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Adventures in Steak


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#1 paulraphael

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 07:33 AM

Suppose you want serve some really delicious steak at a dinner party. To a dozen people. On an island, a 12 hour drive and boat ride away. And where the only electricity comes from a solar panel, the stove burns wood, and the propane fridge struggles to maintain 50 degrees. And your budget is $60.

 

Turns out it's nothing a good butcher and cheap immersion circulator can't handle.

 

I had to call around, but finally found a butcher who was excited about the project, and who agreed to dry age a prime chuck roll for me. The man for the job was Rob DelaPietra. He invited me to his eponymous shop in downtown Brooklyn, where we picked a piece of meat together. He cut off a 7.5 lb. hunk from the rib end. Normal price was $10/lb, but since I was buying in bulk he offered it for $8. Expensive compared with regular chuck, but this was a nicely marbled, prime piece of meat. And he was going to charge nothing for the dry aging. My schedule determined that it would age about 4 weeks, which Rob thought would be about right for maximizing flavor with minimal weight loss.

 

Raphaelson-1.jpg
Untrimmed

 

Raphaelson-2.jpg

Trimmed, but with a bit of funkiness left in place. Final weight is 6.5 lbs. The trim weighed 1/2 lb, so it lost 1/2 lb of water. Seems like very little loss for 4 weeks.

 

Raphaelson-3.jpg
All the trim (in another post I'm brainstorming what to with this delicious-smelling stuff)

 

Raphaelson-4.jpg

Cut into three 1.75" steaks and two 1.5" steaks. Not as gorgeously marbled as the nicest rib-eyes I've cooked, but still promising.

 

Raphaelson-5.jpg

A bit of pre-sear. After this, I bagged the meat and immersed in simmering water for one minute, to kill everything on the exterior.

 

Raphaelson-6.jpg

Pre-cooking at 40°C / 104°F for 4 hours, for a final kick to the tenderizing and flavor-producing enzymes (as discussed in this post).

 

It's now finishing off its 48 hours at 55°C. It will be chilled in an ice bath, packed in ice in a cooler, and taken on the road. The wood fire in the kitchen should make searing a snap.

 

A sauce is in progress, not included in the budget. Based on a beef coulis made with pressure-cooked stock and meat jus extracted sous-vide, seasoned with red wine, porcini mushrooms, and thyme.  This is just going to be frozen.

 

I'll let you know how it goes. If it's as good as I hope, this may be my new steak paradigm, even for eating at home. I'm really to curious to see how it compares to similarly prepared rib-eye that costs over three times as much.


Edited by paulraphael, 25 June 2014 - 07:46 AM.

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#2 FeChef

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 09:32 AM

Ouch $8 for chuck? Even if its prime, Its common in my area of PA to get angus choice ribeye for $5.98/lbmore marbled then that chuck roll. Obviously it doesnt come dry aged but thats what drybagsteakdotcom is for. Hope it turns out well for you though. Never heard of 4 hours in the "unsafe" zone before though.


Edited by FeChef, 25 June 2014 - 09:33 AM.


#3 paulraphael

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 10:55 AM

I don't know. The other time I bought a chuck section it  was "certified angus" from the supermarket. Probably about $6.50/lb. NYC rent and all that. But it wasn't as marbled as this.

 

I am skeptical that I could match the quality of this aging with anything short of many rounds of trial and error. And possibly not even then. I've worked with a few different butchers who aged meat, and can say for sure that 4 weeks does not equal 4 weeks. A lot goes into determining conditions, and into precise temperature and humidity control, which my refrigerator doesn't offer. I'm sure a dry bag can improve yield but it cannot guarantee quality.



#4 FeChef

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 11:24 AM

I have used those drybagsteak bags a few times with NY strip, ribeye, and beef tenderloin and they work very well. I keep my basement fridge around 35F.

 

With SV, a cheaper grade ribeye comes out better then some prime rib ive had at steak houses.



#5 paulraphael

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 11:38 AM

What I'm getting at here isn't the difference between $8 beef and $6 beef. I'm comparing $8 beef to $30 beef.



#6 FeChef

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 01:03 PM

What I'm getting at here isn't the difference between $8 beef and $6 beef. I'm comparing $8 beef to $30 beef.

Sorry, my wallet, and brain doesnt allow my eyes to even see what $30 beef looks like. It automagicly passes that section of the meat cooler case.


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#7 DocDougherty

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 06:35 PM

I guess I am missing something.

It looks like the pre-sear was done with a torch.

And a torch that gets meat that brown has managed to raise the surface temperature well above 300°F.

It doesn't make sense to me to follow that with any more time below 55°C than you have to.

With cuts that thick it will take a few hours for the center to reach water bath temperature and that should be enough to do the job.

I understand the notion that you want to accelerate the enzyme activity, but that is also accelerating the bacterial activity.

Perhaps the idea is that muscle meat doesn't have bacteria below the surface.

But I would like to see the test results when you try to prove that with any rigor.

The general rule is that you want the meat to be at temperatue for at least seven decimation times (the time it takes to kill off 90% of the bacteria).

That should get you to 10E-7 of the bacterial population you started with.

Four hours at optimum growth temperature will produce at least 16 doublings of the initial bacterial population, after which you need more than the suggested seven decimation times to get to less than 0.1 bacterium per gm which is effectively sterile.


Edited by DocDougherty, 25 June 2014 - 06:36 PM.


#8 FeChef

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 07:02 PM

Doesnt this bacteria growth cause unpleasant taste? I have had a batch of short ribs that i pre seared before a 33 hour bath that smelled like, and im quoting another member that had the same effect...baby poo. Yes, mild smelling $hit. That said, i will never play games with unsafe temp zones.


Edited by FeChef, 25 June 2014 - 07:03 PM.


#9 paulraphael

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 06:47 AM

I guess I am missing something.

It looks like the pre-sear was done with a torch.

And a torch that gets meat that brown has managed to raise the surface temperature well above 300°F.

It doesn't make sense to me to follow that with any more time below 55°C than you have to.

With cuts that thick it will take a few hours for the center to reach water bath temperature and that should be enough to do the job.

I understand the notion that you want to accelerate the enzyme activity, but that is also accelerating the bacterial activity.

Perhaps the idea is that muscle meat doesn't have bacteria below the surface.

But I would like to see the test results when you try to prove that with any rigor.

The general rule is that you want the meat to be at temperatue for at least seven decimation times (the time it takes to kill off 90% of the bacteria).

That should get you to 10E-7 of the bacterial population you started with.

Four hours at optimum growth temperature will produce at least 16 doublings of the initial bacterial population, after which you need more than the suggested seven decimation times to get to less than 0.1 bacterium per gm which is effectively sterile.

The idea of a pre-cook at low temperatures is not new. It's been previously recommended to do it in the 45° to 50°C range, because the slightly higher temperatures increase the rate of all processes. The research I've dug up, and some other peoples' empirical evidence, suggest that a lower temperature (40°C) is better for flavor. This is because the enzyme Cathespin is most active at 50°, and can produce off-flavors. And because a few enzymes most responsible for flavor compound development become less active, inactive, above 40C. Please see the post that I linked above.

 

It's generally accepted that the interior of muscle meat is sterile, except in unusual circumstances. This is why it's considered safe to eat traditionally cooked lean meats, which are never cooked to pasteurization. And it's why dry aging for 3 weeks to several months is safe.

 

FWIW, I seared the meat on a griddle. Even with a torch (tedious) I wouldn't trust myself to hit every millimeter of surface. I do the pre-sear for flavor development (in David Arnold and Nils Sorensen's blind tasting of steaks, their favorite results came from combined pre- and post-searing ... I haven't done a side-by-side myself). The simmering water for 60 seconds is about 50% longer than what should be required to pasteurize the surface  to a 6D standard (according to modeling in the SV Dash app). I like to add this step for long cooks even if I don't do a low-temperature pre-cook, just because spoilage bacteria are poorly understood. People occasionally get ugly surprises, and I like some insurance.

 

BTW, the pasteurization standard is 6D, not 7D, which still of course means pathogens reduced to .000001 of their original levels (a minute in simmering water probably does better than this—but not as much better as you might think, because of the mass and conductivity of the meat, and the insulating properties of the bag). Charts for e-coli show a doubling in population every half hour at 40C, which means that after 4 hours, you'd be up to .000256 of the original bacterial population, if you'd started with a 6D reduction. This is insignificant. Consider that the meat is then going to spend over 40 hours at a temperature which has a 6D pasteurization time of around 4 hours.

 

One thing I was wrong about: I thought bacterial activity would be higher at 45C or 50C than at 40C. This isn't the case. 40 is pretty close to the peak, at least for e-coli. But this still represents only a doubling every 30 minutes, which doesn't add up to much if the surface is pre-pasteurized.


Edited by paulraphael, 26 June 2014 - 06:54 AM.


#10 FeChef

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 07:51 AM

Can you explain what exactly is the benifit of cooking in the "unsafe" zone for 4 hours? I am having trouble understanding. If its a tenderizing method, wouldnt cooking at a higher temp of lets say, 132F (a pastuerization temp) for a longer period make it just as, if not more tender? Also, if its a flavor method, dont you think between dry ageing, pre and post searing, theres plenty of flavor compounds going on there. It just seems your playing with fire for very little benefit.



#11 paulraphael

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 08:23 AM

I don't think I'm playing with fire at all. There's no reason to think this method isn't safe.

 

Tenderizing happens through different processes, and with different textural results. Enzymatic tenderizing is different from thermal tenderizing (which is what we use in traditional cooking to break down collagen, where more heat+time = more tender). 

 

I'm also experimenting with the idea that aged flavors can be enhanced with time spent in this temperature range. This is a new idea, and is supported only by research that's designed to answer other questions. I'm playing with the idea right now but haven't done any serious experiments.

 

The one bit of empirical support I have for this (as a tenderizing method) is the short ribs I cooked last week. Other people who have cooked them at 60C for 72 hours have reported some flakiness, but that they had to use a knife. Mine fell off the bone and could be cut with a fork. The meat was medium-rare and had the texture almost of a traditional braise.

 

A lower temperature pre-cook is standard for a lot of chefs. It's a recommended method in the Modernist Cuisine books. My experiments are about the precise temperatures to use. At some point I'll do a more rigorous side-by-side comparison. Right now I'm just trying out the concept. Short ribs were a slam dunk. I'm going to eat one of the steaks tonight and see how it works on a somewhat more tender cut.



#12 paulraphael

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 08:29 AM

Also, the whole pre-cook thing is of minor compared with what I'm excited about here: the possibility of boutique-quality meat for a quarter the price.

 

The silk purse / sow's ear angle on sous-vide has been around for a while, but I haven't read about people pushing it in this direction ... starting with a really fancy sow's ear, with only adds a little bit to the price. 

 

The challenging part for most people will be sourcing the meat. You need to find a butcher with high quality product, and who is willing to age cuts that aren't aren't his usual routine. Or age it yourself, if you get good results doing so.

 

The real idea is that cheap cuts can come from high quality meat, not just from the bargain bin. Even if they cost double what you're used to for that cut, they can be a great value, depending on how you cook them.


Edited by paulraphael, 26 June 2014 - 08:33 AM.


#13 rotuts

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 09:05 AM

""  It's a recommended method in the Modernist Cuisine books. My experiments are about the precise temperatures to use. At some point I'll do a more rigorous side-by-side comparison. ""

 

do you recall where in MC this was mentioned ?

 

In my area, the still working 'meat counters' get primal cuts which they break down and sell.

 

they sell the 'Black Angus' at a premium ( this have been discussed here at length ) 

 

One store dry ages 'choice' premium cuts   ( you can see the refrigerator thing-y right there ) but they are expensive and not worth it.

 

I did find out from the head butcher, and from time to time in the Choice boxes of primals, there are Prime cryovaced hunks

 

these they sell in the regular meat counter as choice.  they sell no prime premium cuts.  they do sell Prime ground beef, 

 

probably from these prime hunks.

 

I did have Prime blade roasts, about 4, they trimmed for me at the regular price.

 

I trimmed them up for SV   they were delicious.

 

so its worth asking an active even supermarket butcher if they get prime ( what ever cut ) from time to time

 

the rest of a Prime animal has to go somewhere.

 

and indeed the Prime ground beef was tasty.  Ill use some of that soon for Steam Burgers.

 

Ill admit that my tasting of the Ground Prime was not double blind.  but the prime blade roasts were tastier than the choice

 

take a look at an active decent sized meat counter at a regular grocery store.  the marbling on the cut meat is not exactly the 

 

piece to piece.



#14 paulraphael

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 09:45 AM

""  It's a recommended method in the Modernist Cuisine books. My experiments are about the precise temperatures to use. At some point I'll do a more rigorous side-by-side comparison. ""

 

do you recall where in MC this was mentioned ?

 

In my area, the still working 'meat counters' get primal cuts which they break down and sell.

 

they sell the 'Black Angus' at a premium ( this have been discussed here at length ) 

 

One store dry ages 'choice' premium cuts   ( you can see the refrigerator thing-y right there ) but they are expensive and not worth it.

 

I did find out from the head butcher, and from time to time in the Choice boxes of primals, there are Prime cryovaced hunks

 

these they sell in the regular meat counter as choice.  they sell no prime premium cuts.  they do sell Prime ground beef, 

 

probably from these prime hunks.

 

I did have Prime blade roasts, about 4, they trimmed for me at the regular price.

 

I trimmed them up for SV   they were delicious.

 

so its worth asking an active even supermarket butcher if they get prime ( what ever cut ) from time to time

 

the rest of a Prime animal has to go somewhere.

 

and indeed the Prime ground beef was tasty.  Ill use some of that soon for Steam Burgers.

 

Ill admit that my tasting of the Ground Prime was not double blind.  but the prime blade roasts were tastier than the choice

 

take a look at an active decent sized meat counter at a regular grocery store.  the marbling on the cut meat is not exactly the 

 

piece to piece.

>>do you recall where in MC this was mentioned ?

 

Volume 3, p. 78

 

>>the rest of a Prime animal has to go somewhere.

 

I assume it goes to restaurants. I've that only about 2% of prime meat in the U.S. gets sold retail. Outside of NYC and the Bay Area it used to be almost impossible to find. It seems like that's a bit less the case these days.

 

>>take a look at an active decent sized meat counter at a regular grocery store.  the marbling on the cut meat is not exactly the

piece to piece.

 

For sure. The grade goes to the whole side of beef, based on the marbling in just a couple of places. You can sometimes find pieces of choice meat that look more marbled than some prime pieces, even at the same shop.


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#15 rotuts

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 09:48 AM

some prime  'non premium cuts' does go to supermarkets.  how much ? impossible to tell.  and it must also vary chain to chain.

 

i was surprised when i found this out.

 

its alway wise to know your butcher.



#16 weinoo

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 03:24 PM

For sure. The grade goes to the whole side of beef, based on the marbling in just a couple of places. You can sometimes find pieces of choice meat that look more marbled than some prime pieces, even at the same shop.

And this is why we miss Jefferey.  Those chuck eyes he would sell to us were often from prime sides.


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#17 Steve Irby

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 05:08 PM

The only problem I see is trying to divide five steaks between 12 people. If you'll let me now the name of the island I can drop by and eat one steak then each person can have 1/3 of the remaining steaks.


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#18 FeChef

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 07:15 PM

I picked these ribeye's up last week. They were choice grade. They were $5.98/lb with a $2.00 off coupon because the sell by date was the next day. I did the 3 day paper towel wrap fridge age. And cooked them on the infrared sear burner for 2 min per side. Best steaks we had this year and cost less then $5.00 for both steaks. I would never pay $30/lb thats nutz.

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#19 paulraphael

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 09:46 PM

I picked these ribeye's up last week. They were choice grade. They were $5.98/lb with a $2.00 off coupon because the sell by date was the next day. I did the 3 day paper towel wrap fridge age. And cooked them on the infrared sear burner for 2 min per side. Best steaks we had this year and cost less then $5.00 for both steaks. I would never pay $30/lb thats nutz.

In NYC those would be $8/lb steaks at a grocery store. If you compare the marbling to the ones I posted above you can see they're not close. 

 

I personally don't think $30/lb is nuts for prime dry aged meat. Mitch and I were spoiled for years by a butcher who sold us $30-40/lb quality meat for around $24. You just could not get meat of that quality anywhere for close to the price. The difference is just ridiculous. Comparing supermarket cryovac steaks doesn't make sense. Believe me, I've had plenty of certified angus. I do not buy it anymore for tender cuts. It makes more sense to me to have steak a third as often but to get the good stuff. Once every couple of months is plenty.

 

The questions get tougher when you look at really expensive meat. I've seen the top end meats from suppliers like DeBragga and Lobell's. Lobell's meat is possibly more marbled than anything else I've seen, but the top grades go for upwards of $70/lb. Is this nuts? I haven't tasted it. I do know it's out of my price range but that's not the same thing. I can't afford a sailboat either ... doesn't mean the asking prices are nuts.



#20 paulraphael

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Posted 26 June 2014 - 09:51 PM

Ok we had one of the steaks tonight ... the runt from the end of the chuck. 

 

The flavor was insane. The tenderness was perfect. It could have been more juicy. A genuine ribeye cooked for a couple of hours is quite a bit juicer.

 

Either the pre-cook at 40C makes a big difference or the dry age significantly tenderized the meat. If I'd had more to play with I would have done a comparison.

 

With similar meat, next time I'd go 36 hours instead of 48 ... trade a little tenderness for some more juiciness. But there's still nothing to bitch about here.

 

Delapietra's did an amazing job with the aging. The aged flavors are intense ... as intense as some 8-week aged beef I've had.

 

Tonight's tragedy is that my girlfriend discovered she doesn't like aged flavors. "Um ... is it supposed to taste like blue cheese??" I don't know what to do about this.



#21 philippeberthoud

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 05:02 AM

Nice Prices!! We here in Switzerland pay average of 30.- per pound of beef. Of course we could also spend more....depending on cut / quality and so on.
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#22 rotuts

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 05:12 AM

"  I don't know what to do about this. "

 

I do :  more for you.



#23 weinoo

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 05:14 AM

Tonight's tragedy is that my girlfriend discovered she doesn't like aged flavors. "Um ... is it supposed to taste like blue cheese??" I don't know what to do about this.

Ummmm - find the store where FeChef shops?


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#24 FeChef

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Posted 27 June 2014 - 05:20 PM

Ummmm - find the store where FeChef shops?

I am not sure if this is an insult, or a compliment? I dont know what paulraphael's steaks tasted like so it would be tough to judge, ya know what i mean? I can say that a 1 1/2 inch ribeye on a 700F infrared searing burner for 2 min per side results in a charred rare-med rare steak. Maybe she doesnt like charr, or rare-medrare. My wife loves rare-med rare, but doesnt like charr (she calls it burnt)



#25 paulraphael

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 03:00 PM

Just a follow-up to say these steaks were insanely good. My girlfriend even came around to liking the aged flavor. Comments included "I've had aged steaks before, but nothing like this," and "this is more tender than a fillet" (which is a bit of an exaggeration. But they were probably about as tender as a rib-eye).

 

The meat at the island was thicker than what I'd sampled at home, and retained more juiciness. The only real issue I have with chuck compared with rib-eye is that there are more thick bands of fat (rib-eye usually just has that one prominent one, and then the cap on the outside). Since these cooking temps aren't high enough to melt the fat, you get some pretty big chunks. At least the fat tastes good. 

 

There was no issue with keeping the meat fresh in the bags. I rewarmed in a pot of water on the wood-burning stove, and seared on a griddle. 

 

Here's a pic of the SV bags warming up on the 1940s Queen-Atlantic:

 

Raphaelson-1.jpg

 

If I do this again with aged chuck, I'll try trimming the cook time to 36 or even 24 hours, to see if they can be a bit juicier without sacrificing too much tenderness.


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#26 Smithy

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 05:06 PM

Thank you for letting us know how it came out. It sounds wonderful!

edit: That stove looks like a lot of fun. How did you get on with it?

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#27 JoNorvelleWalker

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 06:23 PM

In the refrigerator I have a small, organic, rib eye wet aging...for lack of a better term.  There is no visible marbling on this steak.  I was thinking to cook low temperature sous vide, then sautee in butter.

 

Any other suggestions.



#28 paulraphael

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Posted 07 July 2014 - 07:05 PM

Oh, the stove. That's a whole other story. A longer learning curve than sous-vide, for sure. I used it for a week last summer and am still a beginner. The top of the thing is easy, but the oven takes hours to reach temperature, is uneven, and takes a lot of tricks to manage. I try not to think of the horrors being afflicted on the environment by the amount of wood you have to burn just to bake a pie.



#29 ChrisTaylor

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 06:02 AM



In the refrigerator I have a small, organic, rib eye wet aging...for lack of a better term.  There is no visible marbling on this steak.  I was thinking to cook low temperature sous vide, then sautee in butter.

 

Any other suggestions.

 

The sort of rib eye you describe is commonly sold in Australia. Most of our readily available steaks have little to no marbling. Lean, lean, lean. Nonetheless, I've had pleasing results cooking such steaks sous vide.

 

In your situation, saute in butter or cook sous vide. If you've gently cooked the steak in a water bath the last thing you want to do is allow the internal temperature to creep up beyond whatever your original target temperature was. And it's not like you want to drop a knob of butter into a screaming hot pan. Use neutral oil with a high smoke point--or no oil, if you've got a non-stick pan--when searing a steak cooked sous vide.

 

If you want the buttery thing, tho', you could always melt some butter (maybe a compound butter of some description) and brush small quantities of this on your sliced steak.


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#30 tim

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Posted 08 July 2014 - 06:29 AM

 

The sort of rib eye you describe is commonly sold in Australia. Most of our readily available steaks have little to no marbling. Lean, lean, lean. Nonetheless, I've had pleasing results cooking such steaks sous vide.

It would be interesting to know the breed of cattle sold in Australia.

 

This sounds like piedmontese beef which produce an more, shorter muscle fibers with less connective tissue and intermuscular fat.  The claim is very low fat and tasty/tender beef.