Why I always pre-sear my sous vide steaks now

I had to update our earlier post about cooking the perfect sous vide steak. Regrettably, when I was cooking those steaks, one of my favorite teams was playing and I left the steaks on one side too long. This lead to a visually obvious overcooking:

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The steaks were still great but this is not the look you’re going for, and I wouldn’t be proud to serve these steaks to guests.

Pre-searing is the way to go

Anyway, I’ve played around quite a bit with different ways to sear steaks and get that nice maillard reaction without risking a result like the above. My conclusion: pre-searing the steaks before you sous vide is the way to go. Why? Well for a few reasons:

  1. Doing it ahead of time is easier
  2. When you pre-sear the steaks already have a nice charcoal/seared flavor and that flavor enhances the steak as it cooks in the water bath–its marinating in a heightened flavor environment while you cook.
  3. When you pre-sear you can cook the steak right out of the fridge, searing a cold steak reduces the likelihood you will create an overcooked “brown band” like the above image. Cold steaks are more forgiving.

For this session, I’m using some nice ribeyes that I got on sale.

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Get your cast iron pan super hot. Then take your steak out of the fridge, season with salt and whatever else you like, then put it in the pan. I find that oil/butter will increase the browning and flavor of the steak, however, it will also lead to more splattering and smoke.

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If the steak is particularly thick you may want to cook the edges where the fat is thickest and/or use a torch to render that fat and get some more color.

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After you’ve seared each side for no more than 1 minute each, seal and you’re ready for the water bath.

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Into the water bath. Depending on thickness go 1-2 hours @ 129 °F

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Remove, cut, and serve:

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So tender and moist

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One of the ribeyes was a prime cut so it had a great deal of marbling and was crazy flavorful.

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Life’s to short to eat steaks that aren’t perfectly cooked.

In conclusion, I have found that pre-searing is a more forgiving approach. I also think it leads to a more flavorful steak. Try it for yourself. If you have any ideas or recipes you want us to try comment below.

What I used:

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