Grey band around steak despite using sous vide

Hi everyone. I am new here.

I wish to know if there is anybody else out there experiencing the same problem as me. Despite using sous vide at only 129 F. I am still getting grey band around my steaks.

What I have done is I sous vide them, once done I remove them immediately, and I flame torch them using a normal household gas canister and a torch head.

I cut up a few pieces each immediately, initially, 1 of the sirloin was looking great the other piece still looks ok. However after about 5 minutes or so, I cut up the rest of the same sirloin, the interior was entirely grey!

  • Is it I flame torch them for too long?

  • Must I cut them all up immediately after torching them?

  • Does the thickness of the steak determine what temperature of sous vide I have to use? If yes is there a guide somewhere?

I cannot think of any other reasons why when I first cut a few pieces up it looks perfect medium rare but the subsequent pieces were all overcooked, from the same piece of steak.

Thank you all.

Lord, many new SV cooks have had your experience.

For me, problem solving is too challenging without having complete details. With experience you will learn to think more correctly and precisely about your cooking and achieve superior results. For example, how long is “too long”, and what’s “overcooked”? Product inconsistency usually indicates significant variations in technique.

Accurate temperature control is the most significant benefit of sous vide cooking. Do you have a digital thermometer? If not, please get one and use it to measure temperature any time you have an unexpected outcome. It’s the only way you can know and learn from results.

Meat colour is an unreliable temperature indicator. Your various meat colours indicate you applied heat unevenly. It’s impossible for several steaks SV cooked at 129ᴼF to have different colour gradients. Any idea of the cause now?

First, there will always be some greyness at the edge of cooked meat. Your picture indicates the greyness is substantially less than usually encountered in conventional cooking. How much grey can you tolerate?

You indicate you applied a torch to your steaks without mentioning the always necessary meat drying step after SV cooking. If you skipped that step it is easy to over apply torching to wet meat that results in either over cooked or unevenly cooked meat enlarging that dreaded grey band. Those normal gas (propane?) torches are a highly aggressive heat source and require some practice to use effectively. To start, less is usually better.

Here’s a little rule you can learn to ease your introduction to SV cooking. Doneness is determined only by cooking temperature and thickness is always critical to cooking time. Words to live by.

More useful knowledge you need to acquire is at the following link:

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Thank you for your guidance. As a guide, I read that for sous vide to work best, the steak has to be at least an inch thick?

For starters, I have to say that my thickness is inconsistent. I bought the entire slab of sirloin and cut it up myself. Could that be the main reason?

I read that for medium-rare sous vide, it is actually done at 130 F. But I have done it at 129 F yet I am getting overcooked meat. Correction here. I did not gauge by the colour alone but also the bite and texture. My photo, the one on the left is definitely towards medium in terms of bite. I did both steaks at 129F for 2 hours at the same time. And both got me very different ‘colours’ and texture.

I also read that for sous vide, after torching or searing we have to cut them up immediately. Is it true? Will the internal temperature continues to rise if I don’t cut them up immediately after torching and searing? I did pat both sides of the steak dry with a paper towel after I removed them from the SV bags. Even the sides as well.

My frustration here is I keep getting inconsistent results at 129F. Sometimes it is perfect sometimes it is overcooked. I was gunning for medium-rare every time. The only detail I left unchecked is my thickness.

Is leaving the steak out in the chiller overnight gonna help with the sous vide? Or it only applies to searing?

You’re welcome, it’s good to know you found my information useful. You don’t reveal the source of your reading material. I suggest you find more accurate sources that explain the reasons we follow certain SV procedures. At a minimum, you need to use a thermometer and read Baldwin.

No matter how cooked, if you want a delicious juicy steak go thick. 1-inch steaks used to be called Sandwich Steaks so their lesser quality could be hidden by bread and condiments. Instead of 2 thin steaks cook one thick steak for a superior outcome every time. Sear, slice and serve.

Someone once wrote here something about product consistency. Yes, it a useful quality culinary attribute, if not totally mandatory. You can adjust for inconsistency using different cooking times, but do you really want that headache?
Why would you make your cooking so difficult?

Steaking your own meat from sub-primal (wholesale) pieces of meat can be worthwhile. If doing so, you need at least a very sharp 12-inch blade so you can make long strokes resulting in even cuts of the same thickness.

Pieces of meat SV cooked together at 129ᴼF cannot result in both Medium-Rare and "overcooked’ meat. Bite, texture, and colour are all inexact and subjective indicators. Internal temperatures are consistently precise. Measurement provides knowledge.

Remember that your torch is applying temperatures at somewhere from 1,200ᴼF to as much as 3,500ᴼF. Much of that heat will diffuse into your steaks over time. Additional heat is additional cooking. The longer you sear, the more you cook. Please stop considering the SV technique as the cause of your inconsistent results.

If you are going to continue to SV cook 1" steaks you may want to cook them at 125ᴼF for Rare allowing the carryover heat from browning to result in about a 130ᴼF Medium-Rare internal final temperature. It will probably require several attempts at different cooking temperatures and searing time combinations to achieve consistency. Also maintain the same torch to steak distance every time. Many cooks keep the blue point of the flame just barely in contact with the meat for consistency. And maintain a detailed record of every cook so you can enjoy repeated success.

And yes, searing is always best done just prior to service to prevent carryover heat from developing that undesirable grey band. SV cooked meat requires no resting before cutting. SV cooked meat is always temperature stable unlike other cooking techniques.

I may not understand your last two sentences, but i will attempt to answer them. You may want to clarify them.
If you mean does dry brining improve outcomes?
Yes.
Sous Vide is one of many cooking techniques that benefit from salting meat and holding it under refrigeration before cooking. Unsalted and uncovered meat will have an undesirable loss of moisture over time.

Some cooks chill meat after SV cooking and before searing to reduce the heat penetration of browning causing greyness. I don’t, always striving to serve my guests the warmest meat possible.

It is my observation that many cooks confuse charring that adds bitterness with searing or browning that enhances the flavours of the natural meat surface sugars.

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Hi there. Thank you so much once again for your detailed explanation.

So instead of using 1-inch steaks should i be considering 1.5-inch steaks instead?

I believe the source of meat and product consistency is good. It is most likely my cooking methods and I am trying to pinpoint exactly what went wrong.

Yes I do that. I steak my own meat from wholesale pieces of meat. I do have the necessary tools to steak it myself. This is where the problem probably lies. I do not keep to a same thickness for every piece. I only do an estimation by weight and not by thickness.

What I meant is by doing dry brining, will I remove excess moisture from the steaks? The problem here is that when I flame torch one side of the steak, and I flip it around and torch the other side, there will be alot of excess moisture or oil or myoglobin that is oozing out and I will take slightly longer to torch the second side of the steak.

How does dry brining work? I salt them and leave them in the refrigerator. But do I need to cover the meats? Can I just salt them without covering them in the refrigerator?

I did consider leaving the meat to rest before I flame torch them. However I find that it will be too time consuming. I am running a mini butchery and also steakhouse. So time is of essence to me.

Hi @lordknn

Why not try a little experimentation? Cut yourself an inch thick steak and an inch and a half thick steak. Cook both sous vide to your desired level of doneness. Then maybe cut each into two parts. Sear one half of each steak, and leave the other for comparison. You should be able to see how your searing technique is affecting your steaks, and you can compare the inch thick to the inch and a half thick to see which you like best! (And of course once the comparison has been made you can take those unseared pieces and sear them up for eating too! :slight_smile: )
Play around until you get precisely what you want! Once of the great benefits of cooking sous vide is that you can repeatedly cook something just the way you like it…once you’ve figured out how you like it!
Good luck, and be sure and post what you find out if you decide to try this!

My Lord, Mirozen is a seasoned and thoughtful SV cook. You should consider his suggestions and his reasoning that supports them.

You have good questions. Yes, 1.5-inch thick steaks, or thicker, yield better SV cooking results than thin steaks. Successful restaurants rarely use estimation. The best ones are thoroughly systems and standards focused. That’s why we keep detailed records of all menu item testing and outcomes.

Through experience i’ve learned that effective problem solving always requires careful observation leading to identification of a correct probable cause. Corrective action is proven by testing. The only way i know how to continually improve is by systematically eliminating the causes of problems.

I neglected to give you one more important tip that i offer to newcomers here. Successful SV cooking requires you to break with your conventional cooking thinking. Please now think in terms of thickness instead of weight. If necessary, adjust portion size by cutting thick sirloin slices to have uniform cooking times and doneness. Weight doesn’t matter. A 5-ounce steak cooks in the same time as a 16-ounce steak of the same thickness.

Briefly, dry bringing enhances moisture retention in meat by altering meat’s muscle fibre structure. I regret that most of how it works is beyond this cook’s level of scientific knowledge. I am just a simple believer. Under refrigeration, i always place salted meat on a wire rack set over a pan and cover it lightly. And always store meat on the bottom or lower refrigerator shelves, never co-mingling with other foods. FYI, brining is more effective with pork and poultry, particularly turkey.

By now you should be coming to the realization that excessive and uneven torching might be reducing moisture and increasing doneness. As you know, food moisture always moves away from a heat source. High heat also constricts muscle fibres forcing out moistness. Are you forcing moisture out of your steaks by excessive torching? That would account for your observation of the moist reverse side that requires you to apply even more heat increasing your steaks moisture loss. Consider the purpose and result of every action.

Of course time is essential in a restaurant setting. Also, never do anything that doesn’t improve the quality of your guests’ experience. You should know there’s no benefit from resting SV cooked meat because it is already in a state of equilibrium, one of the SV technique’s most significant advantages.

One more little tip to preserve moistness, - fully brown the presentation side of meat and give the reverse side less than half that time.

Do well, and keep safe.

Hi there. Yes, thank you for the suggestion. Was too caught up and didn’t give much thought process. Now I am experimenting with cooking 1-inch steak at 125 F. Let it cool down. And torch them later before serving to see. Not serving them to my customers but to my friends. LOL.

But I also read that cooking them below 130 for too long will run a risk of bacteria building up?

Exactly Lord, good reading and hopefully you are paying attention.

This cat’s ears get all pointy and twitchy when a cook says he wants to let food cool down and wait to finish and serve it later. Somehow i miss the humour in that.

If you would like to have a more informative discussion, please call your local Public Health department and tell them what you plan to do and ask for their opinion.

Hi. Yes couldn’t afford to test it on my customers. So my friends volunteered to. The verdict was anything lesser than 1 inch is indeed too thin. But even 1 inch at 125 F. Cooled down to room temperature. And torched. Turns out to be too rare.

But I feel that for consistency sake I should be letting them cool down to room temperature before I torch them. Only then I be able to produce them at large quantities in one go? Correct me if I am wrong. Because if I torch them immediately after taking them out of the water bath I will not know what is the exact internal temperature before I torch?

Another aspect is that as Asians, for us to eat a 1.5-inch steak is considered too much, that will be around 500 grams which is way too much for us. So I think the trickiest part is how to get a 1 inch steak done in medium rare perfectly.

What exactly is your goal here? Perfectly red/pink with only color on the very outside? Is this simply for presentation?

Looks to me like the issue is in your torch work. Maybe you need a better plan for adding the outside color. What are you using? There are so many options from Home Depot torch to Searzal. If you are going to do this commercially you could try a salamander. At home the cheapest most effective way I have found is a charcoal chimney and a small grate.

What are you using for a torch and with that how much time do you take to do a side of steak?

Do you have a specific preference for torch over say a flat iron or red hot cast iron?

Are you ensuring you have a dry steak?

Have you considered using a coating that aids in speeding up maillard? basic sugar and baking soda? Lactose?

There really are a lot of variables. If you are using low cost beef you probably want to sous vide to 129 for a longer period of time so its edible. Cool. Dry dry dry. Pat some lactose on there. Sear it fast on a charcoal chimney or hot cast iron. Don’t linger.

Lord, please slow yourself down and read to understand all the information we are giving you. 500g is not an appropriate portion size, although it’s commonly served in some countries. It wasn’t suggested. Please read again:

“Instead of 2 thin steaks cook one thick steak for a superior outcome every time. Sear, slice and serve.”

Nothing stated about serving 500 gram portions. A few perfectly Medium-Rare 45g slices attractively garnished might be appropriate for your guests appetite.

Or, ask your meat supplier what he has for an “Airline Steak”. If unfamiliar with the name, they are the steaks commonly served in-flight by airlines, thus the name. They are usually 70g - 75 gram medallion steaks uniformly cut about 3.5 cm thick that can be SV cooked and seared. I’ve seen them as small as 60g.

As Jump suggests, you clearly need to standardize your searing technique. That combined with using correct SV cooking temperatures will result in a superior, consistent , and satisfying menu item.

Do the work.