In case you haven’t heard, cooking sous vide has become an incredibly popular and trendy way to cook! Briefly, sous vide is a method of cooking food (usually meat) in a water bath or steam environment, which is kept at a steady temperature to prevent overcooking. Additionally, food is placed inside vacuum seal bags before entering the water bath, as we aren’t trying to create stew.
Let’s say you have moderately inexpensive cut of steak. Although you could season it and cook it well on the grill, or in a cast iron skillet, you would have to be very watchful of it. There’s a very small window of time between a medium rare and well done steak. Cooking sous vide, however, you would be able to sustain the exact temperature to which you wanted to cook the steak, for about 4 hours.
Although the initial cooking time may be a bit longer than traditional methods, the benefits of cooking sous vide lie in the convenience of this method. If your 1” steak needs to cook for an hour, you have ample time to spend on planning out your side dishes or preparing a fancy dessert to finish off your perfect meal. Here is my favorite Immersion Circulator (opens in a new tab) from Kitchen Gizmo.
Sous vide is also great if there are variables in your dinner plans. If your guests were supposed to arrive at 6:00, but their flight was delayed, the steak can remain at the perfect temperature for up to 4 hours before the integrity of the meat is compromised. This allows you to keep the steak warm while you’re waiting for guests to arrive.
But how do I get my steak to look perfectly charred?
What an excellent question! Since cooking meat in water won’t yield that crispy char you get from cooking on the grill or in a cast iron pan, you need to replicate the crispiness without cooking the meat any further. To do this, you should be equipped with an industrial grade sous vide torch.
By selecting an industrial grade torch, you will be dealing with heat in excess of 3,500°F. This level of heat is perfect for crisping the surface of the meat without burning or cooking the inner layers. Typical culinary torches used for caramelizing sugar atop creme brulee or browning meringues will not be hot enough, as even the most powerful of these torches only reach a high temperature of 2,500°F.
A sous vide torch is meant to bring a dark caramelization to different cuts of meat, which is accomplished by quickly waving a blue-flamed torch over the surface. With the right technique, you can achieve the perfect char without burning the outer surface of your meat. There are also specialty torch attachments that can ensure even cooking.
What are the benefits of cooking with a sous vide torch?
Aside from giving you freedom from being tied to cooking your meal, cooking sous vide usually results in a more flavorful and tender piece of meat than traditionally-cooked counterparts.
Because the meat only receives direct heat from the torch after it’s been fully cooked, the torching process doesn’t affect the quality of the meat. For meat that is cooked using direct surface heat, the outer parts of the meat will inevitably “gray” while you’re waiting for the inside of the meat to reach the desired temperature.
In addition to the lackluster aesthetics of grilled meat, a grilled or seared piece of meat loses the delicious tenderness that cooking sous vide retains. When the meat is left on a grill or hot pan, the outside becomes tough and dry while the inside is cooked to your desired temperature.
When you use a sous vide torch, you treat browning the meat as an entirely separate process from the actual cooking. Once you’ve mastered cooking sous vide, torching your food to a perfect char as the finishing touch should be a piece of cake.
How do I properly use a kitchen torch for sous vide?
After you’ve invested in a sous vide cooker, it’s only sensible to pair it with a powerful kitchen torch to make your food both aesthetically pleasing—as well as delicious.
There are several gases to choose from when selecting fuel for a kitchen torch. Among butane, propylene, and propane, many chefs favor propane as the gas of choice because it burns well and is relatively inexpensive compared to the other gases. When shopping for a a torch, be sure to pick one that takes the fuel type(s) you intend on using.
To get an even char on all of your food, it’s important to heat the torch to an extremely hot temperature. This is usually indicated by a blue, rather than a red, flame. Once the torch is sufficiently heated, apply the flame to the surface in a sweeping motion as to avoid burning any sections of the meat.
Once you’ve reached the level of char that you’re looking for, be sure to garnish your dish and prepare your guests for one of the most tender cuts of meat they’ve ever tasted!