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now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

Posted by foodonastump (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 22:51

I don't know how many here watch "King of the Hill", which is an "adult animated situation commedy." Probably not a lot, so in brief, it's centered around the family and friends of a propane salesman in fictional Arlen, TX, and a recurring theme is his passion for propane.

Last night I caught a rerun where Hank Hill's wife Peggy and son Bobby had the best burgers they've ever had, and it turned out they were sacrilegiously cooked on a charcoal grill.

Kind of got me thinking about a current thread over on eGullet where a poster is seeking advice on how/when to add liquid smoke to sous vide burgers. If I were a member there I'd be tempted to post, "How about grill it over wood or coals?"

Earlier this summer my sister hosted a gathering of cousins at her summer house. I brought a couple of sirloins but didn't feel like taking responsibility so I lit the grill and tossed the steaks to my cousin's girlfriend and put her in charge. There was a lot of other food including clams, lobster, many sides, but what got the most comments was the perfectly cooked steak. Which made me a bit jealous, as I've been toying with various temp/time/searing techniques with sous vide, which is supposed to turn out foolproof steak. Yet it eludes me.

Don't get me wrong - There are several applications where I think sous vide works amazingly well. Thick pork chops. Lobster. Short ribs. Etc. But to cook a "good" steak like, say, NY Strip? One thing I found, decisively for my taste, is that you can't let the thing sit in a water bath for long. An hour, maybe two, but after that you've killed it. After that revelation I've had much better success. But not perfect.

With none of the above in mind, this evening I picked up a couple of boneless strip steaks, and not having time to fuss with sous vide I decided to take my chances and just throw the things on the grill. Three or four minutes each side. The flood lights on the deck were out, so it was entirely in the dark. Brought them to an equally dark table, cut up slices and served the family.

Tired of getting bit up by mosquitos, we transfered the meal inside. As we restarted eating my wife said, "I don't know what you did different tonight, but THIS is a good steak." I took my first real glance at the steak.

It occurred to me that it was the first time in a long time I've cooked a steak outside of a plastic bag in a hot water bath.

Pardon the picture. It's the last bit of the last piece of steak, just before my son scarfed it down. It's a thinner end piece, but the "offensive band of overcooked meat" was the same throughout the steaks, as was the medium rare doneness of the bulk.

If this wasn't good, then I guess I don't appreciate good steak, and will blissfully live in ignorance.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

Maybe you just needed to keep trying sous vide, so you could once again appreciate the difference between a sous vide steak and a perfectly grilled steak.

Am I wrong in remembering that your wife has never cared for her meat sous vided?

There are a number of really good cooks on eGullet. Many of them play around with the Sous Vide method. I can always tell from a picture, before even reading the post that the beef or lamb has been sous vided. The texture just looks weird and unappealing to me.

Hope to see you posting more often FOAS. I've missed you.

~Ann


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

You're not wrong in remembering that. In fact, when using SV my equipment is typically hidden away in a back room or basement so as not to prejudice her impressions. She gets off the train and I throw it on a plate. She doesn't know where it comes from. :)

Thanks for your kind words, Ann, I'm trying to get back into cooking as I can, and reading here is helping.

p.s. I left out duck breast - great results with SV.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

FOAS, I'm not laughing out loud, but still tearing up with humor at the liquid smoke with the sous vide. OMG! :D

Congrats on your good steaks!

Charcoal grills may not be good for the air, but they sure make the meat taste good! But I think it's also a texture thing. The reason a lot of people sous vide meat is to keep it flabby and soft ;while it's cooked to a higher temperature (this in a place and an era when people have the best teeth ever!). It didn't occur to me until you brought it up that I lost my taste for steak when my father switched to a gas grill... I did get a cute little barbecue that looks like a conical sputnik, so maybe I should try making steaks.... You've inspired me!


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

And charcoal purists will always recommend lump hardwood charcoal rather than briquettes. It does make a difference.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

A friend of our bought a wood pellet BBQ. You can buy different types of wood pellets, such as cherry, applewood, mesquite, etc. These are NOT the same as the pellets used in Scandinavian-style home-heating pellet furnaces, btw.

Heats up in 8-10 min., fast as a gas grill. But you get the wood flavor, and it can be used as a smoker as well. She lightly smoked a tri-tip and then finished with standard grilling. It was stunningly good! In fact, I haven't touched my own gas grill since we've had her steaks; I just bring over my marinated steaks and we grill them on her pellet grill - LOL!

SV is for anything that should be cooked slowly and gently, such as what you'd do with poaching or braising. Best used for what it's good for - fish, duck, tough or less fatty meats. It's a technique, and no more applicable to every good dish than stir-frying is.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

“----so you could once again appreciate the difference between a sous vide steak and a perfectly grilled steak.---"

Agree. Perfectly grilled steak is heavenly. There can be found on internet a million ways to make a “perfectly” grilled steak. They all work well, and none of them work well.

The variables involve in creating the perfect steak is countless. For most people, it is difficult to be able to duplicate the same results every time.
Restaurants can do it because they make sure that the conditions for every steak are always the same. Same quality meat, same grill, same cook, same timing, same preparation, same temperature to start out, same thickness meat ---------.

Meat is not very smart; it can’t tell what is the source of heat, whether it’s gas, charcoal, electric, or solar energy. If the meat is heated to 131F, you will not be able to tell what was the heat source.

What sous vide does is stupidly simple. It bypasses all the above variables. It makes it impossible to make mistakes, regardless of your skill level, no matter what the conditions are.

I can’t understand why people are so emotional about sous vide. Sous vide will not make anyone a good cook. A better cook sometimes, yes.

I also explain to people, kind of a strange analogy. Sous vide is like a machine which can make perfect fabric, but it will take a great dress designer/maker to turn the fabric into a beautiful dress.

The condition of making good steak has much to do with the outside of the steak, not so much the inside, which is the only part of the meat sous vide is designed for. If you use a blow torch to char the steak after sous vide, you will never have that charcoal grilled taste that many people are looking for. The fat that drips down on the amber, the smoke that coats the meat -------- all imparts that primal flavor when the cavemen first discovered fire to roast tenderloin of a slab of Pachycephalosaurus.

Restaurants who sous vide then grill the steaks have very happy customers.

dcarch

This post was edited by dcarch on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 17:01


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

I can’t understand why people are so emotional about sous vide.

You seem emotional about it, too, no? :) I think any negative emotions are in part a reaction to the seeming fanatacism of some. Inventing problems that don't exist. Hamburger? Really? So good that someone's trying to add liquid smoke to save the day. Ha.

You're right, meat isn't smart, on the inside it does not know what the external heat source is. BUT, meat reacts differently to heat over time, hence so much discussion about cooking times. So while technically it may be true that you cannot overcook a steak in a SV bath, I'm here to say that in my experience a naturally "good" steak starts to go south with times stretching past what is needed to bring the core to temp.

An aside, the notion of saving money because the steak retains more water doesn't fly with me. Water is cheap. I don't think you can value the water loss at $10/lb or $20/lb or whatever. You're not going to be more full because you ingested a tablespoon or two of water. The question really becomes whether the water retention is beneficial to the final cooked product.

In the case of our modern day pork chop, I'll say yes. In the case of a prime steak, I'm not sure. I will say that "I" have not been able to create what "I" consider a great steak, SV, after many attempts A very good steak, yes. A consistent steak, yes. Much better after I learned not to let it cook for hours, yes. Did my wife, after not having a non-SV steak from me in probably over a year, rave about last night's dinner without knowing whether or not I used SV, yes.

By the way, it was cooked on a gas grill. I'm sure it would have been better on lump charcoal.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

I love King of the Hill. It is so funny! Funny about the steak too..most food doesn't need much to be great. I could live off grilled food alone.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

Elery has both charcoal and gas grills, and he uses various hardwood lump charcoals for grilling. The burgers are very good on both, but better on charcoal, IMO, as are steaks.

I've only had pork chops sous vide, at a restaurant in Ann Arbor. They were good, but had an oddly mushy texture. As I've said before, I have teeth, I can chew. Then again, remember, I'm the person that doesn't really care for the tenderloin as I find it flavorless and mushy, so what do I know. (grin)

I do know that sous vide machines are coming down in price and can be purchased for a couple hundred dollars, so somehow I'm sure that Elery will have to have one, eventually. I doubt, somehow, that I'd ever bother to cook a burger in one, but I'm sure it has other useful applications.

Annie


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

"I can’t understand why people are so emotional about sous vide.
You seem emotional about it, too, no? :) "

Possible. I try not to. Because there is no mystery and no excitement to the science of temperature control. It’s not a new invention, and it is just plain cooking with control heating. Very boring stuff. Funny it can get people very upset that I cook meat with electronic temperature control instead of poking with my fingers. Take a look below a PM I got recently in another cooking forum from a chef:
[““You sir, are a belittling, know it all, think your better than everybody else, piece of trash. -------
You are ignorant, arrogant, and aren't worth a peas weight in food knowledge. Your a foodie hipster.-------Congratulations on your little home cooking competition wins. Your dishes look atrocious and wouldn't even be found and on a 1M star menu. Your technique and style bogus and outrageous.------- Get lost on your other forum where immersion circulators and SV are all buzz. Hippie.

Good day sir.”]

“I think any negative emotions are in part a reaction to the seeming fanatacism of some. “

Frankly, I don’t know which side is more fanatic. Each time all I said my dinner was cooked sous vide, a ton of people will immediately blame me for taking over the cooking world.

“You're right, meat isn't smart, on the inside it does not know what the external heat source is. BUT, meat reacts differently to heat over time, hence so much discussion about cooking times. So while technically it may be true that you cannot overcook a steak in a SV bath, I'm here to say that in my experience a naturally "good" steak starts to go south with times stretching past what is needed to bring the core to temp.”

And you are not wrong in your statement above. But why would anyone cook a steak longer than necessary? SV does not mean long cooking. It means by controlling precise temperature, if the kind of meat requires longer cooking time, you will not be over cooking it in the SV method.

“An aside, the notion of saving money because the steak retains more water doesn't fly with me. Water is cheap. I don't think you can value the water loss at $10/lb or $20/lb or whatever. You're not going to be more full because you ingested a tablespoon or two of water. The question really becomes whether the water retention is beneficial to the final cooked product.”

I am very confused. I hope you are not saying meat shrinkage is not a bad thing to meat texture.

“In the case of our modern day pork chop, I'll say yes. In the case of a prime steak, I'm not sure. “

When you have a nice prime steak, SV will not take any longer than other cooking methods. But tell me do you have a way to cook London Broil into tender steak using any normal method? I am not talking about cutting the meat thinly across grain kind of tender, I am talking about tender as in butter tender. Well, that takes me 48 hours in the SV cooker.
Do you have a way to cook brisket medium (cheap select grade, not prime) fork tender ? I just had pulled brisket tonight, fork tender. It took 72 hours.

Good luck with you steaks. A billion people have enjoyed a billion steaks cooked the normal way. No doubt another billion for sure will be done the same way and enjoyed the same way.

dcarch


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

LMAO your PM "friend" is obviously disturbed! Thanks for sharing, I literally LOL'd reading that.

I am very confused. I hope you are not saying meat shrinkage is not a bad thing to meat texture.

Perhaps I'm saying just that, but without knowing it. As stated above, in my own cooking experiments I've never preferred a SV steak to a properly grilled one. And it's not for lack of trying. I trust that in this thread and others I've extolled the virtues of SV in other applications enough to where it's clear I'm not just a naysayer.

When it comes to other cuts of beef that need help in the tenderness department, SV absolutely opens up some doors. But if I can throw a couple steaks on a grill in pitch blackness and rely only upon approximate time for cooking them (I didn't so much as do the firmness test) and have a better result than a year's worth or so of SV experimentation (not to mention my cousin's GF's steaks) it gives me pause.

I like what jkom said above. Somehow I missed it earlier. "Best used for what it's good for - fish, duck, tough or less fatty meats. It's a technique, and no more applicable to every good dish than stir-frying is."

This post was edited by foodonastump on Thu, Aug 21, 14 at 23:49


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

“-----I like what jkom said above. Somehow I missed it earlier. "Best used for what it's good for - fish, duck, tough or less fatty meats. It's a technique, and no more applicable to every good dish than stir-frying is."-----------“

That’s why I find it very entertaining.

If I was to say; I cooked the meat in my roaster oven, or toaster oven, or microwave oven, or steam oven, or a pressure cooker, or convection oven ---------- All is well and everyone is happy.

But the moment I say “sous vide cooker” the entire cooking world will be in instant mayhem.

In fact, a sous vide cooker works the same way as a convection oven. A convection oven cooks by moving hot air, and a sous vide cooker cooks by moving hot water.

Many people equip their Big Green Egg grill with a device called BBQ Guru to precisely control the temperature, allowing the cooking to be mostly unattended. That BGE basically becomes a sous vide cooker using hot air.

Amazing what a fancy French name can do to inflict mass phobia, it’s just a simple cooking appliance, a digital thermostat which turns on/off a pump to move hot water.

dcarch


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

Dcarch, I too was amused by the PM you received. Like, he thinks it's not rude if he peppers his insults with "sirs". I am truly sorry you've been bullied.

I admit I have wrinkled my nose (but hopefully haven't been rude and nasty) regarding sous vide because, yes, I'm in that category of folks thinking that shrinkage is an essential consequence to good red meat texture. I hate soft and mushy, rare, etc., and value brisket braised or smoked low and slow (in oven) which has some redness after 16-18 hrs., but has a bite-able texture for all that it's fork tender. Brisket cooked medium is a scary, scary thought! This isn't an indictment of underwater cooking, however, but a dislike of one of the applications that many people crow about and I don't care for. Doesn't make the crows wrong. Just cooks of something I don't want to have to eat. You can bury that stuff in a sandwich and I still don't want to swallow it.

I will be getting a circulator, and am looking forward to learning what sous vide can do that I like. It's not going to be steak, and I'm not putting steak in the steam oven or microwave either! While these might just be cooking methods, the results--at least without a lot of fiddling about to counteract the normal processes--would be bad. I'm willing to allow for briquettes if they're merely compressed and not impregnated with petrochemicals, and natural gas for expediency, and even an oven broiler in a pinch, but that's about it. Hm... I think pan fried with butter is ruin to a good piece of beef, but if it were the only meal option, and cooked through, and I were hungry enough that I'd rather not wait, I supposed I'd eat it.

You're absolutely right that it's just an appliance. But this isn't one of those TV contests that require the cook to make everything in a popcorn popper or with a clothes steam iron, where the chef shows his mettle by producing fab food anyway. Steaks and grills just belong together. I'm pretty sure that was the point here.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

I agree, steaks and grills just belong together, they are the perfect partners for my taste. The only other way I'd cook a good steak would be in a screaming hot cast iron skillet, I do that in the winter.

I would never commit the sacrilege of putting steak into the microwave, I don't have a steam oven, a convection oven or a toaster oven and the roaster is one of my favorite appliances, but does not heat on the bottom or get hot enough for a good sear. The only steak that ever goes into my pressure cooker is round, when I'm making chop suey for Ashley. I don't do burgers in any of those things either, and wouldn't even if I had them.

Each appliance has its own uses, and is best when used within those parameters. (shrug) I like my steak extremely rare but well seared with a bit of crunch on the outside.

I am not a big "gadget" kind of person but Elery loves the electric stuff (and other stuff too, LOL) We just bought a $300 Zojirushi rice cooker, used once, for $20.00. It's the 10 cup, pressure/convection etc. It might clean the carpets too for all I know. Now it's been used twice because we used it once. (grin) Anything that takes longer to read the instructions than it does to just cook the rice isn't something I'm going to use regularly. Elery is happy, though, and somehow I'm sure we're going to find a sous vide cooker on sale cheap and we'll need to build an extra building just to keep electric kitchen stuff...

Annie


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

Many people equip their Big Green Egg grill with a device called BBQ Guru to precisely control the temperature, allowing the cooking to be mostly unattended. That BGE basically becomes a sous vide cooker using hot air.

Air instead of water, bag or lack thereof, the flavor from the fuel source in the BGE, the fact that the BGE will typically be set closer to 250 than 130. But yeah they both have heat controllers and can be left unattended so I guess they're essentially the same.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

This is interesting to me in that I have done cooking over a campfire a lot, but hardly ever had a grill. We just didn't grill much growing up, although had a small hibachi on our boat. Then I became vegetarian and moved a lot so having a grill just wasn't practical or a high priority. I got one three years ago for BF. It's a small Weber gas grill with a cast iron grill. Great for heat and searing. But it's a pain in the butt to clean because it is so darn heavy! So a lot of times we end up using a cast iron pan on the grill! But it still is nice in the summer to get the heat out of the kitchen. But I think for our purposes I could have gotten good results with just buying a cast iron grill pan. I do use the cast iron grill in the oven as a pizza stone and for bread. We have a little fire pit which I could do wood stuff on, but I just am not going to get into smoking. I barely cook as it is. I do like to cook outdoors though. I dream of having an outdoor kitchen with all the gizmos, but I doubt that will ever happen.


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

FOAS:"-------the fact that the BGE will typically be set closer to 250 than 130. But yeah they both have heat controllers and can be left unattended so I guess they're essentially the same."

In principle yes, but in reality there is a huge difference.

Even not counting heat lost due to evaporation in the BGE environment, the specific heat capacity of water is 3,400 times higher then air.

Circulating hot water around food is significantly more effective than circulating hot air.

dcarch

This post was edited by dcarch on Fri, Aug 22, 14 at 23:27


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

“------ I hate soft and mushy, rare, etc., and value brisket braised or smoked low and slow (in oven) which has some redness after 16-18 hrs., but has a bite-able texture for all that it's fork tender. Brisket cooked medium is a scary, scary thought! ------“

That is one the many interesting capabilities of sous vide. You just look up from a chart and pick a color (Texture) that you like your steak to be, set the temperature, and you are guaranteed the end result will be that color, every time, regardless how big thick the steak is, frozen or not, summer or winter.

“---I will be getting a circulator, and am looking forward to learning what sous vide can do that I like. It's not going to be steak, ---“

I am sure you will be doing steak in the sous vide cooker. When you grill a few steaks perfectly the way you like them, say at I.T. at 129F, and you have a few leftover ones in the freezer. All you have to do is take out the frozen steaks and put them in the SV cooker and set the temperature at 129F, you will have the leftover steak hot but never overcooked.

“-------Steaks and grills just belong together. I'm pretty sure that was the point here.---“

And that’s what I do often. I first SV the steak, then fire up the charcoal chimney and give the steak a nice crust. The difference is doing sous vide, there is no need to “rest” the steak.

dcarch


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RE: now THIS is good steak (long, rambling thoughts)

but in reality there is a huge difference.

I guess my sarcasm wasn't as obvious as I intended.


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