A few months ago, I got into a conversation with a bunch of friends about steak. It started as a debate about the best type of cut you can get, but eventually evolved into a discussion of the best cooking techniques, and by the end of it we all just started telling stories and reminiscing about the best steaks we’d ever eaten.
Being guys, this conversation naturally started a kind of one-uppery between us all. Every person seemed to have a more impressive steak story than the last and the conversation got me thinking — is there an upper limit on how “good” a steak can be? Could you, in theory, create “the ultimate steak” if you got the best possible cut of meat known to man and cooked it in the most scientifically perfect way possible?
The answer is most definitely yes. I know because I did it, and the resulting steaks were hands down the best I’ve ever had — miles ahead of anything I’ve ordered at a ritzy steakhouse. I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but these steaks were so good that they successfully coaxed two die-hard vegans over to the dark side for a sample.
To cook your perfect steak in the most scientifically perfect way possible, cook it sous vide.
So how do you cook such magnificent meat? It’s actually pretty straightforward — but you’ll need some special equipment to pull it off.
Step one is simply going out and getting a badass cut of meat. We went with a 60 day dry-aged bone-in fillet mignon — but you might want to roll with a ribeye or a porterhouse. The type of cut you get is up to you, but you’ll definitely want to call around and find one that’s been dry aged for an extended period of time. Dry aging concentrates the flavors of the beef and allows enzymes to break down the connective tissues, making the steak more tender.
Once you’re back home with your ideal cut, resist your urge to fire up the grill. To cook your perfect steak in the most scientifically perfect way possible, you need to get yourself an immersion circulator and cook it sous vide.
If you’re not familiar, sous vide is a cooking technique that involves placing food in an airtight, vacuum-sealed bag and cooking it in a controlled low-temperature water bath. This way, you’re able to keep the temperature of the water at the exact temperature that you want your food to reach, and after a certain amount of time, any food you’ve placed in the bath will eventually reach your desired temp without any risk of overcooking. The benefit of this method is that cooking at lower temperatures generally prevents the food’s cell walls from bursting, which helps make it more succulent and retain nutrients. Sous vide also makes it possible for tough collagens in the meat’s connective tissue to be hydrolized into gelatin without overheating the proteins, which is generally what causes meat to lose moisture and develop a tougher texture.
But sous vide alone won’t make your steak perfect. It’ll cook it medium rare all the way through, but won’t give you any of that tasty browning on the outside. So to finish it off properly, you’ll need to get yourself a blowtorch, and a special attachment called a Searzall.
Designed by the mad scientists over at Booker & Dax, Searzall is basically a fixture that fits onto the end of any standard-sized blowtorch and makes it better for cooking food. It works by forcing the flame through two layers of heatproof alloy mesh, thereby diffusing the heat of the flame and making it radiate out in a less direct way. The diffused heat helps cook food more evenly, and also eliminates that gassy taste that torches often impart into the foods they sear.
After that, you’re done. Grab a steak knife and go nuts!