Cooking steaks with fat

I cooked a 2" bone-in rib-eye on the weekend. I have a sous-vide supreme (so I’ll have 2 when my Anova turns up :). Set to 55C for around 3 hours. Then flame charred on my grill.

Was great - almost.

The rib-eye hadn’t been french-trimmed so there was a large amount of fairly fatty meat down the length of the bone shaft. About 2 inches across. Where the fat was thinner and on the outside of the meat it rendered somewhat and crisped beautifully. Tasted great with the meat. But where it was too thick - probably 1/2 fat half meat - it was basically just fat it hadn’t rendered and was inedible.

Is there any way around this? Or put another way, how should I have cooked the rib-eye? From prior experience if I’d cooked it solely on the grill the fat would have rendered substantially more and it would have been fully edible.

Sear prior to cooking sous vide (Make sure meat is cold or frozen for initial sear to ensure you don’t over-cook it). See for some great tips. The sous vide class is still free I believe as are many others. Some there is a small fee, but you’ll always have access. Joining is free, content is great and plenty of help.

What will the pre-sear do that the post-sear doesn’t?

I had run through that course a while ago, but just re-looked. I don’t really see how a pre-sear will help in this instance. I was thinking either a higher temperature that will give the fat a chance to render (but cook more than I’d like), or simply cut the fat off as much as possible.

I’d be happy to try 57C but wouldn’t want it cooked beyond that. The question is how much fat would render at 57C? Certainly I get good fat rendering on pork ribs cooked at 60C.

You can pre-sear to create the crust you want, then it only takes a few seconds after it’s cooked. There would be more rendering and more moisture (water) loss from the steak as the temperature increases. Always trim steaks (unless you really like it). You can render the fat alone and use to brush the steak pre-sear or for other uses (e.g. brush on bread or buns for pulled beef or hamburgers).

3 hours for medium-rare (55C) 2" steak is definitely not enough. It is even slightly unsafe, as even surface is not completely pasteurized. Core would be pasteurized after almost five hours. And temperature-wise - after 3 hours core of your steak will be only rare (around 53.3C). It’s OK-ish for meat itself, but the fat is definitely unappetizing. You need 6 hours at 55C for this piece of meet, and 8 would be even better. When finishing, I also like to point my Bernzomatic’s flame somewhat more on the fatty parts to burn the fat out - I have to see how my approach will change when I finally receive my Searzall (any day now, hopefully).

For a 2 in / 5 cm thick steak this is about 2 hours - Just sayin.

The crazy thing about sous vide is that the cheaper cuts of meat actually come out better. We cook hangar steak now and it tastes better than rib eye. It’s about 1/3 the cost as well.

This is a great article on cooking steak sous vide:

A few quotes from the article:

“To all you hardcore carnivores out there who insist on cooking your well-marbled, Prime-grade steaks rare, you are doing yourself a disservice: Unless it renders and softens, the fat in a well-marbled piece of meat is worthless. You may as well be eating lean, Choice, or Select-grade beef.”


“The really expensive cuts of beef—NY strip, rib eye, Porterhouse, T-bone, Filet (tenderloin)—have historically been prized for their extreme tenderness, not particularly for their flavor. On the other hand, more flavorful cuts like hanger, blade, or flatiron steak are much more difficult to cook correctly—even a tad over or undercooked, and you’re left with a tough, stringy, chewy mess. But cooked properly, they can be every bit as tender as the more expensive cuts, and with more flavor to boot!”

I’ve never heard of needing to do a 2" thick steak 8 hours. Everything I’ve read (and I’ve read heaps) has pointed to the texture being substantially different from desired at that time.

Most of my guidelines have pointed to 2-4 hours for 2", 1-2 hours for 1". Was probably closer to 4 hours by the time I removed it. Was definitely 55 in the centre.

I was pretty happy with the outside done this way. I’ve done it in a pan as well to give a real crust but my preference is for the flame grilled flavour. My grill has been “tim the toolmanned” and has a lot more power than a normal bbq. Doing it this way didn’t over-cook it at all.

Still, will also try the pre-sear, and eat the steak :), all in the interests of being thorough!

Stephen, your point is very valid. Pity we’re very limited in the cuts we can get over here.

BTW, this cut wasn’t what you guys would call “prime”. Good cut but just standard super-market type of steak. Was only $15/kg ($13US) which isn’t probably any more than I’d have paid for a cheaper cut.

I think I’ll have to get some more steaks. Will try removing extra visible fat where possible and cook it to 57C. That should allow more rendering.

Then I’ll force myself to buy another, and do the same but with a pre-sear. More work so I’d prefer to avoid if possible. I like just being able to throw the steak in the sous-vide without having to worry about the grill first.

Hmm, the question on pasteurization is based on whether you’re judging the temperature on how long you hold the meat at a certain temperature by using a “hotter than core” water bath, or how long you hold the meat in water of a certain temperature (equilibrium). Per Modernist Cuisine, if you have the water at 55 C, it would take 7 hours for pasteurization, per vtemkin’s comment. However, if you have the meat at 55 C for 1 hour and 12 minutes, that would pasteurize it.

Obviously, though, do we really care about pasteurization? Per their same charts, it should take under 3 hours to bring it to the proper serving temp. If I was serving food to others, that’s one thing, but I do love sushi, so…

So fat really has two stages to rendering
1)breaking down the cell walls that hold the fat deposits - think cellulose
2)actually rendering out the melted fat

  1. Happens at just above body temperature for whichever animal it is so certainly not an issue when cooking sous vide
  2. On the other hand needs physical damage to happen so higher temperature and or actually puncturing. When I have done duck breasts, I use a needle or new wire brush to perforate the skin so the fat cells break open and render. With something like a rib eye, you have a few options.

Cut out the extra fat before hand.
Render out via very high heat before cooking, this is a good option for larger cuts that have fat on the outside.
Cut out fat and use active to put it back together
Another thing to try with a cut such as rib eye is cooking the steak over night or for 7 or so hours. This will make the fat and the meat more tender and when you put it on the grill even more fat will render out. Watch out for flare ups with those rib eyes!


Use a hand-held torch will take you less than 5 min for the pre-sear. So you would also be able to use your grill only once. :slight_smile: Food for thought.

I’ll keep that in mind. I’ll also pre-trim and like the idea of skewering the fat.

Being honest :slight_smile: the other reason I don’t want to pre-sear is that these steaks come individually vacuum packed, so saves me a few steps. But if I’m trimming anyway will need to re-vacuum anyway.

My SousVide Dash app with my iPhone says 5 hours and 34 minute at 133deg F for a 2" beef steak to make sure all the pathogens are dead and food reaches temperature at core. 1 hour and 52 minutes for a 1" steak at the same temperature. Then I go another hour or more depending on the cut of meat to help tenderize.

Presearing seems futile. The crust will just get soft and mushy in the cooking stage. Post searing brings a hot, crisp crust to the table, and allows you to make a pan sauce…

@M_Hand I completely agree, I love the result much more with post-searing rather than pre-searing. I think I've only done a pre-sear once just to try it out and immediately went back to my beloved post-sear.

jordan said:

@M_Hand I completely agree, I love the result much more with post-searing rather than pre-searing. I think I've only done a pre-sear once just to try it out and immediately went back to my beloved post-sear.

@jordan @M_HAND I have read that people have had good luck doing both a pre and post sear. Another thing to try.

I need to make another trip to the butcher. I now have a taste for hanger steak.

steaks have fat on them that will not render out during a pan fry or
broil. If you are doing a cut like this you might want to trim away
extra fat so it will render out.

A very lean cut like a tenderloin may need extra fat so they do well wrapped with bacon.