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Rare vs. Medium Rare Beef


msacuisine
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I have just got my Anova immersion circulator last week (which is fantastic, btw). I've just started experimenting with it, and tonight was sous vide sirloin steak. It was pretty thin (~7mm). I normally like my steak quite rare, but after doing some reading, I decided to go with a more medium treatment at 132° F (for 2 hours for pasteurization purposes).

I did this, because in my reading, I came across a couple of claims: that at that temperature steaks are more flavorful (though no explanation as to why was given). and that only at 130° F does the fat that comprises the marbling start to liquify. Sounded reasonable,, so I though I would give it a try.

I pre-seared with a blowtorch so I could safely Jaccard it. Then I touch up the crust with the torch just before service. The steak was tender, moist, and flavorful, but it seemed to me... well... overdone.

So, now I'm wondering if there really are good scientific reasons to prefer medium rare over rare, or if the information I came across was just nonsense and I should stick with my preference. Any science to suggest that a different temperature might be objectively more flavorful, juicy, or otherwise preferable? Any explanation as to why those of us who prefer our beef on the rare side have this preference (in other words, what is it actually about rare meat that we are perfering)? I have no interest in getting into an argument about whose preferences are "better", but I'm really curious about the science that might underlie preferences for rare vs. medium rare.

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. . . . Any science to suggest that a different temperature might be objectively more flavorful, juicy, or otherwise preferable? Any explanation as to why those of us who prefer our beef on the rare side have this preference (in other words, what is it actually about rare meat that we are perfering)? I have no interest in getting into an argument about whose preferences are "better", but I'm really curious about the science that might underlie preferences for rare vs. medium rare.

'. . .objectively more flavorful, juicy, or otherwise preferable' pretty much nails the reason that you should just go with what you like; none of those things is objective, they're subjective. No one else has your mouth. Some people want beef that practically moos, others prefer something that is a few drops of water shy of beef jerky.

Your tastes may change, too: In 2000, I casually devoured a 0.75kg bistecca alla fiorentina (yes: the entire staff slowly gathered to watch this); that's damn close to raw meat, and lots of it. Today, if meat is more than pink, or if there is a lot of it on my plate, I tend to start feeling queasy.

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Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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The steak was too thin for this type of treatment. At the temperature suggested with that thickness it would have reached core temperature after only 13 minutes. The steak would have been pasteurised at 1hour 32minutes. You gave it another 30 minutes and you blowtorched a 7 mm steak before commencing. No wonder it was overcooked. Grab a 3cm steak and subject it to the same treatment (or possibly another 15 minutes to be pasteurised) and see if that is overcooked for your taste before blaming temperatures.

Edited by nickrey (log)
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Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

"The Internet is full of false information." Plato
My eG Foodblog

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I find that the internal temp of sous vide beef needs to be a bit higher than conventionally cooked beef to be successful. I think it (sous vide beef) is still less successful than grilled or pan cooked steak, even at its best, but that is a personal judgment.

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  • 1 month later...

I agree with nickrey. Unless a steak is at least 1.5 inches thick, a 600 F 30-second post-cooking per-side sear in an iron pot will raise the core temperature at least 5.5 degrees. Even on a steak double the thickness of yours, a sear like described above will increase the core temperature by 7.5 degrees. Imagine what a blowtorch, which can heat up to 1500 F, could do!

One option on a steak this thin is to freeze it for 30 minutes and do a pre-cooking 60-second per-side sear in a neutral cooking oil. Clarified butter works well if you don't want to smoke your place up! Although it's not as crisp as a post-cooking sear, the appearance is somewhat similar...

Ryan Imgrund

Food Lover and Published Foodborne Pathogen Expert

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