Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Perfect Steak - Cooked Sous Vide (including Thermomix Instructions for TM5 and T31)

Whether you enjoy your steak rare, medium-rare, or medium cooking it 'Sous Vide' is the way to get perfect results every single time...

When I met my partner years ago, I cooked him steak 'sous vide' in the early days, and it was the first time he'd ever had it cooked that way. In those days, I didn't have any high end kitchen gadgetry - no vacuum sealer, no sous vide machine and no Thermomix. It was just a couple of steaks in re-sealable sandwich bags with the air pushed out (via water displacement - sink them in a bowl of water almost to the top before sealing) pegged over a stock pot full of water which I'd heated to 55 degrees celcius, and carefully monitored with a sugar thermometer for an hour, while I did other things in the kitchen, then seared in a pan once it was ready. A little labour of love, but worth it for such tender and juicy steaks (well, they do say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach!).

Sous Vide Steak Thermomix

He's pretty much had steak cooked sous vide ever since that night, he was so bowled over by it - so I'm very glad I don't have to hover over a stock pot any more, and I'm lucky enough to be able to have the technology in my kitchen to do it other, easier ways now (including him cooking it)!

And there are really only four things you need to do, to cook your 'perfect' steak...

Choosing your steak
Before you buy your steak/s and get cooking, just bear in mind their size and which cut would suit you best - some cheap cuts can become melt in the mouth from several hours cooking, although I haven't covered these here - this is just for cooking the kind of steaks you would normally grill or barbecue - see this article for some great tips on flavour and tenderness. 

If you're cooking them in a water bath (sous vide machine), or even in a large pot with a thermometer, their size isn't really a problem as long as you can fit them in a bag each. If you're cooking them in a Thermomix T31, you need to make sure they will fit inside the internal steaming basket, so my suggestion is for two smaller steaks (around 6oz / 170g for a comfortable fit - I must admit I tend to go by sight) such as fillet/tenderloin, rib-eye or a small sirloin or rump. Don't go for thin/quick/minute steaks, you want them at least an inch thick. You could cook one larger steak - but bear in mind if you cook a very thick cut of steak, it will need longer to reach the correct temperature internally.

Firstly: 'Bag it up'.  Preferably using a vacuum food bag sealer, but you can use re-sealable bags and the water displacement method (see below). You don't need to put anything else in the bag, but your steak. Don't add salt at this point, as it draws out moisture, and definitely not any kind of alcohol as it just doesn't work and will not taste right. You can put aromatics in there, such as fresh herbs, and spices (as long as the mix doesn't contain salt), and you can put unsalted butter, or oil in there (be careful the oil doesn't get sucked out if you do and you're using a vacuum sealer - having oil frozen in ice-cube trays is a good way to get around this!). The flavourings you add to the bag will be magnified depending on how long you cook your steak for (generally an hour minimum), so go easy at first. I use an Andrew James vacuum food sealer machine the same as this one*, which has been perfect and they're not overly expensive for what they are, and how much money they can save you in terms of extending the life of food and preserving things (my smoked cheese stays good for months in vacuum bags too!). It's not only great for sealing food to cook sous vide, it extends the life of my frozen fish and meat etc. at least four times as long, and I've had no freezer burn on anything I've sealed before freezing (which I've been doing for over a year now!).

If you haven't got a vacuum sealer you can use re-sealable food bags - but make sure they're sealed properly, or you may end up with water in there, which defeats the object. You can either push your steak right to the bottom, and push out the air manually by a combination of squashing the bag flat with your hands, and/or rolling it up then sealing it, or you can use the 'water displacement method'. Put your steak in a re-sealable bag, at the bottom and fill a jug or pan with (cold) water. Using this method, you could actually add some olive oil (or oil of your choice) to assist with displacing the air from the bag (but it's not essential). Put the bag into the water, open side up, and gently push the steak under, submerging all of the bag bar the seal. Start sealing from one side, gently pushing the rest of the bag under as you seal (without getting any water in the bag) until it is fully sealed with as much air pushed out as possible.

Secondly: Temperature
The perfect temperature to cook steak at depends on how you like it cooked. If you like it well done, there's not really much point in cooking it sous vide, as you will notice little difference, if any. It will still lose all it's moisture, as the muscle fibres will still contract and squeeze it out once it gets to 70C (but feel free to try, you may prefer it). It will also take far longer cooked this way to get to well done, than to throw it under a hot grill, or in a hot pan.

For rare steak, cook at 50C (125F)

For medium-rare steak, cook at 55C (130F)

For medium steak, cook at 60C (135F)

If you're using a water bath / sous-vide machine fill it somewhere between the minimum and maximum mark (depending on how many steaks you're cooking, and how big it is - and set to the required temperature as above and wait for it to come up to temperature (most models beep - you can speed up the process by adding a mixture of cold and hot water). Remember to use the rack so that the steaks are separated and the water can circulate around them individually), enough to comfortably cover everything - I use this* Sous Vide Supreme Demi and size wise, although I believe the capacity is supposed to be twelve chicken breasts, I find eight is plenty, so take this into account when choosing the amount and size of steaks you want to cook. I also recently noticed that an Andrew James model has come onto the market for under £100 (see here*), which is phenomenally cheap - I haven't tried it out, but I have quite a few other Andrew James products, all of which have worked well and been reliable. The top comment by a reviewer of the Andrew James model indicates that the timer is for a maximum of 24 hours, so you'd have to press a button a couple of times if cooking anything for longer than this (I can't imagine this would be a huge problem), and also that it was 2 or 3 degrees higher than indicated when he checked it with a lab thermometer - so if this was the case, you'd need to 're-calibrate' it, by setting it 2 or 3 degrees lower, if you found the same. I think I'd happily put up with those two niggles if mine died and I had to buy another!

If you're using a Thermomix
As mentioned I wouldn't recommend trying to cook more than two steaks at a time in a Thermomix internal basket, due to the space limitations, as the water needs to circulate around the steaks while they cook.You could even take your basket along with you when buying steaks to make sure they'll fit!!
Fill your Thermomix to approximately 1.5 litres full (T31 and TM5) with cold water from the tap. Insert the internal steaming basket and add the (bagged up) steak/s, one to each side of the basket if you're cooking two steaks, propped apart a little. Then add enough cold water to come up to the bottom of the highest lines in the internal basket (see picture on left) and ensure the steaks are covered by the water. Make sure the tops of the bags are not hanging outside the bowl (fold over, if necessary), and put the lid and the MC on and see below for cooking times.

Thirdly: Length of cooking time
Essentially, you need to cook your steak for one hour (providing it's not thicker than a couple of inches - if so, increase the time), once the water has heated to the correct temperature, and you can leave it in the water at your preferred temperature quite happily for up to twelve hours! For rare and medium rare steaks, the usual associated risks occur for eating lightly cooked beef as if you cooked the steaks 'normally' - if you add an extra 90 minutes to the cooking time of medium-rare steaks, they become pasteurised and lose those risks. (Some restaurants hold steaks at the correct temperature over the course of a service, so they can just take them out and sear as required).

So, for water baths / sous vide machines, just drop your steaks in once it's ready at the required temperature (as above) and leave for 1 hour upwards, before searing as in the fourth stage.

For Thermomix cooking temperatures/times, cook as follows (For TM31, set for 60 minutes, then the remaining 10-14 minutes, or vice versa):

(Minimum timings - hold at these temperatures for longer if you need more time, or an extra 90 minutes if you want to pasteurise medium rare steak, as above. MC on.)

Rare - 50C / Speed 2 / 70 minutes

Medium-rare - 55C (T5 only - see below for TM31) / Speed 2 / 72 minutes

Medium - 60C / Speed 2 / 74 minutes

To cook steak approximately medium rare in the TM31 (it is not possible to achieve a perfectly even result with two different temperatures, and it will depend on the thickness of your steak), cook as for rare, then cook at 60C / Speed 2 / 4-6 minutes. You can ensure the final done-ness is to your liking when searing - keep on a little longer until has the right amount of 'give' when you push it with a finger.

Fourthly: Searing and serving
Your steak/s should now be perfectly and evenly cooked through - they may be a subtly different colour than you're used to, i.e. a shade of grey-ish brown right now, but they are perfectly cooked. However, they are currently without any real flavour - even if you've cooked them in aromatics, they lack salt and, well, 'steak-y' flavour. Which is where searing them comes in. Browning meat is where the real flavour comes from - when the meat heats the hot pan, the flesh turns brown from a chemical reaction between amino acids and reducing sugars - the scientific term being the Maillard reaction. Just think of the difference in taste between some plain, white bread without a crust, and hot buttered toast. (Which thought made your mouth water?!).

So, get a good, heavy-based (possibly non-stick) pan or griddle onto the hob, and heat it up (with no oil in yet) until it's sizzling hot - check by flicking in some water and seeing whether it instantly sizzles and disappears. Then your pan is ready. It needs to be this hot, as you don't want to cook the steak further (it's already perfect), you just want to sear the very outside and get that lovely, umami, steak-y flavour. As a preference, I tend to quite often oil my meat, rather than the pan, and sometimes add a little oil to the pan (especially with fish, if I want to avoid it sticking), it's up to you which you do. Then you need to salt it, before you put it in the pan (unless you're on a no-salt diet, or anything, obviously!). I'd save pepper for after searing it, as it will just burn and turn bitter. So, once your pan is sizzling hot, add oil (or ghee, or coconut oil etc. anything with a high smoke point - so not extra virgin olive oil, or butter which is likely to burn because of the solids, at this temperature, so I wouldn't use it), swirl around, then lay the seasoned steaks into it, leave a few seconds until browned (called 'barking' on a steak, as it looks a bit like tree bark!), then quickly turn and repeat on the other side, and remove immediately to a plate.

That's it, you're done! It doesn't even need to rest, as the juices are pretty much already evenly distributed and it's the right temperature. Sit down and savour with your favourite accompaniments...

...one of mine, is creamy peppercorn sauce, and our 'family recipe' is here. The Thermomix version (recently converted!) is here, and is just as good! I also have a delicious rich Madeira and wild mushroom sauce which goes well with steaks, and a retro style chasseur sauce to go with steak too.


If you've enjoyed this, and would like to have a go at safely cooking chicken breasts sous vide (which also includes full Thermomix instructions), to taste the most sublimely moist and tender chicken you've possibly ever tasted, then click here for my instructions.

Sous Vide Chicken

If you're interested in also knowing how to cook the 'perfect' salmon fillet sous vide, whether in a water bath or in a Thermomix, I have given full instructions here - and for a simpler set of dedicated Thermomix only instructions, click here.

Salmon cooked sous vide then seared (also brined and smoked), shown with my warm new potato, green bean, and caper salad with a lemony herb dressing.

And if you're feeling really daring, and want to give cooking the family roast turkey a go, for a sublime and moist turkey breast joint, why not have a go at my sous vide turkey recipe, especially great for Easter and Christmas, when you want perfectly cooked turkey and NO stress! And perfect for ordinary Sunday dinners, as you can turn an economical, frozen joint into something sublime, with no fuss.


*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Clicking on the links will simply take you to view the product on Amazon, and not cost you anything whatsoever. Should you decide to purchase the product from the link above, you will not pay a penny extra, but I may get a minute percentage of the proceeds from Amazon. Essentially, it makes no difference to you at all, but go Google them too if you're interested in buying them, to see what the best deal is for you! I only include the links, as I'd be giving you a link to Amazon anyway, as it's the easiest place to find things with reviews :)


  1. I love fillet steak, cooked this way it's the best. If you've never tried steak cooked sous vided then you must!

  2. This is the best tutorial I have read so far. Thank you so much. I will use my vacuum sealer for doing this.

  3. Amazing, soft, full of flavour and easy to make recipe!!! I cooked this recipe for a family special dinner and everybody commented that it was like a recipe they would expect from a Michelin star restaurant!! I never imagined making a sous vide in my Thermomix!! Highly recommend this recipe!


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