How to Make the Perfect Steak
Get a steak
Find a quality cut. I am using a Prime Filet in the video, but this will work for any cut; ribeye, strip, porterhouse, etc. For a real deep meaty flavor try finding a dry-aged steak like they have at the fancy steakhouses. The extra cost for dry-aged is worth it!
Use an ample amount of salt. You can see in the video I apply salt liberally to both sides. Salt is the only seasoning I ever put on a steak. I like coarse Kosher salt because it's easier to handle with the fingertips. Salt enhances the natural flavors of the meat and draws soluble proteins to the surface that assist the searing process. A good steak doesn't need to drown in sauce or spice rubs. However, blue cheese and caramelized onions are my favorite toppers.
Vacuum sealing is preferred because it quickly removes all the air to maximizes the surface contact with the water, and creates a tight seal. You could substitute a zip lock bag if you don't have a vacuum sealer. Just make sure to force out as much air as possible. A good way to do this is by leaving a corner unzipped while putting the bag into the water. The water will help squeeze out the air. Just be sure not to let any water into the bag. I do recommend purchasing a vacuum sealer. They are great not only for sous vide cooking, but for storing food in the freezer long term. I used to hate freezing food before I got a vacuum sealer. Now I have a freezer full of goodies.
Sous Vide - 125ºF for 45 Minutes
The key to this process is cooking the steak to the correct temperature in the water bath. It's physically impossible to overcook the steak. The water temperature is set to match the desired doneness. You drop in the steak and wait until it reaches the same temperature as the water. I use the Anova Precision Cooker to control the water temperature. After researching all of the available options, I found Anova's product to be the absolute best.
Sous vide in French means under pressure, describing the vacuum sealing process. The food never actually touches the water, because it's in a bag, so it's nothing like boiling in a pot. We're not making beef broth. A better description of the entire process would be equilibrium cooking. You could let it cook for two or three hours, and the meat will never get any hotter than the water temperature. It will become more tender over time, so a three-hour cook might make a steak a little too soft, but it won't be overcooked. (Note: You can cook a whole rib roast sous vide. It takes about 36 hours and comes out perfectly tender and medium rare.)
Trying to cook a steak on a blazing hot grill or skillet is pretty much a guessing game, and you will never have a perfect edge to edge doneness. To get a medium rare center at 125ºF with a grill or pan, you will always overcook the edges past well done. This photo shows a traditionally cooked steak on the left and steak cooked just like mine on the right. The large brown areas on the traditionally cooked steak are dry and flavorless because it's overcooked. That's not good eats.
Sear with a Blow Torch
Searing creates flavor. That's all. It does not lock in the juices. When you sear meat with high temperatures, a chemical reaction occurs and creates hundreds of new flavor compounds. That's the flavor we all know and love. The process is called the Maillard reaction. Again, trying to sear the steak and cook it to a desired internal doneness at the same time is extremely hard to control and creates significant areas of overcooked meat. Even the best fancy steakhouses don't get it right every time.
It's like painting on the sear with a brush made of fire...
I found the best way to sear a steak is with a blow torch. When using a blow torch, I have complete control over the application of heat. It's like painting on the sear with a brush made of fire, and it's fun, too. Alternatively, you could use a skillet and sear the steak for about 30 seconds on both sides, or dip it into a deep fryer for about 30 seconds to achieve a similar sear. With these methods, be careful to avoid cooking the meat under the surface, because it's already medium rare.
The blow torch is my favorite for a few reasons: better precision, doesn't take up space on the stove-top, and it's way more fun. Mapp gas torches are the best option, because they burn hotter and will not leave any undesired flavor. Propane and butane don't burn as hot and may alter the taste.
Once you make the small initial investment for the equipment needed to cook this way, you'll never go back. Best of all I never to go to fancy steakhouses anymore, where the sides are a la carte, and you pay $30 to $50 for a steak that's been mostly overcooked. My steaks are so much better for a fraction of the cost. The sous vide cooker and vacuum sealer cost around $300 total. (I already owned the blow torch for working on copper plumbing.) They are both very useful items to have in the kitchen.
In addition to steaks, I cook burgers, fish, chicken, and pork with the Anova Precision Cooker. You can even sous vide eggs right in the shells. No bags required. Different time and temperature combinations can create various textures between the whites and yolks, from creamy to full hard cooked. It's a lot of fun to experiment with sous vide eggs. The vacuum sealer, as I mentioned earlier, is excellent for storing food in the freezer. Even if I didn't use it for sous vide, I would still want the vacuum sealer. It pays for itself because you can buy items in bulk and store them with zero freezer burn.
Let me know how your steaks turn out in the comments below. Please like and share!