First attempt - Steaks seemed microwaved?

I received an Anova Precision Cooker as a gift, and tried it out for the first time tonight on Ball Tip petite steaks. They were about an inch thick, cooked at 150* F for about 1.5 hours. They looked medium well, but were really…stiff. I’m not sure if they were dry or tough…stiff is the only way to describe them. They definitely weren’t juicy or tender. My husband described them best saying it was like they’d been cooked, cooled, and then microwaved. I attempted a quick sear after cooking.

What caused the steaks to come out so strange, and what should I do differently next time? I did put some steak seasoning in the bags. Not sure if that matters or not…the guide on the app made it sound ok since we ate them right away. There was quite a bit of juice in the bags, and the steaks were stiff when I took them out. I would try a better cut, but I’m worried about spending a lot of money on something that won’t turn out right…

Thanks in advance!

What finish were you chasing? Not really sure that there’s any point in using sous vide for steaks if you’re after well done or even medium well. The temperature is enough that the fibres tighten up, expelling moisture and giving a dry and frequently tough texture. Searing on top of this, no matter how quick you try to be, is going to result in something akin to shoe leather.

May I suggest decreasing the temperature into the medium zone for your next attempt and see if it comes out any better.


Kristilw, Ember is correct. What were you expecting? Next time reduce the temperature by at least 10F, ideally more, and evaluate that. Those steaks were badly cooked because your time and temperature were inappropriate for those steaks. Stiff steaks are overcooked, tough and dry. All that juice in the bags should have been in your steaks. Your procedure did that.

SV likely isn’t for you if you were aiming for well done steak.

If you want a better outcome i suggest you avoid Ball Tip petite steaks and whatever app you used. That’s a fast-fry, or minute steak and the app led you to those sorry results.

If you are cooking for the two of you start with one steak and something thicker, maybe 1 1/2-inch or more. Slice it after searing. Maybe a top sirloin cap steak or an inside blade steak. Both are flavourful cuts, SV cook beautifully, and are frequently at sale prices. Next time apply the steak seasoning after the SV cook before searing.

Since this is an all new cooking method for you, please do some diligent reading on SV technique.

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Thanks for the feedback! I find it interesting that this method isn’t expected to work, given that it came from the Anova app. That leads me to wonder how reliable the guides on the app are. Any thoughts?

Kristilw, the SV method is fine. I’ve used it successfully for over 30 years. The precision it brings to cooking result in repeatable, reliable, cost-effective, and superior outcomes.

I don’t use the Anova app. Thus, i can’t judge the app’s effectiveness but your experience is troubling. The Anova app’s description states Chef Kenji Lopez-Alt developed its recipes and guides. His published work is very reliable. I can’t understand him recommending a 150F cooking temperature for steak.

You don’t relate your expected outcome for those steaks. Did you intend to serve well done steak? Were these steaks “tenderized” or “seasoned”. - ie. pumped with a water solution? If they were that might account for some added moisture loss. With SV you don’t need to buy any such modified cuts of meat, particularly steak.

Based on your experience, if i were you I would consider seeking another source of SV cooking guidance.

I was going for medium-well. 150* was an option for all of the cuts listed, though I had a different cut. Perhaps that was the issue. Interestingly I went back to double check I read the temp right, and noticed the app lists 156* for well done. I added some steak seasoning as the app didn’t indicate that would be a problem and suggested adding salt and pepper. I don’t think the steaks were injected with anything, but it’s possible.

What are the recommended sources for recipes?

In my experience, medium well should be cooked at 145F. This will result in a dry steak that has lost a lot of its juices, just as you saw in the bag. The app appears correct for the degree of doneness you want, but at that temperature SV doesn’t provide you with any benefit. You can cook your steaks quicker, and probably better, without SV.

Your use of the steak seasoning may have resulted in a slightly firmer steak and some unexpected taste, but not much. I think the cut of meat, thiner than recommended for SV, plus the longer time and higher temperature than usually employed were the unfavourable factors.

I am certain you have previously cooked or grilled your steaks medium-well and enjoyed them. Did you check the internal temperature of those medium-well steaks? Or did you judge them done “by-eye” or by-feel? Anyway, i suggest you continue to cook them as you have in the past. You will be a much happier person.

Use your new Anova cooker for tougher cuts that are always cooked well-done, - a piece of brisket, short ribs, eye of the round or a chuck steak.

Serious Eats is Chef Kenji’s web site and has a wealth of SV material in “Techniques”.

In addition to the above by our very experienced friend, I would say that most people that I know who usually want medium-well or well-done steak have truly enjoyed the medium sous vide steak that I have served them.

Many who order medium-well are really only ordering that because they fear ‘bloody’ juices from a steak. The red juices are not blood. If there was any juice left in a medium-well steak it would still have a reddish hue.

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Good point on meat juices and thank you. I won’t serve anything cooked beyond upper medium-rare. I can’t. I just blot up the meat juices and always serve on a hot plate for my well-done guests. The well-done folks accept it and frequently compliment me on the tenderness. But it certainly isn’t well done.

When we lived out on the western prairies folks there cooked steak to the texture of roofing shingles and still offered murmurs of enjoyment. Personal taste is what it is.

In much of life’s experiences, it’s more often anticipation and perception rather than reality that’s important. Forget the degree of doneness label and enjoy.

If all else fails, make a delicious sauce for your steaks. The Serious Eats web site has lots of sound suggestions.

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When sous-videing a new food I go online rather than using the app. There’s always a plethora of recipes. I take an average of the time/temp recommendations. I’m usually satisfied.

As others have said, you need to adjust your time and temp. Spend some time reviewing the Serious Eats Steak Guide. You should try again at a much lower temp for longer, like 135F for 2 hours. I’ve used 131.5 for 2 hours dozens of times and get perfect medium rare every time. You can cook up to medium with a little longer searing, but use YouTube to get some ideas from others. If you truly like your steak med-well to well done, the SV may not be for you.

Keep in mind that temperature is key. For beef between 128 and 131 should be more than sufficient. The sear should only be about 45 seconds per side in a screaming hot pan. Remove from the heat and add butter and thyme. Place back on heat and tip the pan to the side and spoon over the steaks. The sear is quick and will finish the steak at about 136 which is middle of the road medium. Let the steaks rest for about 10 minutes to allow juices to redistribute. Adjust your sous vide temperature for more medium rare around 125 and sear the same manner. I have done this for years with great results.

John has the right of it here, I cook for ppl who like it well done but I ALWAYS cook too 129 for whatever time, rest the steak, them for those who want it well :smile: I sear or bbq the bejesus out of those steaks. Also I give those ppl the less desirable cuts because with well done steaks , they won’t know the difference between a nice cut and a less nice bit.
That may seem rough but good steak deserves a rare cook IMO

Keep salt out of the bag, or anything with salt in it (like steak seasoning.) The salt will draw the moisture out of the meat. Do your seasoning after searing.

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Beyond medium you are not going to get a juicy steak no matter what method of cooking you use. If on top of that you add the searing time (I assume you seared?) it gets worse. If you don’t sear, it might look microwaved or boiled. You have to take the time you sear into consideration. The sear temperature really high so you don’t keep cooking the meat. Of course the type and quality of the meat matters too. An inch thick if you sear after it’s easy to overcook no matter what method you use. I would try a thicker steak. The guide gives correct times for cooking but if you want juicy aim for medium rare 129 for 45 minutes, then sear quickly.

Define “quick”.

30 seconds or so on each side.

Well then that definitely wasn’t a factor. But I’m also in the “sous vide is pointless for medium-well or more” camp.