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Nuking steak?

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baby_tran May 22, 2008 09:57 AM

Since microwaving cooks from the inside out...would it be possible to nuke a steak for a short period of time (couple of minutes) so it gets a headstart before being finished off in the pan or grill?

I can never seem to cook steak long enough for those that enjoy a medium or medium-well without totally charring the outside.

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  1. sarah galvin RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 10:43 AM

    It doesn't cook evenly from the inside out or outside in. It will just turn it a blah colour and you have no control for even cooking. Then I don't think you will get a nice carmelizing on the outside when you grill. Maybe you are using too high a temp when you grill. I would use a lower grilling temp

    1 Reply
    1. re: sarah galvin
      m
      mostlysunny RE: sarah galvin Jun 3, 2008 09:11 AM

      What the microwave is good for is that after you've grilled your steak, and want to reheat the next day, (and we are more rare than well done) simply sprinkle water on the steak, put in microwave with plastic covering loosely draped, and cook (depending upon your microwave) for two minutes on power level 5. It does not continue to cook the meat, it just renders it juicier and warm.

    2. paulj RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 10:44 AM

      Sometimes I will nuke a steak after serving if it is too pink for my taste. It is quicker than putting it back in the cooling skillet. It probably also produces better results, since it cooks the interior without doing much to the outside.

      I've never tried nuking first. It might be trickier to get the right timing.

      An alternative that is often used in restaurants, is to finish the meat in the oven.

      paulj

      1 Reply
      1. re: paulj
        s
        SomeRandomIdiot RE: paulj May 22, 2008 10:54 AM

        Doing it in reverse works for me too, my refrigerated leftovers from restaurants start out usually really rare (that almost blue-ish color) and end up rare to medium. The timing is definitely tricky.

      2. JoanN RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 11:00 AM

        First of all, it's a myth, though an oft repeated one, that microwaves cook food from the inside out. They don't. They cook from the outside in. And a microwave just won't do justice to a steak.

        To achieve the outside char you want and the internal temperature you're looking for you'd be better (much better!) off using the sear and roast method. Using, preferably, a cast iron pan, sear the room temperature, lightly oiled and seasoned steak in a very hot pan for a minute or two on each side then place the pan in a preheated 375F. oven. The timing will, of course, depend on the thickness of your steak and just how well you want it done.

        The Lobels Website has good info regarding both technique and timing.

        http://www.lobels.com/recipe/PerfectS...

        2 Replies
        1. re: JoanN
          paulj RE: JoanN May 22, 2008 06:31 PM

          I don't follow this 'from the outside in'. The waves penetrate the meat, and produce heat when they interact with the water and fat molecules. While they do generate heat in the outer layers, they also generate it further in. In fact the interior may get hotter than the surface, since the surface looses heat to the air (and by the release of steam).

          paulj

          1. re: paulj
            JoanN RE: paulj May 23, 2008 02:15 AM

            According to Harold McGee, microwaves penetrate food to the depth of only about an inch. The interior is thereafter heated by conduction. You are correct that once heated, the surface of the food will cool somewhat for exactly the reason you state: because the air inside the oven itself is not warmed, any surface heat will quickly dissipate.

        2. Karl S RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 11:45 AM

          Oh, please don't ruin a steak that way. A steak should never see the inside of a microwave. (Even in re-warming a steak, it's better simply to have it in a plastic bag over which hot tap water is run - that way, you can get it to 125F without re-cooking it.)

          The way to finish a steak is in a preheated oven (I prefer slowish - like 275-300F) after the searing in the pan.

          12 Replies
          1. re: Karl S
            chowser RE: Karl S May 22, 2008 03:06 PM

            I've never heard of reheating a steak that way. I've always ruined it in a microwave. How long does it take under hot water? Thanks.

            1. re: chowser
              ipsedixit RE: chowser May 22, 2008 04:13 PM

              I actually reheat my steak the way that Karl S suggests. In fact, if I recall correctly, I learned how to do this on Chowound (and it might have been from Karl S who answered a post of mine asking how to reheat steak at the office).

              Works beautifully without actually "cooking" the meat. I generally run it for about a 1 minute or so, depending on the thickness of the beef.

              1. re: ipsedixit
                s
                SomeRandomIdiot RE: ipsedixit May 22, 2008 06:58 PM

                So what's the trick, I have hot water in the office and I suppose i could use empty trash bags. i just wrap the steak up in the bag and pour hot water over it for a few minutes? How do I determine when it's "done"?

                1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
                  ipsedixit RE: SomeRandomIdiot May 22, 2008 09:13 PM

                  Yup, that's how I do it. Usually it's a ziploc bag and just warm/hot water.

                  I test "doneness" by putting my tongue on the steak and testing its temp in that fashion. Not really elegant, but it works like a charm.

                  1. re: SomeRandomIdiot
                    Karl S RE: SomeRandomIdiot May 23, 2008 02:26 AM

                    I would use food storage bags that you can get the air out of and get a good seal.

                    The idea here is that hot tap water is usually about the temperature just around the point that proteins start to cook (mid 120sF), and under the temperature at which they coagulate significantly (140F). So you can warm without re-cooking, as it were.

                    1. re: Karl S
                      chowser RE: Karl S May 23, 2008 05:53 AM

                      I love this idea. Maybe I could do it like a sous-vide w/ not quite simmering water. I'll have to buy a mass quantity of steak so we can have leftovers to try this out.

                      1. re: chowser
                        Karl S RE: chowser May 23, 2008 06:00 AM

                        Well, that's different.

                        This is about re-warming a steak, not cooking it. Not quite simmering water is about 40F above the point where proteins coagulate and cook hard, and about 60F above the point where they start to cook. So not quite simmering is way to high for merely rewarming. Hot tap water is actually much more appropriate - nay, perfect - in temperature (I would use it running because that way you can avoid it cooling off when still), unless you tend to have tepid hot tap water.

                        1. re: Karl S
                          chowser RE: Karl S May 23, 2008 11:51 AM

                          Yeah, our heater is set low-ish so it doesn't get that hot (little ones in the house). That's why I thought I could use water on the stove, but I'll take the temperature to make sure it's not too hot.

                          1. re: chowser
                            ipsedixit RE: chowser May 23, 2008 11:56 AM

                            Ok, I know we are NOT supposed to reheat steak by nuking it in the microwave, but chowser if you're "hot" water from the tap is not hot enough, nuke a bowl of water in the microwave and use that to reheat the steak.

                            I do this sometimes when the hot water in the office was not very hot, and I didn't want to waste water by running it for a several minutes.

                            So, yeah, I guess you can nuke steak ... just not directly.

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              chowser RE: ipsedixit May 23, 2008 12:18 PM

                              Good idea--thanks. I just bought four huge rib eyes so I'll try it out tomorrow w/ leftovers. I love this idea for proteins since I hate the jerky quality of nuking. What about fish? Is there a good way to reheat fish?

                              1. re: chowser
                                ipsedixit RE: chowser May 23, 2008 01:54 PM

                                Good question re fish.

                                Surprisingly, I've never had this issue come up with fish, but my guess is that it should work the same, although I'd imagine steaming might be another (or better?) way to go.

                                1. re: ipsedixit
                                  Karl S RE: ipsedixit May 23, 2008 03:00 PM

                                  THis works for re-warming cooked fish and is much better than steaming. Steaming is for cooking, not re-warming. 212F vs mid 125-135F....

            2. ipsedixit RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 11:47 AM

              Noooooooo!

              1. e
                ESNY RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 01:51 PM

                Drop the steak and step away from the microwave...

                If you can't get to medium without burning the outside you are using too high a heat. Sear each side and then move to indirect heat until it is cooked to your desired doneness. If you try to cook the whole thing over high heat you'll definitely burn it. Either finish it in a hot oven or on the cool side of the grill.

                1. Uncle Bob RE: baby_tran May 22, 2008 07:29 PM

                  Buy an instant read thermometer....Sear your steak in a pan... once you have the amount of sear you want....finish it in a preheated oven to the desired degree of doness... buy using the thermometer...

                  If ya can't eat the whole thing...Consider cooking a smaller portion next time...

                  Steak (beef) and Microwave don't belong in the same sentence!!! Period!!!

                  Enjoy!

                  1. s
                    swsidejim RE: baby_tran May 23, 2008 06:04 AM

                    what is CH coming to? nuking steaks on this thread, boiling ribs on another....

                    I only use the microwave for warming our toddlers milk, and its timer function.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: swsidejim
                      d
                      dkenworthy RE: swsidejim May 23, 2008 01:32 PM

                      What about that half cup of coffee you forgot to finish until it was tepid? That is the primary use of my microwave...

                      1. re: dkenworthy
                        s
                        swsidejim RE: dkenworthy May 23, 2008 01:39 PM

                        I have never had a cup of coffee in my life, or even tea for that matter. I am not a fan of hot beverages.

                        I also use the fan on the microwave, and the light since it is over my stove.

                        But for the prime beef I buy, putting it in the microwave would be sin, and my butcher would probably punch me in the face & throw me out of the butcher shop if I were to even suggest such a thing.

                        1. re: swsidejim
                          ipsedixit RE: swsidejim May 23, 2008 01:56 PM

                          Actually, the best utilitarian (non-cooking) use for microwaves is for zapping your dish sponge to nuke it of any germs and what-nots ...

                          1. re: ipsedixit
                            s
                            swsidejim RE: ipsedixit May 23, 2008 01:59 PM

                            I'll have to suggest that to my dishwashing staff( wife) at home.

                            ;-)

                            1. re: ipsedixit
                              chef chicklet RE: ipsedixit Jun 2, 2008 04:36 AM

                              Or warming a wet wash cloth to clean up the toddler.

                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                Tehama RE: ipsedixit Jun 4, 2008 06:22 AM

                                After every dishwashing, I rinse the soap out of the sponge, leave it wet, and microwave it for 2 minutes. Warning - do NOT ever microwave a dry sponge. It will catch on fire. (I think I read this from Better Homes and Garden or Hints from Heloise, etc.)

                        2. e
                          EdwardAdams RE: baby_tran May 23, 2008 08:47 AM

                          Getting the steaks up to room temperature first helps prevent the too rare center problem. As with the reheating tricks suggest here, immersing the meat in warm water while protected by a plastic bag can speed the process.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: EdwardAdams
                            Karl S RE: EdwardAdams May 23, 2008 09:46 AM

                            Btw, the hot tap water re-warming technique works not just on steak but most solid foods, especially handy for animal proteins that will easily re-cook (a bad thing) if exposed to too much heat.

                            1. re: Karl S
                              r
                              Ray_704 RE: Karl S Jun 1, 2008 06:43 AM

                              If you are reheating food that was cooked in the past hour or so, this might be acceptable. Remember that food-borne bacteria multiply exponentially over time. This is why all foods stored for any length of time more than an hour should be reheated to 140 degrees F MINIUMUM internal Temperature.
                              You may think that because processed packaged foods do not require cooking to such high temps that your own leftovers are the same. Modern food processing techniques provide food that is practially devoid of bacteria. It is safe to removed these foods fromt their sealed containers and simploy warm them The same is true for canned goods that you heat immediately after opening. In fact all of these commercial food products are safe to eat from the can at room temp...if that is desired.
                              By heating any leftover foods in hot tap water you risk multiplying and not killing any bacteria the food might have picked up from the air or surfaces.
                              An alternative would be to bring some water to a rolling boil then place the food bag in the water until the internal temp of the food reaches 140. If you want, you can also make a sauce and simmer the meat in it, then serve over a startch.

                              1. re: Ray_704
                                Karl S RE: Ray_704 Jun 1, 2008 09:24 AM

                                Yes, and I've happily ignored that caution in the context of this thread for decades and will continue to. LIfe is too short to ruin certain foods by re-cooking them. I do not take the antiseptic approach to all aspects of food handling.

                                1. re: Ray_704
                                  e
                                  EdwardAdams RE: Ray_704 Jun 3, 2008 08:31 AM

                                  The important thing to think about when reading food safety rules is the way that bacteria and other microbes actually colonize foods. They do not quickly penetrate things like pieces of meat, instead starting on the surface. That is why letting meat come to room temperature before grilling it is not much of a problem. Any surface bacteria get killed in the grilling process.

                                  It is why ground meat presents more of a problem since there is so much more "surface" for bacteria to begin colonization.

                            2. g
                              gfr1111 RE: baby_tran May 23, 2008 02:19 PM

                              Baby tran, we seem to have gotten away from your question about cooking the steak and into the area of reheating the steak, using a microwave, hot water, warm oven, etc.

                              To return to your original question, it sounds to me as if you are trying to cook your steaks straight out of the refrigerator. Since I used to do this myself, I can sympathize. Alton Brown set me straight on one of his shows. If you let the steak sit out for 40 minutes or so, you can get the interior of the steak to cook to whatever temperature you want, without charring the outside. This procedure gives you so much more control over the whole process. I hope that this helps.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: gfr1111
                                r
                                renov8r RE: gfr1111 May 23, 2008 03:40 PM

                                Right. AND the key take aways from all the above discussion:

                                #1 No such thing as "cooking from inside out", though the surface may not get as hot as in more traditional methods

                                #2 Microwave preferentially heat fat and water, in that order, so that you will end up losing moisture more readily when microwaving.

                                #3 Thickness matters a lot. Microwaves will completely be absorbed about an inch or so into the surface, so that the interior of thicker pieces of meat will not be warmed at all.

                                #4 It is better to finish cooking steaks to desired doneness in a medium-hot conventional oven if you don't have the skills or setup to use a multi-level fire and do this on the grill.

                              2. Caroline1 RE: baby_tran May 23, 2008 03:43 PM

                                You should NEVER EVER microwave beef for any reason. Microwaves change the texture and flavor of beef, and make it tougher.

                                1. r
                                  Ray_704 RE: baby_tran Jun 1, 2008 06:30 AM

                                  The idea with pan frying meat is to sear the outside to seal in the juices, then finish cooking at lower temp. If your steak is thin the searing should get the meat to the rare stage. If your looking to finish the steak more or the steak is over 1/2 inch, you can either turn the heat down under the pan and cover it or place the pan in a 325 oven until the center temp reaches 140 at the thickest. For well you want 160. ON a gas gril you would use the two controls. Have one side high and the other side low. Sear the meat both sides turning a few times. when it is at the desired degree of sear, move them to the low side, and close the lid. Then you check them and turn them until they get to the desired point. You may also find it works to have only one side lit and put the steaks over the flame side then move them to the unlit side/close lid while leaving the high side on. This works well for all meats because the grilling doesn't get heat into the meat very well. If you finish the meat with the lid on, the meat will be heated through and stay hot longer on the plate.

                                  34 Replies
                                  1. re: Ray_704
                                    JoanN RE: Ray_704 Jun 1, 2008 07:39 AM

                                    "The idea with pan frying meat is to sear the outside to seal in the juices . . . ."

                                    This is a long-since disproved theory. See Harold McGee on the subject.

                                    A German chemist came up with that idea around 1850, but experiments in the 1930s proved it wrong. As McGee says, "The crust that forms around the surface of the meat is not waterproof, as any cook has experienced: the continuing sizzle of meat in the pan or oven or on the grill is the sound of moisture continually escaping and vaporizing."

                                    1. re: JoanN
                                      hannaone RE: JoanN Jun 1, 2008 10:06 AM

                                      Proper searing will seal "most" of the juices into the meat. I do this quite often with beef cubes for stews or soup.
                                      Perfectly flat sides, each side seared to a dark crust.
                                      Transfer cubes to already boiling water/stock, and the cubed meat chunks swell as the juices expand. The trick is to remove from heat before they expand to the point that the "seal" is broken. Minimal loss of juice.
                                      Result: Incredibly juicy chunks of meat.

                                      Edit: This only works if you can get an even sear on all sides, including edges.

                                      1. re: hannaone
                                        JoanN RE: hannaone Jun 1, 2008 10:21 AM

                                        Sorry, it just isn't true. Searing caramelizes the meat and adds terrific flavor and I do it all the time as well. But it doesn't seal in any, or even most, of the juices in the meat. Google "searing meat." Read Harold McGee. Check out Wikipedia. See the Alton Brown show "Mythbusters." That searing seals is simply a myth.

                                        1. re: JoanN
                                          hannaone RE: JoanN Jun 1, 2008 10:34 AM

                                          I check my results. :-)
                                          The result I get is what counts. Even sear gives me swollen, juicier meat than non or uneven seared.
                                          NO over cooking afterwards.

                                          Edit: This doesn't work for grilling or any method that involves turning, poking, or prodding of the meat.

                                          1. re: JoanN
                                            Caroline1 RE: JoanN Jun 1, 2008 06:22 PM

                                            Joan, if you think searing does not seal in juices, try this experiment and get back to us. Take two identical steaks, sear them well and finish cooking them to medium rare either in the pan or in the oven. Put each steak on a plate. Cut one in half immediately, leave the other to rest uncut. Come back in five minutes and see which one has the pool of lost juices around it.

                                            Searing may not completely seal in all juices, but it does seal in most of them.

                                            1. re: Caroline1
                                              JoanN RE: Caroline1 Jun 1, 2008 07:28 PM

                                              If the two pieces of meat are equal they will, once cooked, contain the same amount of liquid. The juices pooling on the plate are a result of the cooked meat not having been rested. Meat contracts as it cooks, putting the juices under pressure. That’s why the juices pool if you cut into it immediately. As the meat rests, the muscles relax and the juices are reabsorbed and remain in the meat. This is as true with a slow-roasted rib roast—or a turkey, for that matter--as it is with a pan cooked steak and has nothing to do with whether or not the meat has been seared first.

                                              1. re: JoanN
                                                Caroline1 RE: JoanN Jun 1, 2008 09:18 PM

                                                Methinks you're in a state of denial and putting too much faith in what you read. If the searing did not seal in the juices, there would be the same amount of juice on the plate of the uncut steak as there is on the plate of the cut steak.

                                                1. re: Caroline1
                                                  JoanN RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 04:25 AM

                                                  Yes, I do put faith in what I read when that information comes from such sources as Harold McGee, Shirley Corriher, Alton Brown, and Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, as well as many, many others including CHOW itself. And that information is based on the science. I'd challenge you to quote an authority who states otherwise.

                                                  This is one of the reasons a myth such as this one tends not to die. People insist on believing it, even though it's been proven wrong for more than eighty years now.

                                                  1. re: JoanN
                                                    Caroline1 RE: JoanN Jun 2, 2008 04:52 AM

                                                    Cauterization has been used as a critical means to stench bleeding in medicine for centuries (if not millenia), and is still used today. Searing meat is a form of cauterization. You are welcome to subscribe to whatever line of thought you like, but that will not change this simple truth.

                                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                                      Karl S RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 05:08 AM

                                                      Cauterization is a function of dealing with living tissues, not steaks.

                                                      Searing is primarily for flavor and appearance and is not the causal factor in fluid retention compared to other variables.

                                                      1. re: Caroline1
                                                        j
                                                        jzerocsk RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 10:17 AM

                                                        Here's a transcript from Alton Brown's show: http://www.goodeatsfanpage.com/Season...

                                                        Alton's seared steak actually ends up losing a larger percentage of weight than the un-seared steak.

                                                        The "experiment" with the cut steak and the uncut steak doesn't actually test whether searing does anything, it tests whether more fluids will leak from an uncut steak than a cut one and perhaps makes a case for why we let a steak rest before we cut it, but does not demonstrate anything about searing. You would see the same results with two un-seared steaks. To test searing experimentally you need to compare a seared steak with an un-seared steak, not two seared steaks.

                                                        I guess at the end of the day most of us agree that searing is a Good Thing and the science/reason behind it is largely irrelevant, but it would be nice to get everyone on the same page.

                                                        1. re: jzerocsk
                                                          Caroline1 RE: jzerocsk Jun 2, 2008 11:45 AM

                                                          And how does one cook an "unseared steak"? Bake it? Roast it? Steam it? Boil it? '-)

                                                          Let's just say we agree to disagree.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                            j
                                                            jzerocsk RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 01:47 PM

                                                            Cooking a steak without searing it is about as straightforward as one would expect and also described in the link I provided.

                                                          2. re: jzerocsk
                                                            sfumato RE: jzerocsk Jun 6, 2008 10:26 PM

                                                            Glad you cited this! I was going to if no one else had.

                                                            "SCENE 3
                                                            The Kitchen
                                                            Myth #1
                                                            Searing meat seals in juices?

                                                            GUESTS: Assistants #1 and #2

                                                            If a good sear seals in juices, then it stands to reason that a seared piece of meat should weigh the same before and after cooking, right? I mean, if it were to lose a little bit of moisture, it certainly would not lose as much moisture as a piece of meat cooked without the benefit of a sear.

                                                            So here we have two pieces of beef: lovely New York Strip steaks, I might add. Steak "A" weighs in at 307 grams, while steak "B" weighs in just a little lighter at 296 grams.

                                                            307

                                                            296

                                                            One of our steaks will go directly into a 400 degree oven. The other steak will receive a fast sear in a rocket-hot cast iron skillet before moving to the oven.
                                                            In order to better absorb the heat that's coming to them, we will lube each piece of meat with just a wee bit of oil. But because it would pull moisture out of the meat, thus throwing off our experiment, no salt will be added.

                                                            AB: Now, allez-cuisine!
                                                            ASSISTANTS: [not knowing what AB just said, they look at each other in confusion]
                                                            AB: Uh, let's get cooking!

                                                            So both of our steaks go into the oven. We have our probes in place.

                                                            AB: There you go, gentlemen.

                                                            And we'll set our thermometers to go off at 140 degrees, which is basically medium.

                                                            AB: Clear? [meaning is everything ready?]
                                                            ASSISTANTS: Clear!

                                                            Just as we suspected, the seared steak has reached 140 degrees first, so we will remove said steak and allow it to rest for 5 minutes. We'll be back for that one.

                                                            AB: Clear?
                                                            ASSISTANTS: Clear!

                                                            I see that it required 4 more minutes for this steak to get up to 140 degrees. Time to extract. We'll also let this one rest for several minutes. Now will all this time differential have an effect on our final experiment? Only time will tell.

                                                            AB: Clear?
                                                            ASSISTANTS: Clear!

                                                            And now, the moment of truth.

                                                            AB: Let's weigh them, fellas!

                                                            Very interesting. As we see, steak "A", which began the day at 307 grams, is now down to 266 grams, for a net loss of 41 grams. And that is 13 percent of its total body weight. Okay? Roasted, rested, 13 percent loss.

                                                            Steak "B", on the other hand began the day at 296 grams. It's now down to 237 grams. That's a net loss of 59 grams, or 19 percent of its body weight. Okay?

                                                            So the seared, roasted and rested steak, 19 percent loss. The roasted and rested, 13 percent loss.

                                                            Roasted Steak- 13% loss
                                                            Seared Steak- 19% loss

                                                            Does it seem like a big deal? No, it's not a super-big deal, but it does prove a point. What's the point? Well, the point is, is that heat damages cells. And when cells are damaged, they lose moisture. It's just that simple. So obviously, searing doesn't seal juices. That's just another myth busted ... Smashed! I meant, I meant smashed."

                                                        2. re: JoanN
                                                          d
                                                          diva360 RE: JoanN Jun 2, 2008 10:17 PM

                                                          I have to side with Joan on this one. If you want to test whether searing seals in juices, then you have to test that variable. What Caroline is suggesting is testing an entirely different variable, the resting of the meat.

                                                          Sear to add flavor; rest to retain juices.

                                                        3. re: Caroline1
                                                          ipsedixit RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 10:00 AM

                                                          All things being equal, searing does very little, if anything, to retaining the juices.

                                                      2. re: Caroline1
                                                        alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 05:18 PM

                                                        Caroline,

                                                        Your experiment proves that ***resting*** a steak keeps the juices in, not that searing does anything. Try this one: take two steaks, as similar as possible WRT size, cut, temperature, etc. Preheat your oven to 300F. Put one steak in the oven and start preheating a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. After 4-5 minutes, drop the other into the hot skillet, sear both sides, then move to the oven. Cook both steaks to an internal temperature of 130F, then remove them from the oven and let them rest for five minutes or so.

                                                        Now weigh them both. You'll find that the seared steak lost MORE of its mass during the cooking process. Since the mass that was lost is almost certainly liquid (your smoke alarm would let you know if you were turning solids to vapor), it stands to reason that the searing actually caused the meat to lose juices.

                                                        Now cut both steaks in half. If they were properly rested, neither of them will make a puddle on the plate. So again, the searing didn't do anything to seal in the juices.

                                                        That said, the seared steak will taste better. Not because of any juices being seared in, but because of the wonderful tasty crust that searing produces. So searing is an integral part of the process, but not for the commonly-ascribed reason.

                                                        1. re: alanbarnes
                                                          Caroline1 RE: alanbarnes Jun 2, 2008 10:06 PM

                                                          Alan, have you actually performed this experiment? Every type and cut of meat I have ever cooked in my lifetime loses weight in cooking, even when poached or boiled. That is the raison d'etre behind sous vide, and sous vide is the ONLY cooking method I know of that will give you the same post-"cooked" weight as you began with. I don't personally like sous vide because I believe the cooking temperatures are unsafe, but for the sake of this discussion, that is neither here nor there.

                                                          One of my favorite cooking methods is to poele certain cuts of meat. For those who haven't come across the term before, "poele" simply means to cook something in it's own juice. It's a very old French culinary tradition. My point here is that if I sear the exterior of whatever type of meat I am going to poele, I will NOT end up with as much pan juice in the finished dish as I will if I don't sear. But there will be SOME pan juices. Searing is the obvious difference, and it also illustrates that searing will not seal in 100% of the juices, but it will seal n a significant amount. When you poele beef, it is always cooked to well done, so whether resting allows rare meat to reabsorb inter-tissue fluids has no bearing, just as there is no need to allow a well done steak to rest.

                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                            alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 10:42 PM

                                                            Caroline,

                                                            Being a skeptic (or, to use my wife's term, a nerd), I have indeed tried the experiment. (But using a 450F oven, since I am unwilling to pitch a perfectly good steak, and equally unwilling to eat one that's grey on the outside. The difference in the results was measurable, but presumably less so than in a cooler oven.) You're right that each cut loses moisture, but the seared cut loses considerably more. According to Harold Magee (I think), that's because the higher heat of searing damages cell walls, leading to moisture loss. I really should keep notes if I'm going to make empirical claims, but I satisfied myself. And had extra beef for dinner.

                                                            I've been playing with sous vide lately (steaks, small roasts, butterflied leg of lamb), and even then there's some loss of juices. And that's before searing the outside to make a crust. I figure that with solid muscle tissue, the bugs will stay on the outside where the searing will take care of them. But that's another post.

                                                            I haven't ever done a poele, but one possibility is that the high temperatures involved in searing process may evaporate off more liquid, thus resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated juices in the pan. But that's nothing but speculation on my part.

                                                            When it comes right down to it, though, whether searing "seals in the juices" is academic. Any steak tastes better if it's seared. Why it tastes better can be the basis of an interesting discussion, but when it comes to practical application, the best flavor--regardless of the reason--is all that matters.

                                                            1. re: alanbarnes
                                                              Caroline1 RE: alanbarnes Jun 2, 2008 11:38 PM

                                                              Alan, we agree 100% that searing equals flavor! And there's a pretty good chance you have used poelage in cooking. To poele something is often called "butter roasting." If you've ever slow cooked root vegetables in butter or other animal fat, then set a cut of meat on top of it, covered well with a tight fitting lid and slow roasted in the oven, you have used the poele cooking method. Searing only evaporates superficial surface liquids, not liquids from the interior, which is why I think that searing has to account for the reduced pan juices in slow roasting. But searing first is not a *true* poele. In culinary French, that's called poele a la Matignon.

                                                              Sous vide was originally applied exclusively to foi gras, and it did result in no marked weight loss, but I'm not certain if there was no "measurable" weight loss, though I tend to think so. I'm not sure you can really call searing something, then sealing it in a cryovac bag and poaching it at 140F true "sous vide." Maybe "poaching in a bag?" Interesting idea, but my guess is the sealed moist heat of the cryovac bag will just turn all of the crust to gravy in the same manner that deglazing a pan dissolves a fond. If you want crust, I would think that oven finishing a steak is far more satisfying. Let us know how it turns out!

                                                              1. re: Caroline1
                                                                alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Jun 3, 2008 08:08 AM

                                                                What I've been doing is putting a seasoned, vacuum-sealed cut of meat in 130F water (which is the temperature my crock pot maintains when filled with water and set to "warm" with the lid ajar). After a long hot bath, I take the meat out of the bag, dry it, and sear it quickly over very high heat.

                                                                The result is medium-rare meat all the way out to the very edge. And it's nearly idiot-proof: whether the steak is in the bath for four hours or forty-eight hours, it's never over- or under-cooked. There is, however, a little moisture in the bag. Not a lot, but some.

                                                                To bring us back to the OP's post, sous vide seems like an ideal way to reheat leftover steak. The only caution would be that, if the meat was exposed to any pathogens after cooking, those pathogens could multiply rapidly. So while sous vide might be a good idea for reheating a whole leftover steak that was cooled and cryovac-ed immediately after cooking, if it's a piece you've been gnawing on--not so much. Searing the piece might address the problem, but that's pushing even my food-safety comfort level.

                                                                1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                  Caroline1 RE: alanbarnes Jun 3, 2008 08:50 AM

                                                                  Interesting and amusingtly contradictory to the tenets of sous vide. When, and with what do you season? I'm wondering specifically about garlic. When I do a standing rib, I use half or quarter cloves of garlic I stuff into the area between large veins of fat and meat. Works much better than piercing the roast to insert garlic as my mother did. But with steaks I tend to use a really good garlic powder sprinkled on the beef well ahead of cooking. So now I'm wondering what the sous vide portion of your method would do with flavorings? Garlic, but also thyme or other herbs. My guess is the result would be similar to things cooked en papillote.

                                                                  Is there a texture/flavor difference when the meat is sous vide prior to charring as opposed to finished in an oven afterward? I do like my porterhouse cooked medium rare with just a little "blue" in the center. Doesn't sound possible with your method.

                                                                  But I'm still very uncomforttable with cooking proteins at 130F. Pathogens are so unpredictable and so is how they arrive. And without a circulation pump, I'm just not convinced the water temperature can be kept uniform.

                                                                  Given a large enough sous vide pot, it could be an interesting way to do a roast though. Say an eye of round or even a clod roast -- is that cut still available today? While I like a "touch of blue" in the center of my steaks, not so much in a large roast I want lots left over from for slicing thin for sandwiches. I adore thinly sliced roast beef sandwiches with lots of butter and salt and pepper on a dense whole wheat.

                                                                  Alan, if you make me go out and buy a sous vide pump, I'm going to be soooo mad at you! I don't have room in my kitchen!!! '-)

                                                                  1. re: Caroline1
                                                                    alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Jun 3, 2008 10:20 AM

                                                                    Fresh garlic and onion do poorly; the heat level is just too low to break them down and integrate the flavors. One possibility I've been meaning to try is to sweat the allium until soft, then toss it in the bag with the meat before sealing everything up. Meanwhile, onion and garlic powders work fine, as do herbs, spices, and flavored oils. The flavors tend to penetrate the meat more than with a conventional marinade, and can come on pretty strong, so a light hand at first is advisable.

                                                                    If the sous vide portion of the cooking is short (eg, 3-4 hours), the texture is about the same as if the meat were seared then finished in a very slow oven (or vice versa). But a long bath (24-48 hours) will make meat much tenderer and almost silky. What’s absolutely missing is the color gradient that you like; the meat will be very evenly cooked throughout.

                                                                    As far as consistency of temperature, my crock pot has a "swing" of about 2 degrees once it's heated up. Not as accurate as a sous vide pump, but close enough for my purposes, which don't really involve timing. If I were trying to poach an egg in its shell, a degree or two might be significant. But the difference between a steak cooked to 130F and one cooked to 132F is an inconsistency I can live with.

                                                                    It’s my understanding that 130F is a safe temperature for cooking meat, since most pathogens stop reproducing around 114F, and all of the common ones die off at temperatures in excess of 127.5F. In fact, I’ve read that pasteurization can take place at 130F, although it takes a looooong time. (Meat products are considered safe to eat once 99.99999 percent of salmonella bacteria have been killed, which takes a minute or so at 150F and 10 minutes at 140F, but nearly two hours at 130F.)

                                                                    For a big roast, if you already have a stand-alone roaster, you can just add a PID controller (and an aquarium bubbler if you want better circulation). Here's a photo from the website of Aubuer Instruments, which makes a sous vide PID device.

                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                      alanbarnes RE: alanbarnes Jun 3, 2008 10:24 AM

                                                                      Oops, let's try to attach the photo again...

                                                                       
                                                                      1. re: alanbarnes
                                                                        Caroline1 RE: alanbarnes Jun 3, 2008 03:18 PM

                                                                        Thanks, Alan. And I doooo like their prices much much more than those for sous vide circulators I've looked at out of mere curiosity. Those puppies start at $900.00 and climb from there. Quickly! This looks reasonable, but...! I do have to ask myself whether the added kitchen equipment (I don't have a roaster oven, but I have a gazillion other counter top appliances and little remaining shelf room in the garage) is going to be a reasonable advantage to occasionally sous vide a large roast... hmmmm... I'm thinking! I'm thinking! My downfall is new kitchen toys. <sigh>

                                                                        I'm wondering (theoretically) whether an aquarium pump could take the heat and do a better job than an aquarium bubbler? Have to talk to my electrician son and see what he thinks.

                                                                        Meanwhile, with any luck at all, maybe sanity will take over and I'll become fascinated with an automatic egg cooker to replace the 70 year old model I inherited from my grandfather that quit working a couple of years ago. MUCH less counter and cupboard space required. '-)

                                                                        1. re: Caroline1
                                                                          alanbarnes RE: Caroline1 Jun 3, 2008 04:20 PM

                                                                          A wise man was once asked how many kitchen gadgets a cook requires. The answer: just one--more.

                                                                          1. re: Caroline1
                                                                            jfood RE: Caroline1 Jun 3, 2008 04:56 PM

                                                                            C

                                                                            Mind if jfood uses an elbow to ask a question?

                                                                            First, jfood believes that searing is great for steak and it helps to "hold in" the juice but seal is too strong a word.

                                                                            For example, if the meat is sealed where does the juice go when someone cooks it in the oven to well done and it's really dry. If it is hermetically sealed in a Mayonaise jar on Funk and Wagnall porch, where did the juice go and how did it get out of the meat?

                                                                            1. re: jfood
                                                                              d
                                                                              diva360 RE: jfood Jun 3, 2008 05:06 PM

                                                                              I think it evaporates ;) Searing merely adds tons of flavor. Sous vide, on the other hand, seems to trap in the juices, but I've never used the method.

                                                                              1. re: jfood
                                                                                e
                                                                                ESNY RE: jfood Jun 3, 2008 06:21 PM

                                                                                Searing doesn't create some impenetrable force field that covers the surface area of a steak like a layer of cement. And even if it did, I've never had a steak that has an entire side 100% covered in that gorgeous, tasty crust, so there would be at least some surface area for the juice to leak out.

                                                                                1. re: ESNY
                                                                                  Scargod RE: ESNY Jun 4, 2008 04:30 AM

                                                                                  What if you de-bone the steak and sear it in a hot skillet while pressing down on it with a hot iron, to get good surface contact? Then go to the grill with it to finish? Would it then not leak? Or not ooze when resting?
                                                                                  Personally, I don't mind some juice on my plate. It all ends up in my gullet anyway.

                                                                                2. re: jfood
                                                                                  Caroline1 RE: jfood Jun 3, 2008 06:35 PM

                                                                                  Well, whether you want to call it "meat juices" or blood, there are still the blood factors that coagulate when heat is applied, whether by cauterizing live tissue or searing dead tissue. When you cook any meat -- beef, chicken, pork, goat, whatever -- to "well done," that simply means that all of the "juices" (blood) have coagulated and are therefore unable to leak, run out, or require a rest period to reabsorb.

                                                                                3. re: Caroline1
                                                                                  Caroline1 RE: Caroline1 Jun 6, 2008 10:09 PM

                                                                                  This is just for the record to update my wondering if an ornamental fountain recirculating pump would add to Alan's improvised and interesting sous vide cooker. I said I would talk to my electrician son about what he thinks. I did, and for the record his qualifications are that he is an IEC electrical contractor licensed in three states, and a master electrician. He says he doesn't think my idea of using a recirculating pump will work for any length of time because even though the 130 degree water temperature going through the pump is below the pump's probable normal operating temperature, it will prevent the self generated heat of the motor from cooling itself to "normal operating temperature" and will burn the motor out in time.

                                                                                  Just thought you all should know.

                                                                                  And just in case anyone is curious, I have decided not to add to my storage crisis by buying a roaster oven to try sous vide cooking simply because I already know so many fantastic and delicious ways to cook meat, I can just continue happily exploring those.

                                                                                  Hey, for once in my life, let me sound like I have a little self control! '-)

                                                                2. re: Caroline1
                                                                  k
                                                                  klindeman RE: Caroline1 Jun 2, 2008 05:40 PM

                                                                  It's not the searing that seals the juices into the steak that sat, it's the resting.

                                                                  I don't see why this "experiment" would show anything about searing, since *both* steaks are seared...

                                                                  1. re: klindeman
                                                                    Eat_Nopal RE: klindeman Jun 2, 2008 09:21 PM

                                                                    I am confused as well... but AB is correct searing actually evaporates off more juices than cooking entirely over a more gentle heat... its been amply demonstrated by numerous parties from Cooking Illustrated to the dorky guy on Food Network that is really an actor but every one thinks is a food genius.

                                                                    With that said... Searing definitely adds flavor... although some cuts of grass fed actually taste better without searing.

                                                        2. Eat_Nopal RE: baby_tran Jun 2, 2008 01:56 PM

                                                          A few years back before I knew of the existence of Chowhound, and fresh out of Business School... I wrote up a business plan for a restaurant just for fun... and in my search for equipment & so forth I was astonished to find special Microwave ovens marketed towards High End restaurants specializing in Steaks & Chops... apparently the claim is that you can sear a bunch of steaks... refrigerate them... and then consistently nuke them to the perfect & precise doneness.... but I only did the research never saw them in action. The marketing & prevalence made it seem like they were widely used.

                                                          3 Replies
                                                          1. re: Eat_Nopal
                                                            JoanN RE: Eat_Nopal Jun 2, 2008 02:52 PM

                                                            Jean Anderson talks about this method in her book "Micro Ways." She says that during the summer you can sear steaks on the grill and freeze them in order to have that outdoor-grill flavor in the dead of winter. I never tried it (no grill, not a big enough freezer, and not much interest), but she says that once you thaw them they cook quickly in the microwave. She admits, though, that the timing can be tricky.

                                                            It would be really interesting to know how common this is in restaurants, high end or otherwise.

                                                            1. re: JoanN
                                                              ipsedixit RE: JoanN Jun 2, 2008 03:21 PM

                                                              Don't chains like Sizzlers, Appelbees, etc. do this with their steaks?

                                                              1. re: ipsedixit
                                                                JoanN RE: ipsedixit Jun 2, 2008 03:50 PM

                                                                No idea. Do they? Never been to one and just never gave it any thought.

                                                          2. Scargod RE: baby_tran Jun 3, 2008 04:11 AM

                                                            I may be the lone voice, and get laughed at, but I say "YES". The question is whether you can get a "headstart" in the microwave.
                                                            I have a microwave oven with a power level function. I use this function often. I have found this very useful in the "timing problems" some refer to when trying to use a microwave oven. Rather than trying to guage the timing to within a few seconds, if you turn the power down you have much more lattitude.
                                                            I take the chill off hamburger meat and have done the same to accellerate thawing a frozen steak and for just bringing a steak up to about 100 degrees so the center is not cold when I cook it rare. A very low power setting is very critical, so it does not cook, just as many have mentioned is important in other "warming without cooking" methods.
                                                            The next time you reheat food in the microwave try heating it on "5" for three minutes rather than the one minute on full power. YMMV. It gives heat an opportunity to migrate throughout the dish (and from dish to food) and distributes the microwave heating (as the carousel is turning the food around, inside), better, rather than having hot-spots from few revolutions. FYI, We have a lot of hand-made thrown bowls that get hotter than glass does.

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