Steak overcooked and not even completely browned

I always let my steak come to room temperature for about 20 minutes before cooking. After this step was done, I patted the steak dry making sure there was no moisture left on the surface. And then I seasoned it while the pan was getting hot(I turned the heat to highest). When the pan was smoking hot, I added a little bit of grapeseed oil and put the steak in the pan and cooked it for two minutes, each side for one minute.

The final result was the steak being not completely browned, leaving still grayness on the surface. While the steak was like half-browned and half gray on each side, inside the meat was well done. If I had cooked a little bit longer to make sure my steak was evenly browned, then the steak would have been overcooked. Did I miss a step in the whole process?

Hey Frog
Finishing a steak done with the sous vide method requires some knowledge of “the Maillard effect” for obtaining a good sear on your steak. Sounds like your “smoking hot” and really “SMOKIN’ HOT” are different. With the right heat, thirty seconds per side should do it. You might try adding some butter to the pan to help get a good crisp on the outside. (Check out Douglas Baldwin for more info on the Maillard effect.)

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Frog, you might find it helpful to use a surface or contact thermometer that will inform you just how hot is smoking hot. I paid about $5 for one, but that was in the last century. At the high price of meat these days anything that eliminates guesswork usually has a very short payback period.

If you are a big spender an infrared thermometer is quicker and more precise.

Judging from your description some of the steak might not have been in contact with the pan. Sometimes you need to employ a press or even another pan to weight down the steak. Some of this Community also use a foil-wrapped brick. Get that steak flat for even searing.

You don’t reveal the thickness of your steak and that might contribute to your overcooked and uneven colouration. Thin steaks easily curl and overcook.

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My steak was about an inch thick. Is that considered too thin?

That’s right at the limit for success doing everything right. The cat recommends going thicker, up to 3-inches thick, but half that is alright.
For service you serve steak slices on heated plates or platter. I like steak attractively served on a bed of baby spinach. It delicious with the meat juices and none of us really consumes as much dark greens as we should.

Some cuts of steak like NY Strips have a tendency to curl as they cook because that annoying strap of connective tissue beneath the fat contracts more than the meat. A couple a slashes through the fat just down to the meat will minimize the curl.

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While my sous vide device is being shipped, do you guys think it will improve the coloration? Thanks.

Grapeseed oil is not the highest smokepoint oil at 216 / 421 try Avacado oil at 270 / 520 if available

Hi @frog

I’ve always been quite happy with the coloration of the steaks I’ve cooked sous vide. Medium rare is my preference for “doneness”. Don’t forget that when you first cut into the meat it may not look as red as you expect, but once exposed to air it will begin to “redden up”!

As for the browned exterior I use a combination of cast iron skillet over induction burner with a little avocado oil, and sometimes even touch up with a blowtorch as well. I’m usually quite happy with what I get!

You don’t say what temp you SV at? Or did I miss that?
I like mine rare so SV @ 130, cool in fridge actually then sear If its crappy outside and I don’t feel like lighting up the grill.
Of course if you’re doing a nice bit like porterhouse or strip, I think SV is a waste of time. YMMV

I did some fillet steaks a couple of weeks back at 53C and I tried the mayonnaise method, just a thin coating of mayonnaise in a dry hot pan and they browned quickly in the time it took to brush the other side of the steaks with the mayonnaise before turning them over and everyone enjoyed them and couldn’t tell that I had used mayonnaise.

I will definitely be doing it that way again and it may be worth you giving it a try :slight_smile:

Reading your replies it doesn’t sound like you have your sous vide circulator yet - you say it’s still shipping - YES, it will improve the coloration. The whole point is that you cook the cut totally, all the way through, at a low temperature, and then sear it PURELY for the flavor the maillard reaction (browning) lends.

I’m going to echo the call for butter above - unlike straight vegetable oils but similar to mayo, it has a combination of necessary fat and optional sugars, which give you a better brown. (Unlike mayo, I actually keep it in stock.) The other upside of using butter specifically is that you know it’s hot enough when the butter itself starts to brown - since you’ll only need thirty seconds per side, the butter won’t be excessively brown by the time you pull the meat from the pan, and that means it’s a great time to add some mostly-cooked grains or vegetables for a lush side dish, or warm wine to make a pan sauce. If you aren’t sure the grease is hot enough, flick a TINY water droplet at the pan - if it zips off screaming, it’s there.

A little more oil could also help - it doesn’t have to swim, but you want a good puddle, not a thin smear (yet more reason to then soak it up with some sides - I’ve even used plain bread for that if I’m doing a roast as it makes a killer sandwich.) You can use a brick or lid to press the steak into the pan for more even contact with the sizzling surface, but I usually just depress it with the tongs I’m handling the meat with - it’s only a little over a minute of effort, your arms won’t get tired.

Happy cooking!

I mix some dry rub with mayo, and then get both a nice char, and additional flavoring from the rub. The mayo helps hold the rub in place.

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When you say, after a minute on each side the meat was well done, do you mean "well"done as perfect or as in doneness? I only ask because you said any longer sear and it would be overcooked whereas a large percentile of people would consider it already overcooked. Not all by all means, however you like your steak is a personal preference. Am I correct in assuming you did not have a sous vide at the time?

why let it come to room temp for 20 minutes? Meat still cooks while resting. And don’t you want your meat served hot? You’re only searing to brown not heat back up. I let my meat stand for 5 minutes then sear. I do use oil but i also use a press with my cast iron skillet. sometimes no oil and just the press. 30 to 40 sec. should be perfect.

That was going to be my question as well. By 20 minutes the steak has cooled down way too much. And as stated, it’s completely unnecessary as the juices don’t escape in SV as they do with traditional cooking.

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I will try both the methods, thank you.

The doneness.

Yes, you are correct.

Hi @frog

Good clarifications! Regarding the use of butter…in the pan for the sear is something I may need to try myself. But one thing you definitely don’t want to do is put butter in the sous vide bag when you cook it. Butter in the bag will cause your steak to actually lose flavor. Just a heads up in case you hear differently!

Best of luck!

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No one said anything about juices, it’s about allowing the surface to cool slightly to avoid pushing up the internal temp during the sear and overcooking the steak. Although the exterior of the steak may cool significantly the interior will not. And that’s fine, because I’m going to be pushing the exterior temp way up when searing.

No, meat that has been cooked sous vide does not continue cooking after you remove it from the bath (assuming it has been cooked all the way to the centre). That’s why we can keep food in the bath for hours after it’s reached the target temp and it won’t cook any further.

Like frog, I let my steaks sit for 15-20 minutes after unbagging and drying and before searing. None of my guests has ever complained about cool steak (in fact the comment I get most often is “It’s cooked perfectly!”). If you’re concerned about cool food, make sure you’re serving on warm plates.

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Hi Steve

Letting the steak cool a bit to allow a more intense sear without overcooking the interior is a good idea, but I think it takes some experience to determine what length of time to let rest is right for what thickness of meat to get it “just right”. I’ve never let it read for 20 minutes, but I usually for for a 45 second sear on each side at most. I think I’m going to try 20 minutes on an inch and a half thick steak and see how things turn out! :slight_smile:

I’m surprised that none of the replies have mentioned any kind of actual FIRE as the source of the sear. If you have a cast iron frying pan or griddle to use as the “backstop”, a good butane kitchen torch (think “Iwatani” $28) or a more substantial Searz-All ($75), or a Harbor Freight Flame Thrower ($25, plus a propane cylinder) will put a genuine sear on your meat that cannot be beat. You can also use your BBQ grates as the backstop (or even sear over HOT charcoal). Check out the videos on the “Sous Vide Everything” channel on YouTube to see what you’re missing. I LOVE my Flame Thrower!