I know that cooking a steak in a cooler sound absolutely crazy, but it’s a great way to experiment with sous vide cooking without the $400 price tag. What is sous vide? Sous vide is a method of cooking where food is sealed in an airtight bag and submerged into a water bath. The temperature must be closely regulated for both proper cooking and safety. Thankfully, a cooler is not only great at keeping foods cold, but can keep them warm as well. It’s perfect as a makeshift sous vide machine.
To properly sous vide a steak in a cooler, you will need an accurate digital thermometer that will constantly measure the temperature of the water. The cooler will prevent the water temperature from dropping drastically, but you still need to keep an eye on it. A temperature that drops too low will prevent the steaks from cooking fully.
You will need about 8 quarts of water per steak in order for the water to maintain a constant temperature. I just use a mixture of hot tap water and boiling water from the stove to achieve a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. If the water temperature ever dips too low during cooking, I add a few cups of boiling water. Just don’t open the cooler lid too often.
The first step is to vacuum seal the beef tenderloin. If you don’t have a vacuum sealer, you can place the steaks into separate zip-lock bags and remove the air by dipping the bags into water. Once the bags are nearly fully submerged, seal the bag. The water will help push out all of the air from the bags, keeping the steaks from floating and in constant contact with the water while cooking.
Feel free to add any marinade or seasonings to the vacuumed sealed bags.
Place the steaks into the 140 degree water for 1 hour. The steaks are ready when the internal temperature reaches 120 degrees for rare, 134 degrees for medium rare, or 140 degrees for medium. Since the water temperature is at 140 degrees, the steaks won’t reach a doneness over medium.
After an hour in the water bath, the steaks will need to be seared in a screaming hot pan or grill. A cast iron pan works great for this. This will create the beautiful and flavorful crust on the outside of the steak, without overcooking it.
Some of the best steaks I’ve ever made were done by this style of cooking.
- 2 beef tenderloin filets
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tbsp butter (if using a cast iron pan)
- large cooler
- digital cooking thermometer
- Fill a large cooler with 140 degree Fahrenheit water. Set aside.
- Place a beef tenderloin filet into a vacuumed sealed bag and remove the air. Make sure that the bag has an airtight seal. Repeat with the second steak.
- Place the steaks into the 140 degree water and ensure that they are fully submerged (if not, place a weight on top of the steaks). Allow the steaks to cook for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until you have reached the desired internal temperature.
- A few minutes before the steaks are done cooking in the water bath, preheat a grill or cast iron pan over high heat. When the steaks are done, remove them from the vacuumed sealed bag. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. If using a grill, place the steaks over the hottest part of the grill and sear each side until golden brown, about 30 seconds per side. If using a cast iron pan, add the butter and steaks. Sear each side for about 30 seconds until golden brown.
- Serve immediately.
Source: Modernist Cuisine at Home
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