I have been thinking about buying one of these Anova Cookers for some time and have finally taken the plunge!
Having ordered the cooker I thought I would get prepared and brought some lovely looking thick steaks from Costco. Last night I vacuum packed them and placed them in the freezer in anticipation. However I decided to get ahead of the game and look at what was involved once it arrived, just so excited… But finding some temp details and timings for a UK Sirloin cut has not been easy, in fact I have seen some negative comments about the Sirloin! Have a made a beginners error? Have I brought the wrong cut? How can I get the best from these tasty looking hunks of meat? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Also can any give me some advice on browning the steaks? Should I use a Cast Iron pan on invest in a Blow Torch, there seems to be quite some debate on the best results and for how long I should do this for. Thanks in advance C
Welcome aboard Chris.
There’s no wrong cut of meat that i know of, only wrong or inappropriate cooking techniques. There’s rarely any cost to asking about the details of any meat you buy, take advantage of it at the store.
If i remember correctly UK Sirloin might be cut from the outside top of the hind leg. I could be wrong, often am. If so it’s a well exercised muscle and will require a long cook to make it tender. 24 hours at your desired degree of doneness temperature would be a safe guestimation.
If it is a sirloin sirloin; that is, cut from the backside end of the long loin you have significantly more tender hunks so you will cook according to thickness. While you await the Royal Post’s delivery take advantage of this interval and read as much of Doug Baldwin’s valuable information as you can stand. I recommend buying his book to have his proven recipes. It’s an excellent investment that will provide you with a payback many times over.
On searing your steaks, there’s quite some debate because tastes vary considerably. What do you enjoy or i should say, “How much do you enjoy?”
An almost black, thick, semi-bitter and crisp crust is best obtained with a torch.
A cast iron pan suits me as i prefer a well seasoned thin external layer of meaty brownness. I preheat it to at least 450F, usually higher, and flip the meat at 30-second intervals, less for thin cuts. That way you can monitor progress. You don’t want to sear your steaks for so long that you alter doneness.
You also ask how long.
Competent cooks always think in terms of time-and-temperature. Using a torch at 1200F moves things along quicky and provides instant visual feedback so you are in control.
I advise against using a “blow torch” as they are fuelled with propane and can deposit nasty tasting oily flavoured bits from incompletely burned gasses. The industry standard flavourless butane torches are widely available from kitchen supply stores and on line.
They are your steaks, sear them to suit yourself.
One more item.
Sous Vide cooking requires you to adapt to a new way of thinking about cooking. Try freeing yourself from slavishly following recipes. Cook your meals the way you like. Think about it.
Make your own cookbook by keeping a journal for every SV cook recording the item, its thickness (not weight), temperature, and length of time. Most importantly, record you judgement of the outcome and note any adjustments you would use next time. My objective is to help you become an ever-better cook.
thanks for all the information, that’s amazing and I will have a good read of all you have said and have a good look at Doug Baldwin’s website. There is something wonderful about a online community when people, like your good self, take time out to help the newcomers and the uninitiated. cant thank you enough and hopefully your your advice will allow me to find my way with this new way of thinking and cooking. I can’t tell you how excited i am to get going and try my first attempt and I will let you and all know how I go on. Thanks again, it’s really appreciated.
"Try not, do. ", and enjoy.
When I started out the more I read the more confused I got. Basically I decided to take a temperature first approach. I cooked most meat at 60 degrees, which worked for me with beef, but I didn’t like the lamb found it pappy. Lamb however is perfect for me at 65 degrees. While the online guides are great its down to you to find the temperature that works for you, don’t be afraid to experiment and a few degrees can make a difference.
If I was cooking a sirloin joint I would go for 60 degrees and start late at night or early in the morning, cook for the day and then give it a blast in a 220 oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
When cooking a steak I would cook it for 1 1/2 hours or 3 if frozen again at 60 degrees, and finish under the grill.
Thanks for the advice, I think I’m starting to realise it will be trial and error to start with. Once I have had a go I will learn more as I go I am sure. So nice to find people who are happy to pass on their knowledge, I am sure it will all be of use in the future and I will refer back once I am up and running. Thanks again.
Hey @chatnoir @brenndav Just a little update for you on my first cook! Having read lots and watched lots of video I actually got some time to myself this last weekend and decided to get this steak cooked. Having set up my Anova
I was ready to go, I decided after much deliberation to cook the steak at 129F for 2 hours. and then use a Blow Torch for searing. I did season the meat before vacuum packing. At two hours I dried the meat and used the aforementioned blow torch. The finished steak looked like
Well what can I say, it was very tasty, and without doubt the best steak I have ever managed at home. However that said I have also learnt a few things.
I think I need a box, or a larger container, it just so happened I was eating alone on this occasion but I’m not sure my Stock Pot would be big enough for more than one steak.
I don’t think I need to do this at 129F it could have been rarer for me, and I’m still unsure on the timing, could I have cooked it for a shorter time? I have seen instruction from 1 hour for this type of steak, but if the question of timing is irrelevant, within reason; would this actually make any difference?
I don’t like the blow torch! It all seemed to end up a little dry and seemed to be very time consuming. I think I will have to next invest in a good cast iron skillet and some Avocado Oil. If this is only a minute each side I am sure this would be quicker, and i can add a bit of butter to get a bit more juice involved.
All in all a success I feel, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing and I just wanted to thank you for you help and assistance along the way
As far as timing, for anything less than 129F I wouldn’t go over 2 hours. The time for tender steak cuts needs to be enough to bring it to temperature equilibrium (same temp as the bath) which can be estimated at 30 mins per half inch of thickness at the thickest point. Beyond that you will see little increase in tenderness at this temperature until you’re approaching 6 - 8 hours,
With regard to searing, always dry the meat well before you apply the heat for searing. It matters not if this heat is by way of torch or cast iron. The Maillard reaction can not commence until such time as the steak is dry. Applying torch to a steak that has been patted dry will be much more effective than applying it to a wet surface.
Patting the steak dry is essential if you’re looking to sear your steak in a pan. Failure to do so will result in the steak stewing until such time as the moisture evaporates. This can mean that the steak will over cook before the sear is satisfactory.
Hi @Ember Thanks for getting back, and thanks for the advice on timing. With regard to the searing I did indeed dry the steak prior to using the blow torch but as I mentioned I felt like the whole process only dried the meat more, and I feel that searing in a pan with a little butter could only add to the juices. Maybe I am missing the point but the thought of a little “Sauce” over the steak at the end would be a definite improvement.
Good going Chris, and thank you for sharing the details of your first cook. Your pictures are very helpful.
You stock pot appears to be about the minimum size you would want to be useful for just a few portions.
Your steak appears to be right at the low side of medium rare to me. Judging doneness can be quite subjective. It’s mostly up to you.You say it could have been rarer, so for your next steak try 125F. That’s about the mid-point of rare for me. The next stop on your journey would be 120F to 122F for very definitely rare. Use thickness as your timing guide as Ember suggests. If you are buying good quality meat you can cook at the low end of a time range.
As you discovered the extremely high heat of the torch quickly cooks the meat’s surface both evaporating the meat’s juices and driving them deeper into the meat. That’s why i prefer a few quick flips on a very hot cast iron pan as i find i have better control and flavour development without a burned taste. It really comes down to your preference for appearance and flavour.
See my suggestion to Bill Lynch two days ago, - “Where’s the Juice”, for a finishing sauce.
I would not reduce your timing of two hours given the size of the meat your cooking. Remember your using your Anova to get your meat to your target temperature throughout. Drop the temperature if you want it rare. Then use a skillet or broiler oven to quickly get the right look for your steak.
Hey @Ember @chatnoir @brenndav Many thanks for all the advice. If there is one thing that screams out at me as I read back over the messages, it is that maybe I am getting a little confused! Am I looking for tenderness or rareness? It is a while ago now but about 18 months ago the good lady her indoors and I treated ourselves to a meal at a steak house. This was the huge turning point for me. The steak I had that night, I think it was fillet, was melting on the mouth, it was medium rare and so soft I was stunned by it and nothing has come close since. What I should have done was ask more about the cooking and the quality of the meat. Was it down to the quality? Was it down to how it was cooked? I suppose this is my quest, to try, to recreate that at home. So is it tenderness I assume it might be.
But thanks to all for setting me on this route, I am sure it is what we are all striving to achieve and as @chatnoir has so eloquently said “Try not, do” and I will continue.
OK. Rareness is the done-ness of a steak, or the amount of pink/red/or blue (if you’re into really rare). This is a product of the internal temperature of the steak. In sous vide terms it is the cooking temperature of the bath. In the terms of a grilled steak it is the inside temperature at which you stop cooking.
Tenderness is a different thing altogether.Tenderness can be impacted by:
- the age of the beast before it was slaughtered
- the time that the carcass was hung before being cut down and cooked
- where on the beast the cut comes from
- and when cooking the conversion of collagen to gelatin
The last one is what people are talking about in sous vide processing when they say ‘time for tenderness.’ This is a product of time at temperature. The conversion process happens more slowly at lower temperatures, but does happen as low as 130F. As the cooking temperature goes up the conversion happens more and more quickly.
The pieces sold as ‘steak’ are naturally tender cuts as they are low work muscles.
Candj23, your quest is a significant one as that steakhouse had a few distinct advantages that you don’t likely enjoy. That operator probably bought premium meat from a specialized vendor that aged it far beyond what is typically available in most grocery stores or butchers. That provides more tenderness and flavour. Some steakhouses age the meat they buy even more to achieve a specific flavour profile and degree of tenderness, but most can’t afford the space and cost.
You should also consider some other distinctive advantages a steakhouse has that add to your challenge. There’s the environment, typically with soft lighting, good seating, and flattering candlelight to comfort the guest. Next, you are being competently served which adds to your comfortable feelings. Also consider the satisfying appetizers, side dishes, and special desserts you might have had that further added to the quality of your experience.
You might be surprised to learn that the cost of the meal also favourably impacted you. People enjoy spending a lot of money. It makes them feel good because it releases endorphins in the brain. When i was operating restaurants i set my prices above all my competition. It was my most successful marketing secret as it drew the customers i wanted to attract and retain on a regular basis.
So you see there was a psychological advantage that steakhouse had in addition to that competently cooked piece of meat. You can approach it if you do everything you can to enhance your total dining experience at home. You may even do better with practice and constant attention to every detail.
Again, - “Try not, do.”
And be delighted with your success.
Frank, your comment here really caught my eye and reminded me of something my Great Aunt told me years ago. She said her husband, my Uncle George, had been a meat cutter back in the 30’s, 40’s, and 50’s (actually a very well to do meat cutter who owned a good sized business…but I digress! ) and he loved to eat steak. He would bring home steak that was “better than Prime”. I think she was describing exactly what you’re talking about here. Meat that has had extra care taken in it’s selection and handling can help provide an extra special eating experience!
@chatnoir Indeed they do, I have a similar story of my time working in retail in Oxford Street London, but totally unrelated to food…
All that has been said is fascinating and a real insight to the goal I am striving to achieve. It looks like I have my work cut out and I may have to settle for a bloody good steak and save the ultimate for those special evenings. After all they would not be special if I could have them all the time!
It is not always obvious from these chats where you all hail from but I can tell you that here in the UK the quality of meat is improving. I think, again, that people are willing to spend a little more for a better quality. The steaks I got were from my local Costco and where all about the quantity (Thicker then your average Supermarket) rather than the quality. Not that I am knocking them, the one I have had was, as I mentioned, very good and also a first attempt!
Okay so, again I am happily surprised that you have all taken time out to offer words of wisdom and it has left me with a real enthusiasm to try more and find my way! My list of notes grows longer by the day and I will take it all on board. First things first, save a bit of money and get hold of a suitable Polycarbonate box with lid and a good Cast Iron Skillet. I have heard that Lodge is the way to go on this. So save, spend, learn & try again. Thanks all, much appreciated
@chatnoir, there is one thing you missed off your list. The fact that you don’t have to worry about dishes.
@candj23, the piece of steak that you had, if it was fillet is a slice from the tenderloin or filet mignon. This is one of the least used muscles on a steer. As such it is naturally very tender and requires little more than warming through. It’s also one of the most expensive cuts on a steer. Now, if that tenderloin had been hung in the carcass to dry age, it would have increased richness and flavour due to the enzymatic action that the meat undergoes during the ageing process.
With sous vide cooking, you can actually cook a really hard working muscle (like a beef cheek) at a medium rare temperature (130F/54C) for a long time (72 hours) and come up with something that is tender like the fillet and melts in the mouth but has so much more flavour than that fillet because it’s a hard working muscle (work = flavour). This is where sous vide shines.
Hi @Ember Its a good point and something I will bear in mind. When I think about, I already know this but with regard to slow cooking a stew. When the weather changes and Autumn comes knocking, or Fall depending on where you are, I always look forward to a good hearty stew and avoid the “Stewing Steak” as advertised and buy what we call Beef Skirt, or Flank, these when cooked nice and slow are far superior in flavour. Now there’s a thought! Beef Skirt cooking Sous Vide and then… Loving the learning and thanks
How can one wait that long? I’d be dribbling at the thought!
Oh. Do it once and you have no problems waiting in future.
I’ve not done skirt or flank in ages. I usually use shin, or chuck, or blade bone (I think it’s your flat iron). But any of these can be sous vide medium rare and long enough to tenderise and be better than tenderloin due to the flavour development in a working muscle.
@Ember Well it certainly looks worth waiting for!