Hello and welcome to Djalali Cooks. Today’s post is a bit of an experiment; we wanted to see and taste the differences between ribeye steak cooked using three different methods: Sous Vide, Pan-Seared and Grilled on the barbecue. We have three bone-in ribeyes from a local farm here, in the Athens area. All three are identical in size and thickness. Let’s get right to it!
Sous Vide Ribeye Steak
I recently purchased my first sous vide circulator. I have been curious about the sous vide method for a long time, and this is my first time trying it at home. Sous vide is a method of cooking food in a water bath, set to a consistent temperature via a water circulator. This model is a Joule Sous Vide, by Breville. It is operated using an app on your phone, which is simple and convenient.
We will sous vide the steak at 125 degrees, the temperature for medium-rare steak. I filled the container with 4-inches of water and set the Joule to 125 degrees. It only takes about 10 minutes to heat the water. If you use a Dutch oven, cover the pot with plastic wrap to minimize evaporation.
To do the steak, we will sear it quickly before placing it in a plastic bag with two tablespoons of vegetable oil. Pat the steak dry then salt and pepper both sides. Heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil in a large skillet until it is shimmery and begins to smoke. Sear steak on all sides, for just about 1 minute total. We aren’t looking for color, just to kill any surface bacteria before we sous vide it, since the water bath is set to medium-rare temperature.
Quick Sear on the Sous Vide Ribeye Steak
I have a vacuum sealer which will make getting all the air out of the bag easier. Alternatively, you can use a zipper lock bag. If you want to use a zipper lock bag, squeeze out as much air as you can and gently lower bags into the water bath until steak is fully submerged, then clip top corner of each bag to the side of the water bath container. Remaining air bubbles will rise to the top of the bag. Reopen one corner of the zipper lock bag and release remaining air pockets, Then, fully seal bag again.
Even though I vacuum-sealed this bag, so I know water can’t get in, I still want to keep the steak from sinking to the bottom of the container – I want the water to fully and evenly circulate around the steak – so I used the lid of the sous vide container to catch the corner of the bag. For such a thin ribeye, I should have cooked this steak for 30 minutes to one hour. I let it go for over an hour! For thick cut steaks, two hours should do the trick.
Once you take the steak out of the water bath, let it rest in the bag for 5-10 minutes. Remove it from the bag and pat it dry. We are going to butter-baste this steak to get a nice crust on the exterior. For that, I have 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed; one small shallot peeled and quartered lengthwise; 2 tablespoons unsalted butter and 4-5 sprigs of thyme.
Heat 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet and when the oil is shimmery and just begins to smoke, sear each side of the steak for about 20-30 seconds on each side. Then, scoot the steak to the side of the pan, opposite the handle, and add the butter, garlic, shallot and thyme. when butter melts, tilt the pan toward the handle and use a spoon to baste the steak. Flip the steak and continue basting until a nice browning develops on both sides. About 2 minutes total basting.
Given my total novice status as a sous vide cook, and the fact that these ribeyes were very thin, this steak should have been super well-done inside. And it was, but somehow, against all odds, this steak was incredibly tender, moist and flavorful. High quality beef makes a big difference, I am sure. But even though there was not a beautiful pink center in this steak, I was really surprised by how good it was.
Slice the steak into thin strips and drizzle on some of that delicious browned basting butter!
Pan-Seared Ribeye Steak
We did this pan-sear over hot coals, instead of over the stovetop. Each way works the same, but on the grill is less messy. Again, we are working with a thin-cut ribeye. Salt and pepper both sides of the steak. We will treat this the same way as the sous vide; butter-baste with garlic and thyme. Get the pan hot with a tablespoon of vegetable oil and place the steak in the pan. Leave it undisturbed for 1 minute.
Flip the steak and sear the other side for 1 minute, then flip again. Flip every minute for about 4 minutes. Then add the butter, garlic and thyme. When the butter melts, baste the steak with the aromatics and butter, one minute each side for an additional 2-3 minutes.
This steak is cooked to medium-doneness. But, as with the sous vide, it was tender, juicy and super flavorful. Especially with the garlicky brown butter drizzled over the top!
Take It to the Grill!
Ok, round three. Grilled. This is the way we normally prepare steak – with the classic grill marks. We will also give this steak the butter-baste treatment while it’s on the grill.
This skinny ribeye will have a total grill time of 5 minutes; two and a half minutes each side. To get those criss-cross grill marks: at the 1 minute, 15 seconds mark, rotate the steak 45 degrees. Let it go another 1 minute 15 seconds and flip the steak; repeat on the other side.
This steak was by far the most rare of the three. Perhaps because we just have more practice with this method of cooking steak. Just like the others though, this steak was tender and juicy. It also had the added flavor of charcoal smoke, which made it the winner for me. I really like the grill flavor on a steak.
Which Method is Best?
Overall, this was an interesting experiment. All of the methods worked with favorable results. Though I have quite a bit of practicing to do with the sous vide, I was impressed by the whole process. I think the sous vide method would work out well if you’re having people over and want to have the steak all but reverse-seared before your guests arrive; there are a few extra steps involved. Pan-Sear is fine if you’re doing one or two steaks, in which case I would actually recommend Pan-Seared New York Strip Steaks.
For these thin ribeyes, though, my money is on the Grill. While all were delicious, the charcoal flavor on the grilled steak just really hit the spot for me. Thank you all for joining me today for this fun experiment. Have you tried sous vide cooking? If so what’s your favorite thing to make sous vide? Reach out on Instagram and let me know! Take care and be well everyone. xo Kelly
TerryJune 9, 2021 at 11:34 am
Wow how fun. I think I would of liked the grilled way too. Although they all looked really good. ❤️Mom
Kelly DjalaliJune 9, 2021 at 2:14 pm
Hi Mom, Yes it’s hard to beat the charcoal flavor. But it’s true that I was happy with all of them. xo Kelly
SusanJune 9, 2021 at 8:01 pm
That was an interesting read. Normally, I would grill , but I made it my goal to learn the art of the cast iron skillet during the pandemic- searing, then finishing off in the oven. The meat thermometer has become important in my cooking. Thanks for sharing.
Kelly DjalaliJune 9, 2021 at 10:29 pm
Hi Susan, Today we tried a very thick cut ribeye using the method you describe, finishing it in the oven after searing in the cast iron. I have to say, it was perfectly done, with a really nice exterior crust. The meat thermometer, of course, is a very helpful tool. Thank you for reading today’s post! have a great evening, xo Kelly
SantosJune 19, 2021 at 2:20 pm
I know I’m on a different team but save the sear for after the sous vide. Searing beforehand does nothing
Kelly DjalaliJune 19, 2021 at 2:58 pm
Hi Santos, We definitely sear the steak after the sous vide to get a nice crust and flavor with this method; but since the steak is cooking at the lowest end of the temperature spectrum for more than 20 minutes, lightly searing the outside before sous vide kills any possible surface bacteria that could otherwise grow in the low temperature. That first sear is merely a food-safety precaution, it’s not meant to to impart flavor. It may or may not be necessary, but I wasn’t willing to risk it! Thanks for leaving a comment, have a wonderful weekend! -Kelly