This weekend I fired up the Anova sous vide cooker I bought on sale at Amazon.com to make some sous vide steaks. A friend had been hankering for a “steak dinner” so I pulled out a porterhouse, a big sirloin and the last of my treasured Allen Bros. strips. They were salted and peppered; for variation I oiled the strip and tossed some fresh rosemary in the vacuum bag with the sirloin. Then I waited.
The Anova is a sleek machine, but it’s HUGE compared to my trusty SideKIC. I put maybe 4 gallons of water into a Coleman cooler and got a “low water” warning and the device wouldn’t turn on, so I added another gallon. It took an hour (pretty fast, considering) to heat from 61 degrees to the 129 degrees which J. Kenji Lopez-Alt said, in the recipe in the Anova app, would produce the low side of medium rare, then another hour for the steaks in the bath.
The result was peculiar looking because the outside of the steak was exactly the same color as the inside should be, which is why you have to add some kind of a char. Options are a hot skillet, a grill and/or a big butane torch. I opted for the grill because I wanted the grill marks. Also went at it with my crème brulee torch, but that dainty device didn’t have much of an effect.
Rested the steaks a bit, then I served… 2 hours and 15 minutes after the prep began, and 2 hours longer than it would take to cook the same steaks entirely on the grill. You couldn’t argue with the degree of doneness and the taste, but I really missed the crust and the gradation of doneness when the steak is cooked on a really hot grill (the latter being what the sous vide method is supposed to eliminate, of course).
I will add that I know how to cook steaks because I used to do it all night long in a steak house, where I would have been fired if I missed too many times on the requested degree of doneness. (The exception being New Years Day, when hungover diners would keep sending back steaks because they weren’t cooked enough, then finally reject them because they were too well done.) If you aren’t sure of your skills, it definitely is a comfort to know your steak won’t be over or under done. But I will not be doing this again.
I ended up feeling like the Emperor with his new clothes, wondering how many of the folks who laud sous vide steaks have actually cooked one themselves. I’ve had some other successes with sous vide, notably for preps that require sauces to have a chemical effect on the meat, and I’m going to focus on those. I will also reserve my Anova for very large recipes, roasts and such, and continue to rely on the SideKIC till it gives up the ghost.