Introduction: Perfect T-Bone Steak

About: I helped start Instructables, previously worked in biotech and academic research labs, and have a degree in biology from MIT. Currently head of Product helping young startups at Alchemist Accelerator, previous…
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

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

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

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

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

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