Beginner experiences with steak and with whole chicken . . .

I got my Anova and realised that I don’t really have a tall enough pot, but I looked at a small chilly bin (what a lot of you would call a cooler) and thought “yeah, that should work”. It is really good because it is insulated. So time to try out sous vide cooking . . .

First test: I vacuum sealed a sirloin steak and cooked it for 2 hours at 58°C, wanting a medium steak. It didn’t seem like medium to me, more like well done. Strange - guides & recipes suggested that medium was anywhere between 58 & 63 degrees, so I was at the lower end. Next time I’ll go for medium rare! It was still fine to eat, just more cooked than I was expecting.

Second test: Entire chicken 1.7kg (3.75lb) cooked for 6 hours at 66°C. This was the most succulent & tender chicken I’ve ever cooked. It is just too easy to get a chicken too dry and stringy in the oven, with sous vide it is so much better. I’ll call this one a resounding success.

Third test: Steak time again, this time a scotch fillet. I did this one at 54°C for 2 hours. It came out really nice, medium rare and really tender. I had cooked up some mushrooms and fried a tomato to go with it, great meal. Another success.

Fourth test: Entire chicken again, 6 hours at 66°C again, juicy and tender again. This sous vide cooking is really consistent, fantastic stuff! Basically, I’m getting to eat the best chicken I’ve ever had - every time!

I’m a little perplexed at how there was no pinkness at all on my 58°C steak, it was completely grey all the way through and very much what I would expect to get at a restaurant if I ordered well done steak rather than a medium steak. But I really liked the 54°C medium rare steak, so I’ll stick with that in the future.

I’ll also be trying the sous vide for cooking venison sausages, chicken sausages and other stuff. Maybe even a burger patty too. I’m just trying out basic stuff to get confident in achieving good results consistently. I’m no chef, not even a particularly competent cook, so if I can get great results consistently then so can anyone.

Mark, congratulations on your SV successes.

You will soon learn that fundamental to SV cooking is thinking in terms of product thickness, not weight. It’s the time it takes for heat energy to diffuse throughout the item and then produce the desired tenderness that’s important. Thicker means longer times.

The best SV steak outcomes are achieved at thickness greater than 1-inch. What are you cooking?

You don’t mention searing your steaks. If you do, that can often be a challenge in obtaining the precise degree of doneness. The 58C steak may have been seared too long thus overcooking it.

2 Likes

I think you could be right about the thickness, that well done steak wasn’t very thick. I doubt it was the searing, I did that quite quickly, maybe 30-40 seconds per side. The second steak came out so nice, not bloody & raw but a nice pink colour. It is nice to be able to cook a steak that wont be tough or dry.

I’ve had trouble cooking sausages just right, getting them cooked all the way through without being burnt on the outside is a challenge. Too high a temperature on the pan and the outside is done too quickly to get the inside cooked. I’m looking forward to cooking the sausages through with the sous vide method and then just browning the outsides in a pan, it should be a LOT easier to get nicely cooked sausages.

1 Like

Mark, there may not be much benefit with SV sausages unless you are cooking a large quantity.

It would be quicker to simmer sausages in a covered skillet with a cup of water turning once til done, about 175F internal to melt some of the fat. Pour off water and evenly brown them in same pan turning a few times. Use the control on your stove or cooktop to moderate temperature. Burnt = too hot, check on food as it cooks.

1 Like

Regarding your overdone steak, there are a couple of things I might recommend. First, make sure you dry the surface of the steaks thoroughly after they come out of the bath. Any water left on the surface will be converted to steam which will interfere with the sear and encourage overcooking. Also, when doing steaks (especially thinner ones) I’d suggest letting them sit for 15-30 minutes after drying. This allows them to cool just a little bit and makes it easier not to push up the internal temperature past your desired doneness during your sear.

Good luck.

1 Like

It might be quicker to cook sausages in a pan, but I think it is easier with sous vide, just set the temp, drop the sausages in when the water reaches the set temp and come back a couple of hours later.

I just cooked some chicken sausages (66°C for 2 hours) and they came out perfect. I didn’t need to sear as these were being chopped up and added into a pot with other ingredients (rather than being eaten as fried sausages).

1 Like

I might try out another sirloin steak on Friday, will be doing the 54°C again (no point in bothering with the 58°C). The steak that came out well was 54°C for 2 hours, patted dry, seared for 30-40 sec each side - tender and delicious!

I’d recommend to any other newbies like me that they should try out 54°C for 2 hours when they cook a steak and see how they like it.

1 Like

Mark, if you are using sausage meat as an ingredient in a cooked mixture you can just remove the sausage meat from its casing and add straight away. I usually brown it with the aromatics to build flavour.
Even quicker and easier.

1 Like

No, not sausage meat. I’m using chopped sausages, just mixing in sausage meat would be very different.

1 Like

Temp of 58c (138.4f) is just about what you would set temp. for a medium-well streak. I hope thi helps.

I did a steak last night at 54.5°C and it was really good.

This one was a little thicker than the others I’ve cooked because I cut it myself. I was looking in the supermarket and none of the steaks were even as much as 1" thick, then I spotted a whole ribeye that was about 8" long, I bought it despite it being fairly pricey. When I got it home I cut it into 4 x 2" steaks and vacuum sealed each one. Three went into the freezer and one got a nice 54.5°C bath.

I have bought a culinary torch and used it to sear the steak after patting it dry. I’m unsure if it is any better than using a hot frying pan, but there was less smoke and it came out very well.

All steak I buy in the future will be reasonably thick. I’ll either find thick steak or talk to the butcher at the supermarket and ask if they can cut me some thick steaks or if available buy whole sections of meat I can cut up. The thinner steaks are definitely harder to keep pink, even with sous vide cooking.

@KiwiMark I find cutting your own steaks to be the way to go! Aside from the fact that buying the meat uncut is usually a bit cheaper, being able to cut them to meet my personal preference for thickness is wonderful.

Regarding pan sear versus torch, you might want to try doing as I do and using a combination of the two. I use a cast iron pan on an induction burner, and if I see anywhere that looks like it could use a little additional sear I hit it with the torch while its still in the pan searing. Just make sure you do things fast so that you are only searing the outside and not overheating the interior! :slight_smile:

Here the price per kilogram for steak is usually the same for cut or whole, so it seems better to buy the whole chunk of meat and cut the steaks myself.

With 2" thick steaks I’m much less concerned that I may overheat the interior, unlike with the fairly thin cut sirloin that I have cooked a couple of times.

Sucks that you don’t get a savings price-wise when buying the meat uncut, but at least you’ve got the control to slice your steaks how you like! I am also a fan of a nice thick steak. With sous vide I’m not worried about actual overheating with a thin cut steak, but I think “juice” retention is much better with thicker cuts.

1 Like

I am going to try my Anova this weekend for the first time. I used to have a mellow and am trying Anova now. Mellow was good at asking how thick meat is before you start cooking and it does the calculations for you.

Is there an easy way to decide time based on a meats thickness?

Mike, when it comes to SV cooking i’m usually not a fan of easy ways because using good judgement based on your knowledge and experience should result in better outcomes than a machine driven decision based on thickness alone.

One easy way you might want to try is to use Jason Logsdon’s free SV Ruler from his following site:
https://www.amazingfoodmadeeasy.com/pages/sous-vide-thickness-ruler

A thickness measurement provides you with a cooking time base without much thinking. You might also want to consider food safety and tenderness factors in your decision. Cooking times are also dependent on product quality which can have a substantial impact on outcomes.

If you kept detailed notes on the results of your experiences using a mellow you will have a transferable set of records that will allow your to program your Anova to precisely meet your expectations. If you don’t why not start now?

Apart from seeking out thicker steaks, one other change I’ve made is to the container I’m using.
I started with using a chilly bin (many of you would call it a ‘cooler’) that I had lying around, which worked really well.
Now I’ve bought two Rubbermaid containers - one 12 quart and one 18 quart. I’ve also bought an Everie silicon lid with the cut-out for the Anova, which works with either container.

The 12 quart container works great for steak, chicken breast, sausages, etc.
The 18 quart container works great for cooking an entire chicken.
I prefer the 12 quart for smaller items because the Anova can heat the water more quickly when there is less of it.

Having cooked without a lid and now cooking with a lid, I’m convinced that having a lid is a very good idea. There is now much less steam/humidity in the kitchen while I’m cooking. During a 6 hour cook for a chicken, the water level doesn’t drop by any noticeable amount. Most importantly, there isn’t steam rising up near the vent by the Anova’s circuitry - which could potentially cause a failure in the device.

I’m really loving the juicy, tender chicken cooked with the sous vide method. It is so succulent, very noticeably better than roasted chicken. I did the first one at 66°C for 6 hours and every one since then at exactly the same, no need to change what is working perfectly. I’ve cooked at least half a dozen chickens so far and will keep up doing them this way.