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Sous Vide vs. reverse sear

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   Used to love my sous vide steaks before trying the reverse sear method.

Anyone else bail on the sous vide method after the reverse sear?

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  We generally go with N.Y. strip or T-Bones when it comes to steak.

We've found that you get a lot more flavor from the reverse sear than with the sous vide.

   Not that sous vide doesnt still have a spot in our cooking repertoire but reverse sear has pretty much replaced the sous vide for your basic steak.

 

     

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This is a Prime 1¾-inch New York cut from Costco.  It was rather heavily seasoned on both sides with SPG.

The steps–

  1. Smoked as low as possible for an hour
  2. Sous vide for two hours at 130°
  3. Pan browned on the kitchen range over MMH heat (6 on a scale of 10)

It didn't seem to be as dark and seared as the photo shows.  It was more of a dark brown.  We don't like black char, we just try to brown the exterior for appearance and the Malliard flavor.

 

A much better steak than a typical steakhouse.

 

BTW, I tried to brown it with a Searzall.


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This thing.  What a joke!  It takes forever.  Use a heavy pan for browning.

 


 

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 I have an obnoxiously long answer to this question based on recent learning. I’ve culled most of this text from a “lessons learned” email I sent to a friend, so apologies if some of the context isn’t quite right/clear. 

 

The tl/dr version is that the reverse sear method helped me to see some mistakes I was making when doing sous vide. Read on for the details.

 

I have been cooking sous vide for the better part of 4 years now; we got a kamado grill less than a year ago. We consistently enjoyed sous vide steaks and raved at how well they turned out. Upon trying the reverse sear, I almost immediately was convinced that sous vide was inferior. Over time while cooking with reverse sear, I learned that we were making some sous vide mistakes. 

 

In theory, when the reverse sear steaks come off the grill at low temp they have been cooked in a similar manner as a sous vide steak (low and slow, from the inside out, cooked from end to end to the same doneness). But, we noticed right away that the pre-finished reverse sear steaks didn’t look like the pre finished sous vide steaks. The difference was that the reverse sear steaks were *dry* on the exterior. 

 

We had always observed that sous vide steaks come out of the bag wet, b/c what little juice they had lost in the cook had gone nowhere. The steak juice had stayed right there in the bag surrounding the steak. So out of the bag, the steaks were wet. 

 

I learned/read that a key variable to making a great sear is to ensure you have a dry exterior. The realization was this: when the sous vide steaks came out of the bag wet and we tossed them on the cast iron, the energy of the cast iron was mostly expended by evaporating the extra moisture from the exterior of the steak. Therefore, the steak didn’t crust up like we wanted it to. Less crust=less flavor. 

 

The light bulb with the reverse sear method was when i noticed that the steaks came off of the grill pre-sear nice and dry, and then when i seared them they crusted right up.

 

The other lessons were less impactful but still meaningful. I think we were using the cast iron wrong. 

 

We have long been inculcated with the 1st cardinal rule of a cast iron*, which is never use the cast iron skillet past medium b/c it will burn the snot out of whatever you’re cooking.

 

*but not always 

 

In the past I would sous vide the steak and then heat the cast iron to almost medium. I’d put butter in the skillet as it warmed up so that it melted and was ready for the steak. But, that didn’t let the cast iron get hot enough for a proper sear—and even worse, I was starting the sear before the pan warmed up to medium b/c the butter would start to burn. 

 

After observing all that we decided to tweak our sous vide technique a little bit. First, we made sure to dry off the exterior of the steaks thoroughouly with paper towels after pulling them out of the bag. Next, I got the cast iron on the stove and turned that mother up to 11 like I was Michael J Fox at the beginning of the first Back to the Future.

 

AFTER the pan was smoking hot, I put butter in it. 

 

And that butter VIOLENTLY sizzled. 

 

And then I put a DRY steak in there.

 

And 45 seconds later, I had a buttery delicious crust. 

 

To review my prior mistakes: cast iron not hot enough for sear, butter added too soon which forced an even lower cast iron temp, soggy wet steaks...all three mistakes robbed the searing process. 

 

Before, I’d have a beautifully cooked steak that had no crust b/c the finishing process wasn’t well executed, which meant the texture of the steak was perfect but it lacked a flavor. This is what initially blew my mind with the kamado reverse sear: still beautifully cooked, plus amazing flavor. 

 

I say all that to answer your question:

 

Initially, yes, I tried reverse sear and swore off sous vide forever. However, I’ve been able to use the experience from reverse sear cooking to inform my sous vide cooking, and now I feel like I have got both methods pretty well dialed in. Today, I would say that I’m not “done” with sous vide. 

 

Instead, I recognize that both methods bring a different strength in flavor profile. For my taste, reverse sear is better if the dinner menu calls for good smoky, charcoal flavor and I have the time to spend on the grill to achieve that. Sous vide is better if the dinner menu calls for any of the options that sous vide lends itself to: aromatics (rosemary in the sous vide bag? butter? check), a pan sauce (that steak juice in the sous vide bag is money when it comes time to make a quick sauce), or time/ease of cooking.

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3 hours ago, Walrus said:

WHY SO BIG

lol sorry, I dont know. I typed all that out in a seperate app and then copy/pasted it into here. I didn’t see an option for changing font size. 

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21 hours ago, KismetKamado said:

@Walrus

 

Sometimes copy / paste results in a different font / size. No biggie.

 

I enjoyed reading the post.

 

Not sure the comment about font size was necessary or relevant. 

 

 

 

I enjoyed the read too. Just joking around, as the size makes it more difficult to read.

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@dirty6

 

Have you tried searing post-sous vide directly over charcoal, instead of on cast iron? Wondering if the wet exterior would crust up better over hot coals. I'm not talking about the crust/char marks that the grate makes, but the browning that occurs between from the hot coals below.

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