Sous- Vide, what is that? Well it might be the best method of cooking steak there is.
Sous-vide (pronounced su vi: d) is French for “under vacuum”. It is a method for cooking food in airtight or vacuum-sealed plastic bags in a temperature regulated water bath at temperatures much lower than normal cooking techniques. You cook the food at precisely the temperature you want to finish at (say 129 degrees F for a rare steak). No part of the meat can over-cook, and the sealed bag keeps in all the juices and flavor that otherwise could be lost during the cooking process. Achieving the perfect doneness is as simple as getting the water temperature right. Perfectly cooked steak every time! A brief sear in a hot pan just prior to serving put a nice crust on and voila! You are turning out some of the best steak you will ever eat.
There are a number of Sous-vide attachments and full blown commercial circulators available, but great results can be obtained using a well- insulated beverage cooler, a zip lock bag, and a digital food thermometer. This is not a new technique; high-end restaurants have been utilizing this method since the 70’s. I am really glad I tried this method at the urging of a good friend a while back, and have really set the bar higher on “the perfect steak” using sous-vide.
- Venison Steaks
- Kosher or sea salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
I used back straps for this recipe, but whatever steak you have and would like to cook perfectly, use. Cut these to a thickness of 1 ½ inch. Let the steaks sit out at room temperature for a half hour or so to get the chill out of the meat. Salt and pepper the steaks, including the edges, to taste. Place the meat in a quart zip-lock bag. You can put several smaller steaks in the same bag; just do not over-lap the meat. Use separate bags for each larger steak. At this point you could add additional items such as fresh herbs or marinades, but keep your first time simple. Salt and pepper.
Displace the air by slowly lowering the bagged steak into a pot of water, letting the pressure of the water press air out of the top of the bag. Partially “zip” the bag and keep a hold of the top. Once most of the air is out of the bag, zip the rest of it just above the waterline, being careful not to get water in the bag. (It sounds more complicated than it is) Of course if you have a vacuum sealer, by all means use it instead. Most of the prep work is now done!
Now to get the cooking medium, “water”, ready. Use a quality, well insulated beverage cooler. I found that a 20 can beverage cooler is perfect. You want it large enough that the steaks do not bring the water temperature down quickly. If all you have is a larger cooler, fine, you just have to heat more water. Half fill your cooler with hot water out of the tap. Heat some water in a large pot and using your digital food thermometer bring the water in the cooler to your desired cooking temperature. For venison I suggest the following temps and times, but there is a wealth of information on line for different cuts of meat and cooking times. I encourage you to do a little research and pick out a comfortable doneness for yourself.
Rare: 125 – 128 degrees F for 1-2 hours in water
Medium Rare: 129 – 133 degrees F for1-2 hours in water
Get the water precisely the right temperature and add the bagged steaks. With the air removed from the bags they drift dreamily towards the bottom. You are cooking now baby! Check the water temperature after a few minutes and add some more hot water if the cool meat has lowered your temp. Cover the cooler and have a cold beverage, walk the dog, or take a nap for about an hour and a half. You could also prepare your side dishes, make a salad, and enjoy a glass or two of wine while your steak is perfectly cooking! I chose 129 degrees and 1 ½ hours for this recipe, and it was fantastic. You can leave the meat in the water longer (up to 4 hours) if you don’t wake from that nap, (or your guests are late). The meat can’t over-cook! Precise timing is not the issue, precise temperature is!
Remove the steak from the bag, and pat them dry with a paper towel. You will immediately notice that they do not have any browning and look like the inside of a cooked roast, which in effect, they are. You can either sear them in a cast iron pan, or on a hot grill. Hey, why dirty a pan? Heat your grill just as hot as you can. Sear the meat from 30 second to a minute on each side, and you are done. You could add some melted butter, drizzle with a sauce, or just serve them straight up. Sous-vide is a unique way to ensure a perfect venison steak.
I know this whole deal sounds weird, and my guests were skeptical to say the least, but I have tried this method with venison and beef steaks quite a few times with great success. Everyone marveled at the final results. Do yourself a favor and give it a try.