Frozen seared steak
April 13, 2013 6:36 PM   Subscribe

OK, this is a single-recipe post, but if you would like to host a steak dinner for more than like two people and get sous-vide-like results with less hassle and equipment, here's what you do: Freeze the steaks, sear them hot, then stick them in a low oven for an hour. Nathan Myhrvold (Modernist Cuisine) explains.
posted by AceRock (31 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
Tried it, loved it, will do it again. My favorite is currently the cooler sous vide with a sear at the end. but this is the easiest way to a make a perfect steak as i have ever tried.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2013

90 minutes is a pretty long time for a "weeknight meal", but this is interesting.
posted by rollbiz at 6:43 PM on April 13, 2013

Bam. Dinner tomorrow night. Thanks AceRock!
posted by dobie at 6:45 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Looks to me like the big advantage here, over grilling, is the use of the meat thermometer. I wonder if just using one of those on a regular grill would do the same thing?
posted by Malor at 6:56 PM on April 13, 2013

Malor, it helps a lot for sure. but the main difference between this method and a hot grill is the heat gradient from the surface to the center of the meat.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:02 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've done sous vide steaks, which is a similar concept - sous vide cook until you reach the desired core temperature, then sear to get a nice crust, and the big advantage over just grilling with a meat thermometer is that it's very hard to overcook - because the steak is cooking so slowly, if you're off by a few minutes it doesn't make much difference. On a hot grill, where you're only cooking for a few minutes per side, if you get distracted and forget to check the temperature you can easily end up with steaks substantially more well done than you want.

One of the big advantages of sous vide is this 'set it and forget it' concept. I see why chefs love it.

As an aside, we got a copy of Modernist Cuisine at our wedding and I love it. Many of the recipes are a bit impractical to make however. Has anyone seen Modernist Cuisine at Home and can compare the two? Also, the carmelized carrot soup recipe that's on the Modernist Cuisine website is a big hit at our house.
posted by pombe at 7:06 PM on April 13, 2013

I have modernist cuisine, too. and borrowed the At Home from a friend. I kinda wish I just got the At Home one. Very useful, entertaining, accessible. Having the big set as a reference is ideal, but the at home one is really what i was hoping the big one would be.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 7:11 PM on April 13, 2013

You can sear the steak by pan-frying it, or with a blowtorch.

Yep. Trying that next.
posted by Benway at 7:14 PM on April 13, 2013

Watch out, he's sitting on a submarine patent for the whole steak and blowtorch thing.
posted by jenkinsEar at 7:21 PM on April 13, 2013 [19 favorites]

Do you use a regular propane plumbing torch for searing?
posted by Mitheral at 7:25 PM on April 13, 2013

It's better if you use fracking-free organic propane.
posted by spacewrench at 7:28 PM on April 13, 2013 [13 favorites]

The recommendation is for a MAPP-equivalent torch as it is hotter. I have used a regular propane torch and find it too slow. I prefer a very hot cast iron pan and sometimes the broiler.
posted by ssg at 7:29 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm sure the freezing is useful, but I've never had an overcooking problem with a sear + low oven on a room temperature steak. I do use a meat thermometer. I get about an eighth to a quarter-inch or so of sear, and then a uniform pink/red (whatever you're going for) through the rest using cast iron and 225 degree oven. Great way to cook steaks.
posted by haricotvert at 7:51 PM on April 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've tried this 3 times after reading about it in Tim Ferris' last book. Gotta say I wasn't impressed.
posted by dobbs at 8:05 PM on April 13, 2013

Pull it from the fridge, let it rest for thirty minutes at room temperature, then sear for a few minutes on each side, then let it rest while you make the pan sauce. I'm not sure why that is hard.
posted by empath at 8:16 PM on April 13, 2013 [7 favorites]

I let mine warm up like empath says but I broil it on both sides, on highest rack with the oven door open. I remove it, turn the heat way down to 180, wait 5 minutes and then put back in with the door shut. I check it about 20 minutes later with a thermometer. It works well with thick cuts.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:23 PM on April 13, 2013

Season. This step is hard. It involves kosher salt, fresh ground pepper and dried herbs. Experiment to taste.

Cooking is easy. Medium-high gas grill. Cook it until this.

Rest it a full five minutes. Ten is better, but may be too cool for most customers.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:24 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think the main advantage to this is your not having to defrost it, or in the case of thinner steaks that might overcook in the roasting stage. Interesting. I suspect that searing at the end might be more likely to over cook the meat -- or what he thinks of as overcooking, since modernists are all hung up on having color right up to the surface. As if anybody cared. I would rather have the bottom browned and suffer with a little tiny doneness gradient, personally.

-- josh ozersky
posted by Balok at 8:27 PM on April 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Given the assorted diseases now, Mr. Roquette and I like well-done. E. coli can be fatal for people over 50 or for kids.
We just grilled a bunch of steaks ahead today. They were on sale, so we got four family packs. I used Lawry's season salt, a hit of nutmeg and there's this stuff called powdered honey. I sprinkled it on VERY thinly with a tea-strainer.
These were very thin steaks. Mr. Roquette loves to grill. There is in his opinion only one thing that might be better than grilling...
Anyway, we got them all grilled. Took everything in and then he made his fantastic Jo-Jos.
Anyone who eats them is instantly hooked.
I had my steak and Jo-Jos with some home-made ajvar.
He had his plain.
We watch all the grilling shows. I suppose if you really have a trusted source for beef a half-raw steak is ok, but it's a chance I don't take anymore. This time we had super-market steaks. So not going the rare route.
Even from the very good butcher shop we mostly go to, we don't take that chance.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 9:19 PM on April 13, 2013

If it isn't rare, it's beef abuse. Mr. Ramsey agrees.

If your food is poisonous, maybe it's time to pressure TPTB to enact some regulations and penalties. If there's a role for government, the nation's food security is surely a prime candidate. Ain't much of a nation if y'all be dyin' from bad meat.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:20 PM on April 13, 2013 [5 favorites]

A lot of people seem to be missing the primary point of this method; a nice solution to the problem of serving Steaks at a Dinner Party. I've often wondered how one can prepare 6+ steaks for a dinner party at home (without a BBQ- if you have a BBQ and don't mind standing outside cooking steaks while everyone else is chatting then you don't need this method).

This is a nice solution. You can do all the manual cooking and searing, prep work before your guests arrive. And stick the steaks in the warm oven to slowly reach eating temperature. The initial sear will kill all the surface bacteria and you will be safe to slowly cook the interior.

I hate having to do actual cooking activities when the guests have already arrived so usually something Stew like (Coq au Vin, Beouf Bourginon, Pie...).
posted by mary8nne at 4:14 AM on April 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

No. This is wrong. I've tasted the results of this method. While not horrendous, I find it off-putting. As with sous-vide, it lends to a strange texture. While, arguably, this it the texture and taste we're all supposedly going for, I find it an anathema. The meat becomes sponge-like. The crust is no better than that which you'd get out of pan frying properly or a high heat grill.

Also, as this method has been around for a few years, I find it odd nobody's brought up the comparison to gas grilling versus charcoal. The main complaint about propane has always been a detectable flavour imparted by the propane (I've not found that to be the case). This method is direct gas flame. Strange that.
posted by converge at 5:20 AM on April 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

I expected this was going to be Thought Catalog's Steak Recipe for Real Men's Magazine. It was not, so I'll just leave this here.
posted by gusandrews at 8:10 AM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

>: "The main complaint about propane has always been a detectable flavour imparted by the propane"

Isn't it the other way around ("Taste the meat not the heat")? People may prefer the way certian woods flavour whatever they are cooking but a well adjusted propane flame is extremely clean and should impart much if any flavour to food especially compared to whatever contaminants are coming off a piece charcoal.
posted by Mitheral at 8:41 AM on April 14, 2013

I love mesquite or oak or apple or cherry wood chips for grilling, and nothing is like that kiss of flame.
We actually buy steaks on sale and grill them ahead. Then all I have to do to make a nice dinner is make vegetables, and rice or potatoes or pasta. Then we are good. Grilling and freezing also means if we have a guest, they get a real treat.
We never have anyone turn down our meat!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 10:10 AM on April 14, 2013

For all of you who have thought that grilling was the ultimate in manly cooking--it's pretty namby pamby compared to BLOWTORCHING!
posted by leftcoastbob at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2013

The main complaint about propane has always been a detectable flavour imparted by the propane (I've not found that to be the case). This method is direct gas flame.

I do notice that gas grills do give steaks a slightly unpleasant taste, but I think it is because the fat cooks differently, and does not hit hot coals when it drips, which creates the unique charcoaled taste.

I can't get the NYTimes video to play so I don't quite know what's going on there. But I do recall my grandfather, who was a veterinarian and scientist for the USDA back around the 40s and 50s, said he did extensive research on grilling methods. He described one method he invented, the steak was cooked by gas flame from above and below. The idea was to decrease cooking time, but he said it was a failure because you ended up with steaks that were raw in the center. But this technique did become economically feasible for thin burgers, you would probably know it as the flame broiler used by Burger King.

I watched my grandfather toy with many different barbecue processes over the years, and learned many of his secrets. But I never was a big fan of his favorite machine, the smoker. It was too time consuming, and I didn't like the taste. Not to mention that process is not considered very healthy nowadays.
posted by charlie don't surf at 11:54 AM on April 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I have a 60-minute commute: Can I just wrap 'em in foil and put them on the radiator for the drive home?
posted by tomarrow at 12:21 PM on April 14, 2013

No love for the Big Green Egg?
posted by five fresh fish at 12:46 PM on April 14, 2013

You joke tomarrow but back when carburetors and big V8s ruled the automotive world I used to cook all sorts of food on road trips by wrapping it foil and tossing it on the intake manifold of the engine. It's perfect for making nachos for example. Modern cars for the most part lack any convenient place to place the food that gets up to cooking temperature. The tops of the engine are covered with intake manifolds that are designed to keep the intake charge cool and double overhead cams that isolate the top of the engine from the combustion chamber. Also I suspect modern engines run a lot cooler than old engines because they aren't getting rid of so much waste heat.
posted by Mitheral at 3:29 PM on April 14, 2013

This is similar to Bob "Meathead" Goldwyn's (of Sear in the Rear technique. I'm not a huge fan of it, but might give this approach one more try. He has a good history of the development of the technique on that page as well.
posted by oneironaut at 10:40 AM on April 15, 2013

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