|If a filet could be sexy, this is its centerfold.|
|If a filet could be sexy, this is your parents on the night of your conception.|
|Nothing smells better than a steak locked into a thick plastic bag.|
|Applying the caramelized veneer to the filet post sous vide.|
|I'll make any excuse to use my plumbing torch because kids, gather 'round, fire is fun.|
|Sous vide tenderloin on the left, cast iron tenderloin on the right.|
Before I tell you my opinions on the results of the filet test, I first need to tell you how I feel about this cut in general. Beef tenderloin, aka filet mignon, is highly prized for its tenderness. The "like buttah" filet is the cut most highly rated by The Association of Denture Wearers*. Thing is, while a toothless baby could masticate a filet, in many people's opinions it's one of the least flavorful beef cuts. Muscles that get more of a workout - the front and back end of the animal - are tougher but tastier and strangely, cheaper. Steaks will lose moisture the longer they are cooked. The more moisture-loss, the more flavor-loss. It is especially crucial, therefore, for a filet to be cooked to the proper temperature because it didn't start with much flavor to begin with. As you can see, the gradation of doneness on the filet cooked sous vide is almost negligible - it's medium rare from stem to stern. The cast iron skillet shows a gradation from well done to medium to medium rare. For all of these reasons, I gave the victory to the filet cooked sous vide. Lorna and Henry were over to help me with the taste tests and our opinions differed on this one - they gave the nod to the cast iron filet as they felt the texture of the sous vide filet was too "mushy" for their liking. (By the way, Lorna took some of the pics that appear in this blog post - I would have tagged specific photos but frankly, we both took pics that night and the wine was flowing and she was ridiculously trashed - no actually, she wasn't, that was me - we look a lot alike.)
Moving on to the rib eye....
|If a rib eye could be sexy, say hello to Natalie Portman.|
|If a rib eye could be sexy, this is Nurse Ratchett after a very long winter in the asylum|
|Natalie Portman (cast iron rib eye) cooked in a hot pan.|
|Nurse Ratchett (sous vide rib eye) on the left, Natalie Portman (cast iron rib eye on the right)|
Natalie Portman kicked Nurse Ratchett's ass. The rib eye is a lovely cut of beef with plenty of fat for flavor but it can also be quite tender. All three of us were in agreement on this one - part of what makes a cast iron rib eye steak so wonderful is the extended contact with the hot pan - extended just enough to melt the fat and caramelize the proteins of the beef. This 3-4 minutes on each side of the steak creates a lovely crust that not only adds flavor but an incredible chewiness that once your teeth break through you are met with the more tender contrast of the medium rare interior. The sous vide steak had to be flash seared extremely quickly so as to not overcook the interior which was already perfectly done. This quick sear did not sufficiently melt the fat, rendering (ha) it almost inedible. There was a little bit of flavor from the searing but not the depth of flavor on the cast iron steak. Nurse Ratchett just had a wisp of smoke and char in her hair from the electroshock therapy, where Natalie was a deeply flavored smoking hot lass. Despite the more beautiful interior of the sous vide rib eye, the crust development on the cast iron rib eye gave it the victory in terms of beauty. You can really see the unrendered fat of the sous vide rib eye in the pic. Yuck. I even overcooked the cast iron steak slightly and it still tasted better.
I can understand the benefits of cooking steaks sous vide, both for novice home cooks or even experienced home cooks wanting a more consistent level of doneness. To be frank, an ape could cook a perfectly done steak sous vide. It's much harder to cook a steak to pefect doneness on a grill or in a pan and even trained professionals will overcook one from time to time. I can also understand why a busy steak house would find sous vide to be a huge time saver. Multiple sous vide set ups temped to correlate with rare, medium rare, medium and well done would streamline a production kitchen. Cooks would simply need to rip open a bag, dry the steak off and throw on the grill to quickly caramelize. From order to perfect doneness in 2 minutes. If I had a sous vide machine at home I can definitely see the convenience of cooking filets or even a whole tenderloin to a perfect internal temp - I can see the benefits of holding it at 135 degrees (or even lower, say 130) until whenever you are ready to sear it off. It could be a real time saver and free up my concentration for other things. But do not. DO NOT, I repeat, take away my cast iron pan or grill from a rib eye steak. Because when push comes to shove, who do you want to have dinner with? Natalie Portman or Nurse Ratchett?
Next up..... we take the sous vide challenge part 3: Fish, where we answer that timeless question - is Sous vide the spawn of Satan's bathwater or a viable modernistic culinary technique?
* I totally made this up.