Molecular Gastronomy for a time pressed home cook? Absolutely.
When I did my sous vide testing earlier in the year, one of the questions in the back of my head was “when will I have the time to use this?” The meat was perfect, but the one hour cooking time? Most of my cooking is done on weeknights, trying to get dinner on the table while chaos erupts around me…ahem, sorry. I meant to say while my angelic kids sit quietly at the table doing their homework.
How could I work in the hour long sous vide process? It turns out the answer is in the vacuum sealing - just freeze it. Sous vide cooking is now in my weeknight rotation, because I can do all the work ahead of time. I buy steaks and chops in bulk, season them, vacuum seal them, and put them in the freezer. Then…they wait.
Later that week, I need a quick dinner. As soon as I walk through the door I pull a bag out of the freezer and drop it in the sous vide. Then I go about my business; an hour and a half later, the steaks are perfectly cooked - a quick sear in a pan, a toss of a salad, and dinner’s ready. I have to do it the moment I get home, or dinner will be late, but it takes two minutes, and then I can go relax. Or mediate a dispute between –the Hatfields and McCoys– my kids. Or ignore the civil war in the TV room and go relax - whatever works.
Frozen steaks or chops need an extra half hour to cook through - one and a half hours total cooking time is good - but they can’t overcook; that’s the beauty of sous vide. If dinner gets delayed, they’ll be fine - sitting and waiting for me to need them.
Here’s a specific example, using a large sirloin steak from Brunty Farms. It came frozen and vacuum sealed. But it wasn’t ready for a weeknight dinner. I cut the bag open, seasoned it with a simple Tex-Mex rub, and sealed it in a new bag. A few days later it was taco night - I pulled the bag out of the freezer, and a half an hour later I had fajitas ready. (Just add tortillas, salsa, sour cream, olives, shredded lettuce, and pickled jalapeños.)
Recipe: Sous Vide Grilled Sirloin with Tex-Mex Rub (from the freezer)
Adapted From: SousVide Supreme, Meal Planning Tips: How to Cook Sous Vide from Frozen
Cooking time: 94 minutes
- Sous Vide water bath (I used a SousVide Supreme Demi, but you can improvise one with a beer cooler)
- Vacuum sealer
- Grill (I use a Weber Summit. Here is the current version of my grill.)
- 1 inch thick (1 ½ pound) sirloin steak
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon ground ancho chili pepper
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon granulated garlic (or garlic powder)
1. Season, vacuum seal, and freeze the steaks
Sprinkle the steak evenly with the salt and spices. Put the steak in a small (quart) vacuum pouch, and vacuum seal the bag. Put the bag in the freezer for later. (Up to a year, according to the USDA)
2. Sous Vide the steak
Remove the bag from the freezer, put it in the sous vide machine, and sous vide at 140°F/60°C for at least 1 ½ hours, up to 6 ½ hours. Use 130°F/54.5°C for medium-rare. The kids like their steak medium, so that’s how I cooked this one.
3. Set the grill for direct high heat
Set the grill up for cooking on direct high heat, and clean the grill grate. For my gas grill, I preheat with all the burners on high for 15 minutes, then brush the grate clean with my grill brush.
4. Sear the steaks over direct high heat
Remove the steaks from the vacuum bag. Pat the steaks dry with paper towels, then put the steaks on the grill over direct high heat. Sear, flipping every minute or two, until the steaks are well browned on both sides, about 4 minutes total.
5. Rest and serve
Let the steak rest on a plate for ten minutes, then slice thin on the bias and serve with tortillas, salsa, sour cream, and other fajita toppings.
- Of course, you don't have to freeze the vacuum sealed bag with the steak - it can go straight into the sous vide cooker if you're in a hurry, or it can be refrigerated for a couple of days if you know you'll be cooking it soon.
- Why use the grill? Because it’s the quickest way for me to warm up 20 flour tortillas - I spread them out on the grill over medium heat, about 1 minute a side, and wrap them in a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm. After the tortillas were ready, I upped the heat to high and seared the steak, and threw on some peppers and onions as an additional topping.
- Don’t feel like grilling? Get a pan ripping hot, add a teaspoon of oil, and sear the steak quickly, about 1 minute per side.
- Don’t have a sous vide cooker, but want to cook the sirloin on a weeknight? Skip the sous vide. Grill the steak over direct high heat for 8 minutes total cooking time to cook it to medium-rare, flipping and rotating the steak every two minutes. (10 minutes total cooking time for medium. Beyond that…don’t tell me about it.)
- Don't have a sous vide cooker, but want to try out sous vide cooking? You can sous vide in a beer cooler full of hot water.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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