Introduction: Got a Sous Vide and a Vacuum Sealer? How to Cook a Perfect Expensive Steak, Guaranteed

No matter how talented the chef, even something as simple as salting, peppering and cooking a steak can be surprisingly daunting. There are dozens of methods and times and temperatures available to experiment with. Wood-fired steaks. Grilled steaks. Pan-fried steaks. Seared steaks finished in the oven and oven-cooked steaks finished with a sear. And there is really no denying that flawlessly seasoned and cooked steaks are achieved every day using all of these proven methods.

However, anyone who has mastered cooking steaks would freely admit that achieving consistently excellent results using any of the above methods requires at least some experience. Nobody who has been grilling, frying, baking and searing steaks for years would just as soon eat their first-ever try as the last steak they made.

Where I live, the only existing guarantee about thick-cut boneless ribeye steaks is that they cost $25 apiece or more. Cooking four of them for, for example, a Mother's Day dinner entails a certain memorable amount of financial and social risk. If you've just acquired yourself a sous vide unit, or you haven't tried steak yet, then buckle up and breathe easy because here is a new guarantee- if you follow my method, the steaks will be Mother's Day-worthy. Period. $75 in a restaurant-worthy. And I haven't the tiniest doubt of the outcome.

That's because sous vide cooking isn't like any other kind of cooking on earth. There is no way I can guarantee that even cupcakes from a box would turn out perfectly if you followed my directions. But I can guarantee that a ribeye, New York strip, or Filet Mignon will, as long as it is vacuum-sealed, cooked in a water bath, and finished quickly in a hot pan.


Perfect Expensive Steak, Guaranteed


As many thick-cut, expensive steaks as you can fit in your vacuum sealer bag and sous vide bath

Salt and Pepper


1T Vegetable Oil

Rosemary (optional)

Equipment and Supplies

Vacuum Sealer and bags (not really optional - see note)

A quality frying pan, preferably all-metal, that will get very, very hot

A sous vide setup (I use a nice Anova that clamps to a tamale pot)

Note on vacuum sealers - If you are going to get anywhere near the value out of your sous vide setup as it deserves, you need to get a vacuum sealer. It only takes one or two ruined 50-hour briskets to inspire you to take the 'ziploc bag failure' out of the equation forever. Just do it in advance. And no, you don't get a very airless environment in the ziplocs, either, which means that low-temperature cooking with raw meat starts to creep uncomfortably towards the possible-bacteria zone. Get a vacuum sealer. It makes all the difference!

Why Thick Cut Expensive Steaks - Ribeye, New York strip, porterhouse, and Filet Mignon are all extremely well-marbled, tender cuts of meat that turn out delicious when they are minimally cooked. Other cuts of meat can make great meals, but generally speaking, they should be cooked longer in order to break down connective tissue and become tender. So whatever methods you learn to cook expensive steaks won't work on cheap steaks, and vice-versa. These instructions are specific to the expensive kind.

Can I sous vide from frozen? - Absolutely. In fact, the cooking time here already includes extra thawing time to encourage it. Almost always, the finest cuts of meat at the supermarket are half-price or less in huge 'value packs.' If you buy a value pack with eight or ten big steaks, it's ideal to immediately salt, pepper, butter and vacuum seal them individually and toss them straight into the freezer. Doing this can save hundreds of dollars throughout the year instead of impulse-buying full-price ribeyes for dinner that same night (much less buying steaks cooked this well out at a real restaurant.)

Step 1: Step 1: Season and Seal

First Image: Pat steaks dry and season well with salt and pepper.

You can use high-end artisanal salt and pepper...but if you use the 99-cent shakers from the supermarket, I promise nobody will ever taste the difference.

Second and Third Image: Double seal your vacuum bag.

In order to feel peaceful about hundreds of dollars in steak sitting a millimeter away from ruination in a water bath, I always double seal my vacuum bags. To do this, you just have to seal an end normally as you would to make a bag, and then cut half of the excess off with scissors and shove the cut end back in for another seal. If you're new to vacuum sealing steaks, too, here's a tip- ALWAYS leave more extra when you make the bag than you will need when you fill it. The vacuum does suck moisture towards it when pumping air out, and every drop of steak juice that reaches the jaws hastens the day when your unit must be broken down for cleaning having failed to make a good seal.

Third Image: Add a pat of butter and rosemary to each steak and finish vacuum sealing.

It doesn't matter if you use dried rosemary, a small sprig of rosemary, or none at all.

Step 2: Step 2: Into the Bath

For your Perfect Expensive SteakGuarantee to be valid, you have to cook these bad boys at exactly 129 degrees for exactly four hours from frozen or three hours if thawed.

The reason the temperature setting is crucial is simple. We are shooting for medium-rare here, specifically a final result of about 131 degrees. A steak cooked to 129 degrees throughout and then quickly seared on a very hot pan (which is the last thing we are going to do) will rise to about that precise temperature at serving time. Also, it isn't nearly as safe cooking steak below 129 degrees.

The time setting is the result of some extensive experimentation. I'll save you the time- steaks cooked for one hour are nowhere near as consistently tender and delicious as steaks cooked for three hours. A frozen steak spends the first 45 minutes to an hour in the tub defrosting, then gets the same three hours of cook time.

While you will often need to cover your sous vide setup with aluminum foil on a longer cook like a brisket or roast, four hours is pretty short in the sous vide world. Evaporation is no big deal as long as you fill your container to the top and have enough water to easily cover the steaks. If your steak is floating, put a rock on it.

Step 3: Step 3: Sear and Serve!

In order to give the steak a delicious crust without overcooking it, we are going to have to move pretty fast. Heat your pan on your most powerful burner for about five minutes. Then add enough oil to barely coat the pan. Swish around or very carefully spread the oil with a paper towel.

Pat the steaks dry and when the oil begins to smoke, add the steaks and flip every 30 seconds until they have browned. (One kitchen trick- 30 seconds is about how long it takes to sing Happy Birthday, Marilyn Monroe style. I use this an awful lot in the absence of a kitchen timer. It's the one-stride-is-about-three-feet of my cooking.)

Put the steaks on their serving plates. You do NOT need to rest a steak cooked with a sous vide. Instead, put a pat of butter on each and eat straight away.


If your steak ends up a bit overdone, it is possible you seared it for too long. A lot of sous vide enthusiasts buy handheld torches to solve this problem. It would be great if sous vide was clearly safe at 125 or 123 degrees....but it really isn't. An extremely swift sear is the key to this method.

Also, a sous vide steak often gains color in the moments after being cut open. If your steak looks medium when you cut it, wait a moment to be sure- and if it never turns pink, eat it anyways. A tender, medium-cooked high-end steak cooked in a sous vide is a fine consolation prize!