Regarding seasoning and searing...

Hello folks,

I am new to Sous Vide cooking, but a long-time griller. I have been browsing the recipes all night and find a lot of inconsistency regarding seasoning. For example, I saw a nice-looking steak recipe that calls for 7 hours on the bag with no seasoning… just the meat. Then, adding the seasoning just for the 2 - 5 minutes of searing. Is that typical?

Do you guys season the meat while on the Sous Vide, or add it later?

Also, any tips for searing steaks and pork on a 425 degree grill (pre-heated for 10 mins)?


You can season in the bag or only before the sear, it’s up to you. I go back and forth, but generally speaking, I find that

  1. USDA (graded beef) select and some iffy choice benefits from seasoning in the bag.
    1.5) don’t fark up prime steak and such with spices in the bag.
  2. Beef and lamb roasts benefit greatly from the long cook with herbs in the bag
  3. Beef steaks are typically cooked for 2 hours give or take and that’s not long enough for beef to pick up much unless you pour the herbs and spices in the bag.
  4. Pork is a different story. Commercial pork is so lacking in flavor that it needs all the help it can get and any spices in the bag will help.
  5. Chicken - commercial, see pork above times 10. Recommend drowning in sauce too.
  6. Air chilled chicken and heritage pork (ie: Duroc) - much better flavors, back off the spices. They actually taste like they should.
  7. Commercial lamb like the stuff imported from NZ isn’t bad but it’s a bit bland for me and needs spices in the bag. Local lamb, or mutton will hold it’s own - any spices in the bag are to enhance it, not give it some flavor.

Even if you forget all of that, remember this one thing:
When pulling the meat from the bag, dry it off, then season it, then sear it.

That will make all the difference. Otherwise, you are steaming the meat.

Hope that helps some.

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Thanks @acs !
Reading carefully at your points… it seems like almost always you DO season in the bag. Regarding your point “1.5”… does that mean to take it easy on the spices in the bag?

When I grill, I actually brush a little bit of olive oil (with minced garlic) before I cook it. Here I have read a lot about the opposite - drying the meat. Any tips on how to actually do that in practice?

Appreciate the help and will share my first meal!

Spices in the bag, and how much, depend on what I’m cooking. I was giving more situations where I would use it, and less examples of where I wouldn’t.

Regards to # 1.5, yeah, with prime or better beef I put hardly anything in the bag. A little garlic and some oregano and red pepper flakes, that’s about it. Been meaning to try some with a bit of crumbled blue cheese to get that unique nutty flavor to permeate, but just haven’t gotten to it yet.

This applies to any quality meat / cut. As much as I like in your face spices, I don’t believe in screwing up things like prime beef, local lamb, heritage pork etc… with over spicing it and hiding the flavor of the meat. Mass commercial meat has been breed for profit, not flavor for so long, it’s easy to lose sight of this.

Drying the meat means dry it as it comes out of the bag. You are drying off the water based juices. Olive oil and garlic after the drying is great.

Tend to think it’s all really personal preference and whether or not you believe that anything other than the salt will actually enhance the meat in anyway.

I rarely add anything to the bag and frequently don’t salt and pepper before cooking. Anything other than the salt is only a surface treatment, it might flavour the fluids from cooking, but that’s about all. Still some habits are hard to break.

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Just in case you were actually asking what to do specifically for drying - paper towels. Dab, rather than rub if you want to preserve any crusting of materials that may have occurred in the bag - rub if you want to get all of that off, so you have the clean meat exposed for further treatment before doing the sear.

As to a 425F BBQ - there you’ve got me - I’ve been of the opinion that, that’s not hot enough to do a good sear (I have a Weber electric grill that’s just north of that for peak). I’ve been toying with the idea of doing a longer chill in an ice bath to cool the cooked sous vide steak to the core (half an hour should do it), then see how it does on a grill at that lower temperature. (these grills are great for everything BUT steak) :frowning: but that’s where sous vide and a blistering hot cast iron pan come to the rescue.

If you try that before I do, please post your results!!! :slight_smile:

Edit…heh…I was presuming you weren’t talking Celsius…if you were, well, you have my envy. :slight_smile:

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Definitely a personal preference. I season the meat before the cook - and sometimes add a little more after (because I am addicted to garlic powder and I can never have enough of it :wink:).

btw…trying the above experiment tonight. Heh. Not super-optimistic about the results, but there WAS a good sale on striploins and hey, it’s steak…it’s not like we really mind eating our mistakes. :slight_smile:

Also have my trusty Searzall handy, in case I’m not super-excited about the result - pretty sure I can salvage it, with my torch on the grill (that should be fun) :slight_smile: Won’t smoke up the apartment, as it’s all out on the balcony.

I’ve done the striploin at 130F for 2 hours, then 30 minutes in the ice bath. The Weber Q2400 electric grill’s been pre-heating for quite awhile now (thought I was giving it an hour…then remembered the ice bath time…oops) :slight_smile: Should be very warmed up. (not sure where my oven thermometer went…lost in one of my moves…will pick one up soon so I can quantify top temp on the electric BBQ).

More to come…

Ok, now I’m eating my words :smile: And VERY glad to be doing so!!!

The steak was absolutely glorious!!! :slight_smile:

Seasoned, pre-cook:

Cooked on the electric grill - precisely 1 minute per side, alternating each side and angle (so 4 minutes total on the grill).

And one pic showing how the sear didn’t impact the doneness of the steak:

Now, to be fair…I DID take those two halves and put them back on the grill and used my Searzall to crisp up that fat on the edge (another one minute per side, careful to not use the torch on my ceramic grill).

Now I’m disappointed it wasn’t a rib steak…it was over far too quickly!!! :frowning:

Reminder: Per my prior post, there’s a 30 minute ice bath between the sous vide cook and the grilling - so you cool the steak sufficiently, so there isn’t considerable cooking, only searing, in a short duration of grilling on a lower-temp BBQ.

P.S. (8 days later) - finally picked up an oven thermometer to test - the Weber Q2400 (at least mine, being a year old) only gets to 240C / 464F at peak temperature, so you have an idea of what alternatives you could try for an even better sear. :slight_smile:

P.P.S. (a few days after that) - Weber support tells me that the max temp for the Q2400 should be as much as 550F. Working with them towards a resolution.

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Hey guys!!

Thanks for the tips… My level of confidence rose very quickly, and I am here to post results! I was a little afraid because I was cooking 6 steaks at once and pushed the higher limits of the “recommended” size for the water pot - but they turned out AMAZING. To be safe, I cooked them “medium” (139.5F) for about 2.5 hours.

  1. I seasoned the meat with salt - very thoroughly - and a little bit of pepper (the pepper because old habits die hard).

  2. After seasoning each side, I added a few thyme branches and had to cook 2 steaks per bag so it would all fit in.

  3. I used a glass pot with weights (on the outside of the bag, of course) holding the bottom of the bags down, clips holding them on the top and the surface of the water covered with ping pong balls. (A pretty nice started kit from Amazon)

  4. I pre-heated the grill with all burners on high and got it over 600F. It’s a Weber Spirit 3 series… I used the cast-iron attachment that grill comes with, and I used it to give the meat a crunch. I wish I took a picture of the inside of the steaks because even thou they look pretty dark here, they were ridiculously soft and tender!

Just before placing each steak on the hot iron pan attachment, and right after drying them, I used covered them in my olive oil based seasoning with a BBQ brush. It’s basically a mix of salt, pepper, garlic (by chopping fresh cloves), cumin and smoked paprika. The key for me is to not overdo it.

They were fantastic…


Well, that’s dumb. I posted a picture of every single step, but I guess “new users” can only post 1 picture per post.

I would recommend that in general, to season the meat prior to putting in the bag and into the water. Part of the process to salting is that it creates an absorbent layer at the crust of the meat, keeping the juices locked in between the top and bottom layers of the steak(or any other meat). Think about the brining process of pork; instead of simply rubbing salt on the outer layer, you’d ideally submerge the pork in salt and water to evenly distribute the solution and create a more juicy, moist and flavorful product with each bite. Because the Sous Vide process doesn’t allow moisture or liquid to escape the vacuum, the precooking salting process is in a way replicating the brine at a macro level. When you Sous Vide meat, it will release some of the collagen and other tasty liquid that is normally lost during conventional cooking methods. The precook salting allows the meat’s juices to mix with it, imitating a brining method while the meat reaches your ideal temp so that it evenly distributes the salted solution.

I suppose the best method would be to experiment with the process yourself, maybe trying 3 different bags of the same type of meat. One that is salted prior to SV, a second that is salted midway or towards end of the SV process, and a third that is salted solely after the Sous Vide and about the hit the smoking hot pan.

Also another suggestion for the grilling method, have you tried cooking directly on charcoal? I figure you may be using a gas grill, but if you use a charcoal grill some people like to cook the meat directly on the coals, which I can attest to providing an amazing charred crust.

Good Luck!!

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Hmm that’s weird - you should be able to publish multiple photos in one post. Lemme check on the settings for that. Gaahhhhh.

I have salted pre-sous vide and have salted only pre-sear and can honestly say I find little or no difference either in flavour or juiciness.

Hey @JustinS

The steaks were so amazing with my method, from a flavor perspective (they could have used better searing at the end) that I won’t mess with it. I will continue season of salt/pepper before the bag and add a few small condiments after and prior to the sear! (It’s because old habits die hard @Ember ) :slight_smile:

Yea @AlyssaWOAH not sure what the deal is :frowning:

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Actually, the searing is something that you SHOULD be playing with. :slight_smile: That is, trying to find the perfect temperature and oil for each application (might be a good idea to keep a diary / notes for this aspect) :slight_smile:

I’ve been a big fan of getting my cast iron pan blistering hot and using avocado oil to produce the absolute minimal layer of sear (being the hottest) when I cook my steaks, but I also would love to be able to produce a more traditional (less blackened) sear…something a little more savoury and appealing.

You want to play around with a lot of different oils - using their smoke points to complement the searing temperature that you’re targeting (as well as their flavour complementing your meat).

Google “cooking oil smoke point” and you’ll get a plethora of sites with different (often conflicting) information. I’m a big fan of my avocado oil - much reputed to have the highest smoke point, but the folks over at serious eats think differently. :slight_smile: Take what you read with a grain of salt and use your own experiments to determine fact from fiction. :slight_smile:

The Anova blog has a very good table on oil smoke points for searing.

I dry brine my steaks 24hrs ahead usually. Any less than that I see subtle differences. Any aromatics left in there will also be more well absorbed into the meat. Just a few drops of juice left in the bag and the steak WAS really moist and tender. Read somewhere the salt also help breaks down the protein in the process… For fish, only 30 minutes dry brining is required though longer time will not mess it up.

I agree that sometimes it’s about experimenting. My friend (who taught me about Sous Vide) actually grills the pork for a little while on high temperature after Sous Vide and the meat is still absurdly delicious… Even thou everything I read online says the sear needs to be super hot AND quick.

I’ve tried seasoning before and after. To me there is no difference. The taste is the same. I now season after the water-bath. Herbs need to cook at high temperature before really coming to taste. Hotter than the bath.
Fresh garlic even seems to be unsafe at the temperatures we cook meat with the Anova.

For searing I use a clarified butter. You can get this much hotter than butter or Olive oil.
Ghee is a good clarified product. Here in Holland we have a product called Chroma. This is a lot cheaper than Ghee and does the job perfectly.
I also use my Weber grill. It’s a baby Weber. I turn in on high at least 15 to 20 minutes prior to searing. When I put the meat in I turn the gas down to about 180 degrees Celsius. Works perfectly and gives a more BBQ’y flavour.
Eat well and enjoy!