I`m not even going to apologize for how long it’s taken me to post this, ’cause LIFE, you know?
For Christmas this year (or, I guess, last year…2012) the lovely Michelle bought me a sous vide* set up. How cool is that? Long have I pondered the usefulness of the technique widely in use in France back in the seventies**, and popularized in recent years by food artists/amateur scientists like Mr. Blumenthal. Is it worth the fussy equipment? What are the results really like?
For my first use I decided to fall back on a staple of mine flank steak. I know, I know, you’re sick of flank steak. But as a trial run, it’s ideal: fairly tough and low fat and I know exactly how it should turn out using conventional methods like slow cooking or BBQ.
I cut the flank in half across to make it more manageable in the sous vide tub and liberally seasoned it with ground roasted coriander, kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
Next I sealed the flank pieces into vacu-bags…
…and loaded them into the tub of water, which I had previously brought up to the temperature recommended by the instructions, 56.5 degrees celsius. I set the timer for 24 hours. The instructions suggest anywhere from 4 to 30 hours for tougher cuts of beef, but I’ve seen the pros on television sous vide anywhere up to 72 hours—which seems like showing off to me, but whatever.
After 24 hours in the sous vide cooker the flank steaks resemble something you might set aside to weigh during an autopsy—pinkish grey and unappetizing.
The next step, to my mind, is critical: I seared the flank steaks in a very hot cast iron pan. You could probably use the un-seared steaks in certain preparations—sliced thin and covered a sauce say—but to me, it’s not steak without the treasured Maillard reaction.
I’m happy to report that the finished steaks were delicious. One thing about flank steak is that due to its uneven thickness, it’s a little challenging to ensure even cooking using conventional methods. The sous vide technique created a wonderfully even pinkness throughout. The meat was also buttery and tender, although not dramatically more tender than a long dry rub marinade and thin slicing provides—but still, noticeably more tender.
All-in-all I’m thrilled with Michelle’s gift and looking forward to many more sous vide experiments. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to post them in the comments below. I seem to remember reading about a sous vide of fennel in duck fat somewhere…
*Once again, it’s important to note that no one pays me to promote their products, this is just the one I received as a gift.
**According to Wikipedia, the theory was developed in 1799.