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argie916

Sous vide meat tender and just right, but flavors are missing...

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I'm using the Anova circulator, which I think is fantastic.  I've tried sirloin and flatiron steaks so far, cooked at 133F(56C) for anywhere from 3 to 6 hours.  All came out perfectly medium rare-to-rare and tender.

 

After removing from the bag, I dry them with kitchen towels and then sear them in a heavy skillet with a little oil.  They look terrific, but i sorely miss the flavor of steaks prepared in the conventional ways.  I've tried salt & pepper after searing, as well as vacuum-bagging with dry garlic, oregano, a little pepper and a couple of other spices.  No difference.

 

What am I missing ?

 

George

Bedford, TX

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One thing you might try is searing before bagging as well as after: those Maillard flavors tend to get incorporated throughout the steak that way. I don't find the flavor to be the same as a conventionally-cooked steak, per se, but I like it as well.

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I've found that I don't much care for finishing a steak in a cast iron skillet. For me, sous vide grilling does exactly what I want it to... imparts a lot of flavor in the final sear that you just don't get from a pan. I find that this matters much less for pork and chicken though. If you don't have a grill and must finish in a skillet, I find that the best flavor comes by using butter (which facilitates browning and also tastes good) and constantly basting the steak. Toss a clove of crushed garlic and a couple sprigs of thyme in there while basting and you'll get something with a lot more flavor than just searing it off in oil.

 

Also +1 Chris's suggestion to presear the meat before cooking. This not only helps develop a deeper flavor but also helps you refresh the crust much more quickly in the final sear, reducing the risk of overcooking.

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Are you sure the beef is the same as before?

 

Not all beef of the same cut taste the same. It depends on when and where you buy it.

 

dcarch

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If it's any consolation, argie916, you're not the only one who feels this way.  I've been doing sous vide for more than five years and have tried steaks many times, a couple dozen at least.  In my experience, there's simply no way to give a sous vide steak the same flavor as one cooked conventionally.  You have to decide which is more important to you, texture or flavor.  Personally, I opt for the latter.  Sounds like you're inclined the same direction.  That's okay.  There's no law that says one must prefer sous vide in all situations where it can be used.

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Try grilling beforehand. You don't want to do that for long cooks but it won't be a problem for short ones. Consider the low-and-slow roast method Keller and Blumenthal advocate for rib roasts. They torch or otherwise sear it before parking it in the oven for a long time. 

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The one time I made steaks sous-vide there was no lack of flavor. Does "conventional" mean grilling?

 

A couple of schools of thought in the steak world: "smoke and char flavors from the grill are essential to steak" and "smoke and char flavors from the grill detract from the steak." I think the varying quality of the meat has a lot to do with this. I belong to the second school, but my circumstances can't be divorced from this. I live in one of the few spots in the country where prime, dry aged beef is available retail, and I consider steak a special treat ... something to have every couple of months, and a reasonable excuse to destroy the food budget.

 

If either of these circumstances were different, I'd be buying less flavorful meat, an my prefered method would probably be the grill.

 

If not sous-vide, my favorite method for top quality steak is the stovetop. I've had plenty of good luck with both high/low temperature confentional sauteeing, and with the slow and steady Ducasse method. It's possible that both these methods give the meat enough time on the heat to infuse some smoke from the fat in the pan to infuse the meat. I don't know. 

 

One thing I'd like to improve with my sous-vide method is the char. I would like to go a little longer, perhas on a less hot pan (relying more on time and maillard-enhancing ingredients) and to use enough oil to concuct heat deeper into the surface irregularities of the meat.

 

I don't know if a pre-sear would be worth it or not. It takes a lot more time and energy to sear a cold piece of meat; so it's more challenging to keep the heat just to the surface.

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I've been doing something that I think enhances the grill flavor, SV. I trim most of the fat and grizzle from the steak, then render the fat in a pan and heavily sear the grizzle/trimmings in the rendered beef fat. I put the fat and seared trimmings in the bag with the steak with no seasoning. SV to whatever temp you like, then I'll season with salt only and sear with the torch, then pepper afterwards because I find that the pepper granules tend to burn under the torch.

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I've been doing something that I think enhances the grill flavor, SV. I trim most of the fat and grizzle from the steak, then render the fat in a pan and heavily sear the grizzle/trimmings in the rendered beef fat. I put the fat and seared trimmings in the bag with the steak with no seasoning. SV to whatever temp you like, then I'll season with salt only and sear with the torch, then pepper afterwards because I find that the pepper granules tend to burn under the torch.

I'm going to try this.

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We are also with you, my husband clearly prefers his steaks cooked either in the pan or on the grill. We decided that it is the way fat melts in your mouth, with sous vide meat feels leaner.

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grilling before cooking caramelizes the natural sugars in the meat hence the beautiful flavour (but depends on quality/ aging of meat etc, more its aged the more tender it is), ive learnt in restaurants not to season meat before cooking (my old chef who worked 3 star michelin) but each person does it differently. reason to season after cooking is so that the salt does not draw the juices from the meat while its cooking which can toughen it and dry it out a bit compared to seasoning straight after its cooked. Ive found souvide meats tend to be better when its game or poultry, red meats i prefer to get that super hot pan and get the caramelisation happening.

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grilling before cooking caramelizes the natural sugars in the meat hence the beautiful flavour (but depends on quality/ aging of meat etc, more its aged the more tender it is), ive learnt in restaurants not to season meat before cooking (my old chef who worked 3 star michelin) but each person does it differently. reason to season after cooking is so that the salt does not draw the juices from the meat while its cooking which can toughen it and dry it out a bit compared to seasoning straight after its cooked. Ive found souvide meats tend to be better when its game or poultry, red meats i prefer to get that super hot pan and get the caramelisation happening.

The pre/post seasoning issue has been well studied in laboratories and kitchens. We can say for sure that there is no issue with pre-salting drawing juices out of the meat and drying it out. The only issue is that if you salt too far in advance, the meat will start to cure, and change flavor and texture in ways you probably don't want. This is an issue with very long sous-vide cooking ... if you're going to be holding or cooking at low temperatures over 4 hours or so, it may be best to salt afterwards. Hervé This writes about this.

 

Re: Caramelization, check out articles on Maillard reactions.

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A lot depends on the cut. Muscle that has worked hard is tough but full of flavour. Cooking this type of cut sous vide for long periods tenderises it but retains flavour that you typically can't get in conventional tender cuts (unless you do significant dry aging).

I never pre sear but can see the benefit of KennethT's suggestion above.

One secret of post searing is to thoroughly dry the surface of the cooked meat. The other is to alkalise the surface, which accelerates maillardisation.

When I have fillet steak or other conventional cuts now I like the tenderness but hate the lack of flavour.

My suspicion is that those who like conventionally cooked meat like the texture gradient. Texture has a lot more effect on the eating experience than most people give it credit for.

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When I have fillet steak or other conventional cuts now I like the tenderness but hate the lack of flavour.

 

 

Could that be due to the inherent lack of flavour in the meat? Some "popular" cuts of meat, while tender when cooked traditionally, tend to be relatively bland.

 

Recent arrival of a Sansaire is my sole experience with low temp cooking and I havent worked my way down my list to steaks.

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if a high grade quality beef is used and there is fat marbelling within the tenderloin fillet then there will be alot more flavour when seared compared to a fillet steak with minimal fat, as its a tender cut, low grade steaks have pretty much no fat whatsoever hence the lack of flavour but still tender as the two tenderloins on the beast does absolutly no movement compared to other parts that move like blade, rump etc, fat has alot of flavour when it comes to beef.

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Could that be due to the inherent lack of flavour in the meat? Some "popular" cuts of meat, while tender when cooked traditionally, tend to be relatively bland.

 

Recent arrival of a Sansaire is my sole experience with low temp cooking and I havent worked my way down my list to steaks.

Yep. my point exactly.

 

Working muscle is good steak. It just needs to be treated well to make it tender as well as flavoursome.

 

 

 

 

 

[HOST'S NOTE: The continuation of this discussion can be found in the topic Do "working" muscles have more flavor?]


Edited by Chris Hennes Added host's note. (log)

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Yep. my point exactly.

 

Working muscle is good steak. It just needs to be treated well to make it tender as well as flavoursome.

Exactly! My favourite piece for sous vide is beef cheeks. Fantastic beefy flavour and melting with partially rendered fat and unctuous collagen. Sous vide liberates these fantastic qualities while retaining moisture.

Simon

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...and no competition with conventionally cooked steak, it's a plane beyond.

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I'm the one who placed the original post, and I wish to thank all who participated.  I've learned quite a bit.

 

I've read Hellen Rennie's blog (http://www.beyondsalmon.com/2011/06/why-sous-vide-sucks.html, but she's not knocking SV), in which she posits that many people are cooking sous vide meats much too long, which leads to a greater loss of juice and, perhaps, loss of flavor.  She's proposing to SV generally at 130F (54.5C) for only about one hour (varies shoewhat by meat cut).  She offers well-researched evidence for it.

 

Also, I read a technical paper on why the use of a Jaccard tool helps to make meat juicier, which appears to be counter-intuitive.

 

I wonder if some of the more experienced SVers might be able to expand on this.  Thank you.

 

George

Bedford, TX

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I'm the one who placed the original post, and I wish to thank all who participated.  I've learned quite a bit.

 

I've read Hellen Rennie's blog (http://www.beyondsalmon.com/2011/06/why-sous-vide-sucks.html, but she's not knocking SV), in which she posits that many people are cooking sous vide meats much too long, which leads to a greater loss of juice and, perhaps, loss of flavor.  She's proposing to SV generally at 130F (54.5C) for only about one hour (varies shoewhat by meat cut).  She offers well-researched evidence for it.

 

Also, I read a technical paper on why the use of a Jaccard tool helps to make meat juicier, which appears to be counter-intuitive.

 

I wonder if some of the more experienced SVers might be able to expand on this.  Thank you.

 

George

Bedford, TX

There are a number of threads on Jaccarding already. Check out this thread for a good discussion of the process. 


Edited by nickrey (log)

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