface of the meat dry out.

 

Therefore I would recommend it working like this (if you wanted a thicker crust):

 

1) Sear in a smoking-hot pan to brown the meat and kill bacteria. 30 seconds on each side.

2) Seal it and put in your Bain Marie or water pot at 45 degrees Celsius (113F) for anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 hours. The longer the better.

3) Pull it out, pat dry, and grill or broil to finish, probe to ensure correct temp. Don't blow torch as this will brown a little, but isn't going to dry the surface much.

 

Dusting with sugar and hitting with a blow torch caramelizes btw, the Maillard reaction occurs when the amino acids begin to break down and react with the natural sugars present in the meat. 

 

Always season before.

 

Good luck!

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris.lawrence View Post
 

I've done a lot of sous vide too, without meaning to disagree with any other chefs here, you're going to find it extremely difficult to a dry crust on anything, unless you allow the meat to dry after the initial cooking process. 

 

Sous vide has got the advantage of precise temperature control, depending on the cut of meat you're using, this is extremely important:

 

If it's a steak piece, hold the meat between 40-50 degrees Celcius for as long as your patience will allow, this will keep the meat's protein digesting enzyme highly active, tenderizing the meat and creating lots of flavor. The enzymes deactivate at 50. So when you're ready to eat, just raise the temp. That's a great opportunity to stop the sous-vide, brown it further and let the surface of the meat dry out.

 

Therefore I would recommend it working like this (if you wanted a thicker crust):

 

1) Sear in a smoking-hot pan to brown the meat and kill bacteria. 30 seconds on each side.

2) Seal it and put in your Bain Marie or water pot at 45 degrees Celsius (113F) for anywhere from 30 minutes to 5 hours. The longer the better.

3) Pull it out, pat dry, and grill or broil to finish, probe to ensure correct temp. Don't blow torch as this will brown a little, but isn't going to dry the surface much.

 

Dusting with sugar and hitting with a blow torch caramelizes btw, the Maillard reaction occurs when the amino acids begin to break down and react with the natural sugars present in the meat. 

 

Always season before.

 

Good luck!

 So the one difference between the previous posts and yours is that you put color on the meat before you bag and sous vide?

I can see that, I guess. That won't start the extraction of juice quicker? I'm going to try your way tonight, although I'm a firm beliver in not seasoning

anything before bagging. But that's just me. Searing the steak will kill bacteria on the surface but will have no affect on the internal bacteria. Actually

Chris, I don't know what your labeling requirements for meat are in the Netherlands, but here in the US, our great government just did away with the labeling

of Country-of-origin. We don't know where our beef, pork, and poultry is  Born, Raised, and butchered. Kinda makes one want to become a vegetarian.LOL

 

 

So you sear.

Then bag and sous vide.

Then dry and sear again.

I have it right, no?

I'll have my results tomorrow.

 

I tried to follow the post before yours but got completely dizzy:crazy: 

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post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by panini View Post
 

 So the one difference between the previous posts and yours is that you put color on the meat before you bag and sous vide?

I can see that, I guess. That won't start the extraction of juice quicker? I'm going to try your way tonight, although I'm a firm beliver in not seasoning

anything before bagging. But that's just me. Searing the steak will kill bacteria on the surface but will have no affect on the internal bacteria. Actually

Chris, I don't know what your labeling requirements for meat are in the Netherlands, but here in the US, our great government just did away with the labeling

of Country-of-origin. We don't know where our beef, pork, and poultry is  Born, Raised, and butchered. Kinda makes one want to become a vegetarian.LOL

 

 

So you sear.

Then bag and sous vide.

Then dry and sear again.

I have it right, no?

I'll have my results tomorrow.

 

I tried to follow the post before yours but got completely dizzy:crazy: 

Hey, yep, definitely season before. And you're right about internal bacteria, at the same time, depending on how freshly butchered the joint is, there shouldn't be a lot to worry about. But I guess there's always a chance. Anytime you're cooking below officially recommended cooking temps, it's worth getting freshly butchered meat. Surely your butcher would know the country of origin of the meat, no? Kinda scary if not!

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