First timer with questions

Just got my precision cooker.
It’s still in the box but I’m dying to give it a go.
Got a few questions I need to ask and get answered before I mess anything up (I did check, and didn’t see that others had asked them previously).

  • I read a post about putting more than one steak in a bag at a time, and understand that. If I want to SV four steaks, with four different levels of “done”, I need four separate bags, so I can pull them out at different times, correct?
  • Any ideas on what thickness the times/temps provided for a New York strip are? I’ve got some 1/2" thick Waygu (Kobe) that I don’t want to overcook when I’m practicing. Do I halve the time, quarter the time ?
  • Ditto question for a Waygu beef tenderloin steak (filet mignon). IE: thickness for base suggested times/temps is what? 1 1/2", 2", ?
  • Has anyone tried using a propane blow torch to brown the steaks after SV instead of having to clean another frying pan or grill grate, and if so, how is it? (same, better or no different from the pan/grill?)
    Waiting to get going with this SV stuff.

Hi @Newbie-May-2020

Here’s a link to Baldwin’s Practical Guide to Sous Vide

Baldwin has provided in depth information time/temp/thickness, especially in regards to how long to cook to ensure safety.

In regards to using a propane torch for searing their are quite a few folks here who have done this, my self included. It takes a bit of time to sear larger pieces of meat, but in my opinion the more important thing to be careful about is holding the flame back far enough to avoid “torch taste”. You want to keep your torch tip 3 or 4 inches back from your meat to ensure all the propane gas has “burnt” before reaching the steak, and you want to keep the torch moving, as that flame will be REALLY hot!
As with anything practice makes perfect, and don’t be shy about posting your results and asking more questions here! There are some truly knowledgeable folks here that can give great advice that will help you avoid the potential pitfalls!
Lastly, when I got my first Anova I did a couple hour test run just heating a pot full of water and checking that the temperature was accurate and maintained over time. It doesn’t hurt to ensure that the device worked properly before you start entrusting it to cook your food!!!

Good luck!

Welcome, and congratulations on deciding to cook with precision. It’s good that you are thinking before cooking as there’s some difference from conventional cooking and SV. I will attempt to address your questions in order and maybe change the way you think about cooking.

  1. Yes, you can pull them out at different times, but they will all be cooked to the same degree of doneness.
    Doneness is temperature dependant.
    Length of cooking time depends on thickness and expected tenderness, - often product dependant. If you have 4 separately packaged steaks and cook them together at 130ᴼF (55ᴼC) they will all be cooked to Medium-Rare becoming progressively more tender the longer they are cooked. That’s a basic tenet of SV cooking.

  2. I won’t ask why you would practice on a that ultra-premium cut of meat. Rather than try to match thickness to times/temps consider setting those factors according to the product being cooked and your expected outcome. Steaks that thin when SV cooked can be disappointing depending on your preferred doneness. ( i say there’s only 3 ways to cook a good steak; Rare, Medium-Rare, or Badly. And i won’t do badly.)
    Thickness is critical in setting time.
    Temperature is critical in selecting doneness.
    Thin steaks can be precisely SV cooked. Browning without ruining them is challenging without practice.

Remember you are cooking with a precision cooker. You don’t reveal your expected precise degree of doneness so a precise answer is impossible. You say you don’t want to overcook so it must be somewhat important to you.

May i suggest you refer to Baldwin in the selection of time/temps rather than accept someone else’s base suggested preferences?

Mirozen answered you torch question along with a lot of useful advice. Professional cooks use purposed designed butane torches to brown cooked meat when finishing one or two at a time because butane is a cleaner fuel. Pipes aren’t fussy about what is used to heat them.

When serving a group this cook prefers to use a cast iron pan or griddle so many steaks can be quickly browned simultaneously. I prefer the naturally sweet taste of just browned seasoned meat over the often bitter charred flavour resulting from excessively high temperature finishing.

You ask, is one browning method better? That’s a matter of personal taste. You need to think more about your flavour expectations.

Do the work and stay well.

I have tried all of the searing methods (except Searzall) and I too find that I like cast iron or black steel pans.

Additionally, what I like about using the pan is that we like to finish the steaks by basting them in browned butter often adding thyme, garlic or rosemary. This is especially useful when finishing and eating the tougher leaner cuts that have been cooked for a long time to tendorize them.

Another tip when cooking steaks to reduce the warmup time is to use hot tap water. Hot water from the tap should be at 120°. The unit only needs to heat the water ten degrees or so.

Thanks to all, for your answers/comments - very helpful.

I’m going to order Baldwin’s book - I suspect that will be very informative.

I think cast iron is the way to go for searing. Previously, whenever I’ve cooked a filet mignon, I’ve always seared it in a cast iron pan on both sides for about 3 mins, then the edges for 30 secs, and then stuck it in a 350 F oven for 12 mins. Always worked fine but wasn’t pink from edge to edge which I should get with SV.

I was having a tough time getting my head around the temp vs time thing with SV vs cooking the traditional way but I think I’m getting the idea of SV now.
Unlike usual cooking methods where a rare steak is left heating for less time than a med-well steak, with SV, it’s the temperature that decides whether it’s rare or med-well, and not the time.
So what do you do when you have someone who wants a med-rare, and someone who wants a med-well? Do I need two precision cookers, cooking at different temps?

I’m going to give it a shot this weekend with a couple 3/4" thick, 8-10 oz NY strip steaks.
If I’m going to bugger it up the first time, I don’t want it to be with a couple lovely pieces of filet mignon.

Thanks again.

No you do not need two different cookers just two different bags in the same bath.
Set the temperature for the medium well and place it in the bath for an hour then reduce the temperature to the one for medium rare, keeping the medium well in then after an hour they will both be OK.

Look at using mayo for searing in a pan too :grinning:

All Newbies have the same challenge, to become a competent SV cook you need to consciously break with conventional cooking knowledge and experience. Your old way of thinking won’t fit with your new technique.

First step: practice precision thinking when using your precision cooker. Pink is not a precise SV stage of doneness. What internal temperature was attained in your filet mignon? It will be your temperature set point for that menu item. Don’t know, - then start thinking now about temperature before every SV cook.

Second step: thickness effects time.

SV steaks 1/2-inch thick are a challenge to precisely cook and 3/4-inch thick aren’t much easier because of the additional heat in browning them. Would you consider cooking a 1 1/2-inch thick steak and slicing it for service? You will have a more precise result.

> So what do you do when you have someone who wants a med-rare, and someone who wants a med-well? Do I need two precision cookers, cooking at different temps?

One cooker is enough for most folks. I’ve already told you what i will do and won’t do. However, since you ask you likely already know that the temperature for Medium-Well doneness is 150ᴼF.

Step one, overcook that steak at 150ᴼF according to its thickness. Then reduce water temperature to 130ᴼF for Medium-Rare and cook according to thickness. You can leave the badly cooked steak in the water. It can’t get cooked any more at the lower temperature. It is done precisely to Medium-Well. Always start with the higher cooking temperatures and go progressively lower in temperature and doneness.

Or, - you might just want to cook the Medium-Well steak conventionally in a pan when the Medium-Rare steak nears the end of its cooking time.

Regular Community members can stop reading here as you have read the following far to often for it to be a worthwhile use of your time.

To assist Newbies in anchoring their growing competence in SV cooking i recommend maintaining a SV cooking journal. That’s a detailed record of every SV cooking experience so you can replicate your successes and know what not to do again.

Record by date the following details:

  • name of the menu item or cut of meat,
  • frozen or fresh
  • thickness
  • cooking temperature
  • length of cooking time
  • degree of satisfaction. Did the outcome meet your epectations? Be critical and record suggestions for improvement.

Using this method will enable you to develop a personal set of proven recipes that will precisely meet your expectations.

Do the work, and stay well.

Thanks again, to you both.

This forgetting the conventional way of cooking is definitely the hard part.
I wouldn’t want a steak done med-well or well either - it was just an example, as I try to figure stuff out.
Conventional cooking tells me that if I leave a steak in the pan for far too long, it’ll eventually turn into a slab of beef jerky.
It’s just weird that with SV, I can cook a steak for an extra hour, and it doesn’t keep cooking. That part boggles my mind, but I’ll get over it.

It may take a while but this old dog is going to learn the new trick !

The thing that really can weird you out is knowing that if you ended up leaving that steak in the bath at 130F for 24 hours and took it out it would STILL be medium rare - it would still be good though it would be what most consider “over tender” for a steak.

For my first shot at SV, I think this one turned out pretty darn good.
It’s not perfect but it’s a good start.


Congratulations, nicely done.

What time and temperature did you select?

I used Baldwin’s chart, so it was 140 F for 1 1/2 hrs, for a 1 1/4" thick tenderloin filet.
I think next time, I’ll try 135 F, and if more time is supposed to make it a little more tender, maybe I’ll add 30 mins to the cook time, just to get a feel for what different times, and temps do to the texture/tenderness (IE: I’ll experiment a little bit)…

As you experiment I would suggest keeping track of cut of meat and the grade. These also factor into your time/temperature settings. It does look really good. When I do steaks I also try and remember that not everything needs to be as tender as a filet.

John makes a useful point. Baldwin’s charts provide you with the heating time for meat based on thickness, usually not the actual cooking time. That depends on your judgement, experience and personal preference which of course is the purpose of keeping your journal so you will repeat your successes and improve the almosts.

Heat energy doesn’t know if you are cooking filet mignon or chuck steak, but you certainly wouldn’t cook them for the same length of time.

Don’t slip back into conventional thinking now, The proposed addition of 30 minutes won’t make much of a difference at 135ᴼF. You will soon discover that it takes a 50% change in time to make a slight, barely noticeable physical difference in chew. A 100% change in time will make a noticeable change. That’s why you will notice many cooks here use some lengthy times, often several days, that you never would have considered before SV.

Good suggestions, and pointers on the cooking times - that’s stuff I didn’t know.

Any reinforcement on non-coventional cooking thought, is very much appreciated.
It’s a battle I’m not losing but I’m not winning yet either.

You’ve got me thinking.
I’ve always liked a center cut, butterfly (boneless) pork chop but they’re always dry as all hell, and tough when they come out of a frying pan, no matter if you try to sear them quickly on both sides, and then cook at a lower temp.
With SV, I should be able to cook them longer, and they’ll get somewhere closer to tender than they’ve ever been in a fry pan?

And two more questions:

  1. what do people use to stop the meat in the vacuum sealed bags from floating around or up? I read something about a wire grid, but when I try to put a 9" dia SS wire baking cooling grid into the 10" pot, there’s no room for the Anova. I suppose I could cut a notch out of the wire grid but if there’s a better way…
  2. what do most people use to SV cook in? A big pot, a large pressure cooker bottom, or ? I saw a video of someone using a glass or plexiglas type cube, which looked interesting.

Thanks once again.

Winning requires knowledge and experience combined with your i-can-do-this attitude.

Pork chops can be challenging because most contemporary pork is bred to have excessively (to me) lean meat. There likely wasn’t much marbling in your pork chops. Think about those chops, butterflying doubles the surface area facilitating overcooking and evaporation resulting in dryness, more so if thinly cut. Searing to start gets them well along the road to over doneness. When cooking conventionally do you use a digital thermometer?

Pork chops benefit significantly more from SV than filet mignon.

  1. Problem solving starts with diagnosing and resolving the cause. Meat in a vacuum sealed bag won’t float. You are treating the problem rather than the cause. Air in the bag results in uneven cooking by insulating the meat from the heated water. Fix the problem. There will be some gassing when cooking meat at relatively high temeperatures, usually over 155ᴼF. Some cooks add weights to the cooking bag or double bag and place the weight in the outer bag. Smooth, clean river rocks or pie weights work well. Remember to tumble the meat occasionally to move the air bubble during high heat cooks.

  2. I am unaware of any survey of SV cooking vessels used by the majority of people. Most cooks start with what they already have. Stock pots or Dutch ovens are frequently mentioned here. Large Lexan food storage boxes are used in many commercial kitchens and increasingly in home kitchens. Cambro and Rubbermaid are popular brands. Anova sells their own design too.

For long cooks some cooks use injection molded insulated plastic chests, - picnic coolers. Party Stackers are particularly popular. Many use a 2 3/8" circular saw to cut a hole in the insulated lid for the circulator.

Frank and I are old enough to remember pork before it became the “next white meat”. Breeding and feeding has greatly reduced the quality of pork in my opinion. Growing up we raised beef and chickens supplemented with fresh seafood and pork was a welcome treat. Today I rarely serve pork chops at home. We will on occasion have a tenderloin but it is always stuffed with Boursin cheese or sauced.

I have a couple of Cambros that I will use for larger items. I also use a big soup pot for many cooks. If you use a pot remember to place it on a folded towel to insulate it. I have heard stories of cracked counters where they did not do this. I have found that covering the container significantly reduces evaporation during longer cooks. What ever you use make sure the water is free to flow all around the item.

I agree. There has never been ANY marbling (at least not that I can see without a microscope) in my center cut port chops. It’s all meat alright, and I guess that’s what makes it tough. They’re nothing like a pork tenderloin, which at least has some. I use a digital thermometer but usually only with roasts or items on the smoker.
My bags for the filet mignons were vacuum sealed, and were done nowhere near 155 F, so i suspect some dips and raised areas of the meat didn’t get vacuumed out properly.Next time I’ll give them a little press down so the meat is right against the plastic bag, before hitting the vacuum and seal button.Hopefully that’ll do the trick. If not, I’ll use the dry setting instead of moist (and clean up the mess in the sealer later), and that should do it.

I’m going to give some center cut pork chops a shot, and see if I can’t get them to be a little more tender.

I’ve ordered the Anova SV cooking container. I like the idea of being able to see the food throughout the cooking process, and I can’t fit a half rack of ribs in a 10" dia pot, plus that one looks good to boot. And it’s got a cover, which John mentioned, will reduce/stop evaporation…

OK, this may be a kiss of death statement but after only my second SV cook, I’m starting to think this stuff is easy.

Granted I’ve only done a filet, and now a burger, but so far, so good.
Did this ¾” thick, 8 oz, 5” dia, Waygu beef burger patty, from frozen (because I forgot to defrost earlier), at 145 F for 1 ¼ hours.

I figured 145 F would get me to medium well, which it did, but that’s not really what I wanted.
I’m happy with it though.
I wanted medium but was afraid of the whole idea of cooking from frozen, so erred on the side of more done than less. I guess that was the conventional cooking thing, kicking back in.
I’m slowly realizing that if I do it SV at 145 F it’s going to be medium-well, period !
Next time I’ll just trust SV, and do it at 140 F.

Next up, baby back ribs done SV, and then put on the smoker, and a couple center cut pork chops.

I think you’ve got it now. Good thinking.

Baldwin has a table for heating from frozen.

Keep well.