We heard that sous vide is the best way to cook a perfect steak. I have also heard "you can hold the steak at the desired doneness for a long time in sous vide without worrying about over cooking”. So, with high expectations, we tried sous vide filet mignon.
It appears that there are two methods of doing this. One is to cook the steaks in the sous vide first and them sear them. Another is to sear the steaks first and then sous vide them. With this method, the steaks are briefly seared again after coming out of the sous vide in order to “refresh” the crust. The advantage of the second method is that the first searing occurs when the meat is cold and uncooked which helps the searing process and cooks only the surface. In the first method, after the meat is sous vide cooked, the meat is warm and to developed enough crust, wider layers of over cooked meat will develop under the curst. I am not sure if this two methods make a big difference. But I decided to try the second method. I got two USDA prime filet mignons.
We served the steak with my wife’s oven fried potato, haricot verts (first blanched and then sautéed in garlic and butter). We could have done a better presentation (particularly with that blob of catsup) but it is too late.
I did the first searing using a small amount of vegetable oil on high heat for 30 seconds each sides. The filets came out directly from the refrigerator. After blotting off any juice/moisture, I vacuum sealed it (#1) using the edge type vacuum sealer. Towards the end of the vacuum sealing, some moisture got sucked out and the vacuum was not as tight as when I vacuum sealed dry items. Nonetheless it made a reasonable vacuum seal. Apparently if you use a “chamber” vacuum sealer, you can vacuum seal wet items better but that type of equipment is beyond my reach. For medium-rare, I set my ANOVA sous vide machine to 56C (133F) based on this recipe (#2). The thickest filet mignon was about 1.5 inches, so it should take about 90 minutes to cook. I set it to 3 hours instead, since that would put us at the right time for dinner. Also I trusted what I read that the steaks could be held for up to 6-8 hours without over cooking or deterioration of flavor.
After the steaks were cooked in the sous vide, I finished them by searing a second time. This time I used butter and sprigs of fresh thyme on high heat for 10-15 seconds each side basting with melted butter (#3). I then seasoned them with Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper. As you can see the nearly entire cut surface is nicely rosy pink with a very thin crust (#4). No over cooked surface areas or undercook center.
We think sous vide steak is much better than any we have tried. I usually cook steak by keeping the steak out at room temperature for 15-20 minutes and then searing it in a hot frying pan and finishing in the oven. This method is not bad but, definitely, produces an overcooked surface area and undercooked center even after resting the steak for 10 minutes.
This filet mignon was very tender with a nice crust but no bloody juice came out. The thyme was from our herb garden but we did not taste much of thyme flavor in the steak. Besides being a perfect steak, I think, the sous vide method is perfect for cooking steaks for a company dinner. You just hold the steaks in the sous vide until serving and quickly refresh the crust and serve. It is much easier than a frying-pan-to-oven method. The only shortcoming may be that it is not possible to accommodate different doneness unless you have more than one sous vide machine.