Vacuum packed frozen steaks: salt in advance or not?

Before cooking my steaks SV I used to salt them hours (if not overnight) in advance with Maldon salt flakes, but since with the SV I can cook them straight out from the freezer then I was wondering what’s the best thing to do in this situation.

For various reasons I buy my steaks from a butcher online who delivers everything with a refrigerated truck, then I freeze the individual pre packages steaks or the ones I make from the entire muscle.

Currently I have 4 big and thick steaks (1.3 kg each) sitting in the freezer in their own bags, I bought them weeks ago before having the SV machine, so before cooking them I have to extract them from the bags they’re in and put them in the SV cooking bags and a question arose: when should I put the salt on these steaks?

I quickly vacuum sealed an already frozen steak (that was in its non SV bag) and somehow managed to salt the sides while it was laying in the open bag (the salt flakes “sticked” when the bag was sealed) then I put it back in the freezer and cooked it a couple hours later. It turned out fine once cooked but I could’ve added more salt, however it’s obvious that the salt did not get absorbed by the frozen meat and I don’t know if the 2:30 hours of cooking time at 57C were enough for a brining.

What’s the best thing you should do when you prepare SV ready steaks that you’re going to freeze?

  • Salt the fresh meat and immediately freeze once sealed?
  • Salt the meat, let it rest in the fridge and after some hours freeze?
  • Avoid salting at all and do it before searing the SV’d steak?
  • Other

Also what should I do with the frozen steaks I already have? They’re 6 cm / 2.30 inches and I’m planning to cook them (from frozen) 2:30 / 3:00 hours + at least 30 minutes to allow them to defrost in the bath.

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Welcome back Talco, you have a lot of questions.
I’ll leave some of them for others here to respond to.

On salting, the usual practice in commercial cooking is to salt-as-you-go.
Although i would save Maldon salt for a final application just prior to service. That final salting is the most important to the outcome.

Your planned frozen steak cooking time isn’t nearly enough. Let Doug Baldwin be your guide. Follow his table for cooking from frozen and also gain substantial knowledge of SV cooking while searching for it.

https://www.douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html

Do you really intend to brine, - as in cure, your steaks to make them Pastrami-like? Brining is a days/weeks long process.
Or do you mean to just salt them?
Not much flavourwise is going to change in 2 1/2 hours.

It’s been my practice to only season before and after searing as i never knew when i might be serving someone following a salt restricted diet.

Thank you for the reply and the link.

Now I’m more confused than before. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I’ve been using the Anova app to check the times and the guide says “for steaks up to 2 inches thick allow one extra hour to fully thaw them in the hot water […]” and this is what I’ve read on many other websites, however the charts on the link you gave me because it says

Heating Time from Frozen to 1°F (0.5°C) Less Than the Water Bath’s Temperature

60mm - slab - 7 1/4 hours

Does this mean that I have to cook the frozen steak for 7 hours and 15 minutes if I want it perfectly cooked and pasteurised?

The chart for non frozen meat says 4 3/4 hours to be fully heated to my wanted temperature.

What confuses me is the pasteurisation chart that says that a steak 60 mm thick like mine takes 4 1/4 hours to be pasteurised in a bath at 57C (my temperature) starting from a steak at 5C.

What does this mean? Should I cook the meat for at least the pasteurisation time to be safe? Both frozen and refrigerated steaks times appears to be above the pasteurisation time.

With smaller thickness the pasteurisation time can exceed the heating/cooking time, what should you do where?

Also the Seriouseats guide in the app says that cooking the meat for more than 4 hours alter the texture making it soft and shreddable, is this the case?

So in conclusion:

  • Steak from freezer: 7 hours and 15 minutes @ 57C
  • Thawed steak from the fridge: 4 hours and 45 minutes @ 57C

Is this correct?

Sorry for asking this many questions.

Talco, Rule #1: when in doubt refer to Dr. Baldwin.

Rule #2, if you read different information on the internet, see Rule #1.
You can’t beat fundamental science when cooking. A lot of internet content is based on guesswork and bunk, - or by the Russians.

Keep reading Baldwin as he answers most of your questions. Chef Kenji Lopez-Alt’s material is practical science based and can be trusted too.

You will soon realize not all cuts of meat are successfully SV cooked. At 6 cm thick you’re getting up near the practical limit of SV cooking because of, - as you noticed, the length of the time required and the changes in texture resulting from long cooks.

Consider there are 3 ways we employ the SV technique:
#1. Cook - serve
#2. Cook - chill (for days-later service)
#3. Cook - freeze (for weeks-later service)

Most of your cooking, particularly steaks, will be cook - serve so you can ignore Pasteurization. There’s little benefit to be gained from Pasteurization in #1 when cooking a solid piece of meat because contamination is usually only on the surface and quickly killed above 54ᴼC. Over the long storage times in #2 and #3 it’s safest to start with Pasteurized meat that’s as pathogen free as possible. That’s why not all cuts of meat are SV suited. Whole poultry and large boned and rolled fabricated cuts scare me yet some cooks insist on doing them. In some parts of the world we are currently observing the unfortunate results of people deciding to ignore science.

My personal standard based on microbiological testing and quality perception results is to never exceed 50mm thickness in techniques #2 and #3. When thicker the chilling/freezing and tempering times become impractically long and potentially unsafe.

For Pasteurization times Baldwin says “at least” and doesn’t differentiate with shapes. When in doubt use the longest time when cooking for storage.

Your conclusions appear correct to me.

And no apology required.
The best learning results from questioning.

Do well and keep safe.

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Thank you for your kindness.

Well since I have two nearly identical steaks I’m going to SV one (I’ll definitely thaw this one in the fridge before!) and reverse sear the other one to check out this “4+ hours limit” and see if I like the texture.

I’ll go on reading the rest of the website, though I asked also because English is not my native language so I wanted to double check if understood properly.

Talco, you have an excellent command of English.

There’s never any harm in asking. I have always subscribed to U.S. Senator Davy Crockett’s saying, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.” (Historical frontiersman made famous by Walt Disney.)

I find it best to unwrap steak or roast and thaw on a rack set over a baking pan on bottom shelf of the refrigerator. Lightly salt for flavour development. Pre-searing is generally not useful.
In SV cooking texture changes very gradually over time. I doubt you will be disappointed.

You might find it useful to keep a detailed record of every SV cook. That record includes name of item, thickness, frozen or thawed, cooking temperature, and time. Most important is some comment regarding the result and if not meeting your expectation some suggested adjustments for your next experience with that menu item. Doing that enables you to either replicate perfection every time, or move closer to it with every cook.

Do well.

2 Likes

Out of curiosity, I remember watching this video here and they clearly don’t cook the steak enough according to Baldwin’s charts:

That thing is super thick (someone in the comments say that it’s 5 inches thick so 12,7 cm) and it has been cooked only for 4 hours and 30 minutes at 57C, then grilled for “some time” and served. They didn’t measure the final internal temperature nor they told us anything related to the final doneness.

If I was to analyse that cooking time and temperature combination by guessing the thickness, which is definitely thicker than 6 cm (the thickness that requires a cooking time of 4 hours and 45 minutes similar to the one used in the video), could I say that the steak in the video is TERRIBLY undercooked than the wanted internal temperature of 57C when it leaves the SV bath? It’s also definitely not pasteurised.

The beef timing chart doesn’t even list the cooking times for a 120mm slab and if it was listed I guess that it would be superior to 18 hours!

What happened here? Did they prolonged the cooking time on the grill to achieve the desired temp? :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Here’s another video that gave me similar perplexities

Steak is not a good example of over / under cooking as you may choose to eat some cuts of beef raw, as in steak tartar.
There are other meats where pasteurisation is essential.
I agree with @chatnoir about Rule #1.

Frank! This may possibly be the only time you’ve ever provided information here with which I find flaw!!!

It was “US Congressman Davy Crockett”…not “U.S. Senator Davy Crockett”!!!

Ten lashes with a wet noodle!!! :wink:

Gentle Community members, - Mea Culpa.
Your forgiveness please.

Mike, thank you for kindly reminding me of my being merely human of which i’m ever-needy.

Talco, that Porterhouse reminds me of an early adopter group of SV users, mostly European restaurant Chefs, who typically set the water temperature higher than the desired terminal internal temperature and pulled steaks before achieving thermal equilibrium. That would explain the reduced SV cooking time plus the grilled “some time” elements. That method’s best results are in a thick Rare steak with a seriously charred exterior which is then sliced table side to offer guests some latitude in doneness.

To cook like that you have to be an excellent cook or extremely lucky.

Some Grill Cooks have an innate sense of doneness gained from years of experience. I worked with one in Lake Placid. He was magical producing over 500 steaks a night with each one precisely cooked as requested. I was in awe nightly.

Talco, i have now endured the two videos you posted. (I find those performances annoying and needlessly over produced.)
Anyway, on to your perplexities.
( Good word, may i use use it here too?)

You are correct. The large Porterhouse would not have had an internal temperature of 57ᴼC after 4 1/2 hours, - but it could have been a lot closer than you think, particularly after the aggressive searing it received and letting some carryover heating occur while they talked to it.

I would not agree that it is terribly undercooked for a few reasons. They say the meat was a premium cut from a specialty meat vendor. Therefore it most likely received above normal aging to make it extra tender and flavourful. Maybe they didn’t want it cooked to the high end of Medium-Rare or they just accepted what they got as a lot of cooks often do. They certainly had no difficulty enthusiastically consuming it.

Consider what was happening during those 4 1/2 hours of cooking. Heat was diffusing into the meat from all sides and according to Baldwin’s Table 2.2 had reached about 57ᴼC to a depth of about 30mm all around. (Half of 60mm from the table) The centre half (the remaing 60mm) was also being heated during that time but to a lesser degree which is confirmed by the deeper red appearance of the centre slices. I’d say it was about 50ᴼC or Rare by appearance. That’s not to everyone’s taste, but acceptable to many.

Would you accept that they made a compromise decision in that cook due to the size of the roast, or steak? They didn’t want to over tenderize the meat with the appropriately long cooking time, nor significantly under cook it either. To me they achieved a favourable balance in that cook.

Congratulations.

Now you’re really cooking having attained conscious competence quickly.

Stay well.

Wow, you are way over thinking this. I take my steaks from the freezer and drop into the anova bath at the beginning so as the water heats up the steaks defrost and then I cook an hour or so from the time the water reaches my ideal temp. If your steaks are already in individual bags when you get them delivered there is no need to rebag them. Also whats with wanting to pasteurize your meat. Meat doesn’t get pasteurized when you bbq it or cook it in a pan so I don’t get your thinking there. My husband love his steak rare so it gets cooked at 125 for about an hour. He’s 49 in perfect health and his blood work is great. And why are you brining your steaks? Steaks only need a little salt you want to taste the meat not salt (unless you are a total saltaholic and usually I do this right before searing them in a little ghee or olive oil. Taste your food not the salt.Also Sous-vide cooking for the newbie is trial and error. ZYou casn read as many books as you like but most say different things. Some say sear then bag and cook while others say not to. I think its all personal preference. I do know that once you take the meat out of the water bath let it sit - in the bag- for at least 5 to 10 minutes and then take out and sear. Stop over thinking. Good luck!

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Princess, please help us understand your thinking that supports letting cooked meat sit after SV cooking for at least 5 to 10 minutes.

Your guidance is appreciated.
Thank you.

To let the meat rest and absorb back up and redistribute some juices. I don’t know about you but I put my steaks in vertical and whatever kind of bag I am using and yes I have a vacuum sealer, there are juices in the bottom of the bag. No matter what kind of meat you are cooking and no matter how you cook it you should let meat rest before cutting. Since its a personal preference to sear ones meat after SVing (I prefer to do so), letting it rest before searing is best, my opinion. Also, once I sear it I like to cut right in. And I usually do about 5-6 but no more than 10. I don’t like cold food and searing is done quickly, like high heat 30 seconds each side just to get that delicious browning on it. And like I’ve said before, it’s all trial and error and personal preference.

Do not use Maldon salt, Fleur de Sel or Pink Himmalayan salt, sel gris de Guérande or any other speciality salt for initial salting, you’re just throwing your money out of the window. Use regular table salt and keep those as finishing salt to sprinkle on just before service. Maldon, Fleur de Sel and Kosher are the same type of salt, the difference being the type of cristal that gives a different “crunch” when you bite. There may be more mineral elements in unprocesed salts (Maldon, Fleur de Sel) but it has no influence on the taste.
.

Thanks Alfred, I rarely cook steaks anymore and therefore might not have an opportunity to resolve the to-rest-or-not-rest practices that Princess raised up post without explanation. I don’t like to do something without understanding the Why.

Nathan Blumenthal asserts that resting cooked meat results in some juices being re-absorbed that would otherwise end up on the plate. However, i would like to know how does it happen? Or more correctly, what causes it? In my experience nothing happens without a cause.

I have been in agreement with the benefit of resting high temperature (conventually) cooked meat such as steaks and roasts to achieve some temperature equilibrium and stabilization of meat juices to prevent fluid loss when the meat is cut. However in low temperature SV cooked meat, say at about 55ᴼC/131ᴼF, the meat has already achieved equilibrium and there’s no apparent heat (energy) differential as in the high temperature cooked meat to cause the juices to move in or out of the meat. Does that make sense?
Anyone?

Someone might postulate that it’s the meat fibres that re-absorb the juices. OK, but aren’t the meat fibres irreversibly broken during the cooking process? That’s why we cook meat, - to break meat fibres and heat meat to a palatable temperature. It’s also referred to as denaturing/shrinking/tightening, of the meat. To my thinking it’s cooked meat and the spaces between the meat fibres to hold water/juices no longer exist.

It would be a gift to humanity if someone, maybe the “SV Everything” guys, would test this theory with a brace of nearly identical steaks cooked at a low temperature. Meat texture changes too much over 65ᴼC/150ᴼF for any juice loss experiment to be meaningful. If we have a sufficient number of carefully measured tests we may achieve an understanding.

Removing my post and I was plain and simply wrong! :slight_smile:

Previously I made a post that I think reached the right “conclusion”, but for somewhat the wrong reasons.

I’ve found the following:

  • When the steak is heated, the muscle fibers constrict.
  • This constriction pushes the juices in those fibers away from the heat source and towards the center of the meat.
  • Since all of the moisture is concentrated in the center of the meat, it will pour out of the meat as soon as it is cut, making it look unappealing and bloody while taking the moisture and flavor with it.
  • The steak ends up dry and flavorless.

Here is what happens when you let meat rest:

  • As the meat rests, the constricted muscle fibers begin to relax.
  • The pressure on the juices is slowly released and the juices are able to redistribute towards the edges of the meat.
  • By letting meat rest, you achieve an evenly moist and flavorful steak when it is ready to be cut.

I would expect that resting would have little to no effect on steaks cooked sous vide, as the sear at the end of the cook only penetrates minimally and the meat is exposed to the high heat for a much shorter length of time. A rest of a couple minutes right after the sear might do something, but a standard rest doesn’t seem called for.

This is a link to the web page where I found the information regarding allowing the meat to rest: https://www.webstaurantstore.com/blog/2962/letting-meat-rest.html