Sous Vide New York Strip Steak

I love steak.

If I am known among friends and family for having a culinary specialty, it is my steak.

Usually, I cook up my steaks on a grill after sprinkling them with garlic salt and keeping the outside moist with Lea and Perrins worcestershire sauce as I flip the steak during cooking. Doing this imparts some additional flavor, keeps things moist, and develops a beautifully caramelized crust on the steak. If I have my choice, I generally choose a New York Strip for the balance between flavor and tenderness that it provides.

Last Friday I got a brand new Anova immersion circulator in the mail and I was determined to put it to a delicious test. If you are not familiar with an immersion circulator, it is a device that allows you to heat a volume of water to a very precise temperature and to maintain that temperature for an extended period of time. This is very useful if you want to use the sous vide method of cooking. In sous vide ("under vacuum" in French) you seal what you want to cook in a plastic bag and then submerge it in water that is at the target temperature you would like to achieve for that food. In the case of steaks, I like the medium rare, which comes out to around 131°F.

In traditional cooking, say on a grill, the goal is to get the center of your piece of meat at exactly 131°F. Since the heat has to flow from the outside of the meat into the core, you end up with a bullseye effect where the core is cooked properly, and the rest of the meat is overcooked. Sous vide gets around this limitation by cooking at the target temperature. It takes longer to cook, but the result is that the steak is perfectly medium rare, edge to juicy edge, as below.

Done right, it is impossible to overcook something in using the sous vide method in a temperature sense. This gives you a fair amount of flexibility of timing, within certain limits, as you can keep it at temperature for longer than necessary to simply cook the food. I say within certain limits because the connective tissue in the meat will eventually gelatinize which will change the texture of the end product. In the case of tougher meats this can be great, and is essentially what is happening when someone cooks tough cuts "low and slow" by other methods. The gelatinized connective tissue compensates for the fact that the tough meat was tough, and was made tougher by cooking for a long time at a temperature that denatured the actin. The gelatinzed connective tissue essentially lubricates the meat, but that takes time. In tender cuts, this gelatinization can actually be undesirable, as it will make the meat lose its structure and become mushy.

For this particular steak, I seasoned it much like I would season my grilled steaks. I put garlic salt on the exterior and rubbed the meat with worcestershire sauce, leaving a little extra in the bag before sealing it with my foodsaver. I then put it in for 2 hours at 131°F and let the Anova do its magic. When the steak is finished cooking, the exterior does not look terribly appetizing as it lacks the browning from high temperature cooking. To counteract this I took my cast iron skillet and put it on a high flame with a small amount of canola oil. I patted the steak dry and once the oil began to smoke I put it on the skillet for around 25 seconds a side, and then removed it from the heat. The result can be seen above.

How did it taste? Absolutely delicious. The meat was rich and almost buttery with just enough of the worcestershire and garlic flavor to keep things interesting. It melted in the mouth and was incredibly juicy.

The grill has met its match.

Welcome to

I'm Ed, and as you may have gathered from the title of this blog, I like to cook.

My educational background is in Electrical and Computer Engineering, and I enjoy exploring the world of food from a scientific and analytic perspective. I also enjoy things that are delicious. Since I was a young boy I have been reasonably good at cooking. I had the good fortune to learn about it from my father, mother, and grandmother as they let me cook alongside them and pick up knowledge like a hungry sponge. I had a lot of fun making dishes and trying new things. I was always "that kid" who would eat adventurous foods at restaurants, be it escargots or fish roe. I like to say that I'll try almost anything at least once.

Where things turned the corner for me was in my twenties. I started reading books like "On Food and Cooking" by Harold McGee and "Cooking for Geeks" by Jeff Potter. Through trial and error, I had learned to be an adept cook, but there was a lot of gray area as to why things were working out, or why they may have failed. Getting an education into the food science details of the progression of protein denaturation as food goes through the process of cooking and temperatures where Maillard reactions occur opened a whole new world to me. Now it was clear what was actually happening as my steak went from raw to rare to medium rare to less favorable levels of "doneness". In short, denaturing myosin was favorable, while denaturing actin is not. Maillard reactions explain why delicious browning can occur at certain temperatures and not at others. Finally oven temperatures started to make sense: they were either avoiding browning, encouraging it, or going for full-on caramelization. The more I learned about the science underpinning everyday cooking, the more interesting it all became, and the better the results were of my cooking experiments. It amazed me how something that is done by almost everyone on a regular basis is truly understood by a relative few. Food is fascinating.

Since that time I've built my own sous vide controller from a microcontroller and a crock pot (now replaced with an immersion circulator), made my own sauerkraut, yogurt, and other lactofermented foods, brewed my own beer, and experimented with dehydration to preserve fruits and make jerky. It has been a lot of fun, and I have set up this site as a way to remember some of the things I have done, and to share those things with others.

Thanks for stopping by and bon appetit.