Introduction: Perfect T-Bone Steak

Picture of Perfect T-Bone Steak

Want to make a perfect medium-rare* T-bone steak?  It's easy: get it exactly right every time by cooking your steak sous vide.  Here's a great explanation of why sous vide makes perfect steaks.

Precision-cooking this tender cut of steak takes only an hour or two, so if you don't have a sous vide set-up this is a great candidate for the DIY cooler sous vide trick. I've simply paired the steak with browned-butter caramelized onions, but creamed spinach, some form of potato, or a salad are also traditional steak-house sides.  

Not convinced that sous vide is useful for steak? 

*or any doneness you like: just set the sous vide temperature appropriately, and you can make rare, medium-rare, medium, or even well-done steak without carefully-timed cooking or guess-and-check nonsense. 

Step 1: Salt & Bag

Picture of Salt & Bag

Place your steak in a bag, weigh it, and add 1% salt by weight.  This means a 600g steak gets 6g of salt.  Remove air from the bag and create a water-tight seal.

I've used a fancy vacuum chamber, but you can also use a foodsaver, or a ziplock bag if you're going the beer-cooler route.  Just make sure you get salt in, and the air and water out.  

Step 2: Cook

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Time to precision-cook your steak!

Heat your water bath to 131F, and drop in the bag-o-steak.  If you're using the beer-cooler method, make sure to adjust the water temperature so you HOLD with 131F water for the duration of cook time.

Cook for at least 1.5 hours if you want to pasteurize your steak.  Holding a bit longer won't hurt; 2-3 hours is fine, and won't show any real change in the texture of the meat.  

If you want an un-pasteurized steak, hold for an hour at 125F for rare, 131F for medium-rare, 140F for medium. 

Step 3: Saute Onions

Picture of Saute Onions

Brown about half a stick of butter in a pan, then add 2 chopped onions and a generous pinch of salt and cook over medium heat.  Stir as needed until onions soften and brown as well.

If pan-searing the steak: remove onions from pan while you perform step 4, then replace and cook down with the fond and any remaining meat juice from the sous vide bag. Continue cooking until the liquid has cooked off.

If grilling or blowtorching the steak: go ahead and add the meat juices from the sous vide bag, and continue cooking until the liquid has cooked off.

Step 4: Finish Steak

Picture of Finish Steak
Now it's time to finish your steak, with the goal of creating a nice set of Maillard Reaction products (browning) on the surface of the meat.  This requires hot dry heat, and should be done quickly (60sec/side or less) to avoid overheating your perfectly-cooked interior.  The thinner your steak, the quicker you need to finish.  Here are your basic options:

Shown below.  Use a heavy pot, cast-iron if you can get it.
  • Add a bit more butter to the pan if needed, and turn the heat up to medium-high.  
  • Sear the steak on both sides until browned, about 60 seconds per side.  
  • Remove from pan and rest on a plate.

See the intro picture for results - this is my preferred method.
  • Pre-heat grill so grate is extremely hot.
  • Drop steak on the grill, positioning for your favorite style/direction of grill marks.
  • When the front side is properly browned (60 seconds or less), flip and grill the other side.
  • Remove from grill immediately and rest on a plate.

This is a quick-and-easy method for flaming when you don't have grill access.  I keep an industrial blowtorch under my kitchen sink at home, right next to the fire extinguisher.
  • Set the steak on a sturdy heat-proof plate (metal or heavy ceramic), pan, or baking sheet.
  • Light blowtorch, and slowly pass flame over the surface of the meat.
  • Repeat as necessary to achieve a nice brown crust on the surface of the meat.  It should sizzle.
  • Pay close attention to fat on the edges - browned fat is delicious.
  • Flip, and torch the other side.
  • Allow torched steak to rest for a few minutes.

Step 5: Finish & Plate

Picture of Finish & Plate

To serve, place onions on the steak.  Complicated, yes?  Well, no.  But certainly delicious, and utterly fool-proof.


RosemaryP1 (author)2015-07-23

Sounds intriguing, but Hubby loves his STOK grill and every weekend grills 2" porterhouses on the grill.

How long would it take to make 2 - 2" porterhouse steaks with your method?

You mention using a blow torch, are you saying that the steaks are cooked when they come out of the heat bath and all they need is browned?

canida (author)RosemaryP12016-01-06

You want to bring your steak up to 131F, which will take a slightly longer if you're using 2" steaks - figure another 10-15 minutes in the bath to reach temperature.

The steaks are 100% cooked when they come out, and just need to be browned on the surface by whatever method you prefer. I like the fact I don't need to pay close attention to the steaks while they're in the bath, you can be a couple of hours late with no problems, and it's only 2 minutes standing by the grill to finish them - bonus on a hot day.

1Dgirl (author)2013-10-27

I love steak but I don't no how to make now I do tnx u a steak saver!

canida (author)1Dgirl2013-12-09

Let me know how it goes!

neo71665 (author)2013-10-02

Hours for a steak???? By that time I've done lit my grill, grilled my food to my liking, washed the dishes, and took a nap.

tjk1939 (author)2013-08-25

Not the way I like my steak. Takes me only a few minutes per side. Medium rare, YUM.

canida (author)tjk19392013-08-25

Ah, but while a standardly-cooked steak is medium-rare in the center, there's a gradient that gets progressively more well-done towards the exterior.

This technique produces a steak that is exactly 131F (or whatever temperature you target) all the way through, with a nice external sear. Especially useful for very thick steaks. I'll have to post a cross-section.

tjk1939 (author)canida2013-08-26

Thanks for the reply, but that is also not what I consider a sear. You cook yours the way you like it, I'll cook mine the way I like it and we will both be happy.

canida (author)tjk19392013-08-26

Steak is a very personal thing. :)

Post your technique - would love to see it.

timothybena (author)canida2013-09-03

It's not really, there's a science to it.

tjk1939 (author)timothybena2013-09-03

Somehow an instructable on how to cook a steak is really not much on the interesting scale. I guess I'm just more into mechanical or electronic ibles. I learned to cook the way I like it a long time ago. Sorry, I don't mean to offend anyone. But then again, now days you can't say much without offending someone.

tjk1939 (author)canida2013-08-26

canida, I think you are making a lot more out of cooking a steak than necessary. Sous vide is not needed for average people, you must be a foodie who watches too much TV. I will guarantee there are no top notch steak houses that sous vide their steaks. A 600 deg. grill for a couple of minutes per side works for most people. remember K.I.S.S. An instructable is not needed. Cheers.

timothybena (author)tjk19392013-09-03

Pro tip: Steakhouses have to churn out hundreds of steaks a day in a short period of time, if they had the time, they'd do ti as I've mentioned above. Steakhosues are not the be all and end all of steak, they are restaurant food and therefore much of what they do is a matter of expediency, not taste.

timothybena (author)canida2013-09-03

Why is the exterior of your steak not nice and dark then? You did something wrong.

timothybena (author)2013-09-03

That's not the perfect steak at all. It's not even the right colour.

For perfect steak:

1) Salt steak well, at least 45 min prior to cooking, preferably 12h ahead of time.
2) Preheat oven to 225
3) Dry the steak with paper towels, thin coat of vegetable oil, season steak
4) Put in cast iron pan, place in oven
5) Cook until 10 degrees less than desired doneness
6) Remove from oven
7) Heat burner on high, or heat oven to 500F
8) Put cast irons on burner
9) Place steak, butter and any aromatics (Garlic, shallots rosemary, thyme) in pan
10) Baste the steak with butter constantly until desired doneness is reached.
11) Let rest for 5-10mins

This makes for a steak with an amazingly crispy, dark and flavourful exterior, with a perfectly pink inside, no grey ring around the exterior. That is how you make the perfect steak. It's better than a steakhouse steak, which actually does a lot of what it does for expediency, instead of deliciousness.

A Guinness Drinker (author)2013-08-26

What would Gordon Ramsey say?

jklovance (author)2013-08-25

Tenderized steak is easy to spot as the surface is different and it has to be disclosed on the packaging (I live in Canada).

canida (author)jklovance2013-08-26

Canada is considerably more advanced. :)

dtownmaker (author)2013-08-26

Very nice! I saw the headline "Perfect T-Bone Steak" in the recap email and had to click. If you didn't mention sous vide, well, you did!

canida (author)dtownmaker2013-08-26

Thanks! I'm having fun introducing people to new techniques.

Just checked out your BBQ site - looks great. I hope you're going to be posting some recipes!

LancasterPA (author)2013-08-26

I would send back a steak that looked like that. Looks like a broiler steak. Put it on the grill for 6 minutes per side and you have a perfect steak in 12 minutes not hours. Also don't buy Walmart garbage steak. They are 20% tenderizing solution and their tooth is very mushy. BBQ Forever.

canida (author)LancasterPA2013-08-26

Cooking perfect medium-rare steaks on the grill takes practice, and even then only the center is medium-rare. By cooking sous vide, the entire steak is exactly the doneness you want, then you can finish the exterior however you like. My preference is to grill-finish for a minute on each side, but in this case had to pan-sear. Next time I can grill-finish I'll swap out the picture.

Mistwalker (author)2013-08-25

Looks gray and lifeless. I'll stick to cooking over a wood fire.

sockless (author)Mistwalker2013-08-25

You can get a perfectly fine looking piece of steak over a pan if you do it right. I don't have access to anything but a pan, so this is how I do it.

The trick is to get a pan with the greatest thermal mass possible, basically the heaviest pan you can find, ideally it should fit just on the element, if you are using an electric stove. You should put it on max heat, and throw canola oil in, there should be enough oil that it pools if you tilt the pan. Wait until is starts smoking, then add your steak.

The trick is to flip the steak every ~30 seconds, it may seem counter intuitive, but it actually allows the steak to brown more. When the steak is cooked, you then need to give the sides a quick sear, just to seal them and brown them a bit.

canida (author)Mistwalker2013-08-25

I prefer to finish on a grill myself. The goal with this technique is to ensure an exact and even target temperature (131F medium-rare here), then quickly finish the outside to your taste. It also reduces the margin for error, as wood fire cooking requires a lot more skill and attention.

Please post your wood-fire method! That's one I'd like to know how to get right every time.

jklovance (author)2013-08-25

Pasteurization is not necessary with steaks. Microbial issues are surface issues. With a solid piece of meat all you need to do is bring the surface temp up to kill any pathogens. That is the reason it is legal to serve blue rare steaks. Ground beef is different in that there is no defined surface as things have been mixed up. Chicken is different in that it is usually water bath chilled and the pathogens have had time to penetrate.

canida (author)jklovance2013-08-25

This totally depends on your sourcing. Many supermarkets tenderize their steaks with an industrial version of a Jaccard (needle tenderizing), which can introduce surface pathogens into the muscle.

When I buy high-quality beef directly from the producer, I'm happy to dispense with pasteurization. When buying from a supermarket, best not to make assumptions. And with sous vide, there is no loss of texture or taste when pasteurizing the steak.

sconnor2 (author)2013-08-25

I guess you like your meat "WELL DONE", most people like medium rare. You should probably mention that.

canida (author)sconnor22013-08-25

This is cooked to exactly 131F internal temperature, which is a perfect medium rare. You can vary the external searing to your preference.

jklovance (author)2013-08-25

A couple of thoughts about this method.
The temperature of 131 may be a bit high. if you like rare or medium rare meat. The searing process may bring it past the 140 degree mark into medium.
The searing process may be better done on a grill or grill pan. Caramelizing parts of the meat is very important and a flat pan does not do a very good job. It is difficult to get the high heat necessarily.

canida (author)jklovance2013-08-25

131F for 2 hours is what I prefer for pasteurized medium-rare. You can also go for unpasteurized rare (125F) or medium-rare (131F for 1-1.5 hours), but then you're putting your faith in the steak's processor. I got this one at Safeway, so chose pasteurization.

At 60 sec/side in a nice hot pan, you're not going to raise the interior temperature of the steak, just create a surface sear. A slice through the meat shows this quite nicely. (I'll have to post a cross-section next time I make it.) At home I usually grill-finish, but an extremely hot pan does a fine job as well. Finish as you prefer.

caitlinsdad (author)2013-08-24

What does it look like when you slice that steak open? Uniform pink throughout with a microscopically thin char outer layer? I'm afraid that sous vide roast beef only turns out like a RoyRogers or Arby's sandwich.

jklovance (author)caitlinsdad2013-08-25

I have been doing something similar but not so controlled. I use a pot with hot water to bring the meat up to about 100 degrees and then finish it on a grill as usual. The key is to have the meat close to cooked temperature before putting it onto high heat. Putting a cold steak on a hot grill is the worst thing you can do to a piece of meat. You end up with charred outside and cold middle.

caitlinsdad (author)jklovance2013-08-25

I guess what I enjoy is the textural quality of a steak done right, a solid smokey crust with a juicy mouthwatering center, med rare to nonblue rare. It is the perfect uniformity of the cooked meat throughout that makes it seem so commercially prepared or done through the magic of microwaves and boring to eat, although a prime rib or filet mignon benefits from the sous vide process.

canida (author)caitlinsdad2013-08-25

So that's the fun of sous vide - you can cook the interior to exactly the temperature you want. Holding it at or above 130 slowly melts the connective tissue, so the longer you hold the more the texture breaks down. For T-bone steak very little breakdown is desired, so I just held it long enough to pasteurize the steak - the internal texture is perfect. You can sear the exterior any way you like, and create as thick a crust as you like. At home I'd grill it, but unfortunately we're not allowed to set the pier on fire so I chose to pan-sear.

What you're thinking about is meat cooked sous vide with a much longer hold time designed to melt connective tissue. It's a game - melting enough for a particular cut to be soft (think ribs etc) but not so far gone to be mealy. There are charts, but you have to adjust for how the animal was fed/raised and also to your taste.

billbillt (author)2013-08-24

now i am starving...great

M.C. Langer (author)2013-08-23


canida (author)M.C. Langer2013-08-23

Thank you! You can try this one at home, too - only a couple of hours in a cooler.

About This Instructable




Bio: I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodesk. Follow me for food and more!
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