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Oct 17, 2009 09:37 AM

are there restaurants that still do not use sous vide method when cooking their meats such as steaks?


i heard that thomas keller use in his resaturants the sous vide when cooking their meats and other ingredients. even though it is becoming wide spread phenomenon in US, is there anyone who think some trade offs could be occuriing because of cooking with sous vide method?
and i saw in tv that professional kitchen staffs in craft steak, which tom collichi manages, use pan roasting method when cooking steak types of meats. but do they still do that way?
i widely guess that they may not pan roast their steaks anymore as what they did in the past.
does anyone know about that?

  1. I don't know of ANY restaurant that uses the sous vide method to cook steaks. Maybe I'm just not going to places that are upscale enough, but to me, hot and fast cooking methods (grilling, broiling, pan searing, etc.) are essential to good steak, and direct heat is what promotes browning on all meat.

    I may be wrong, but I understood that sous vide is typically used for more delicate meats like lobster and other seafood.

    2 Replies
    1. re: LauraGrace

      I would agree with the steaks. However one method would be to use the contraption, then brown. I would just think it to be another method, not a total replacement of line cooks and grills.

      The advantage is that certain products come out perfect and consistent 100% of the time. The device is large, like a commercial mixer and costs about 2000. Very minimal as far as a commercial appliance goes.

      I know Charlie Trotter is a fan. I read that Amtrak is equipped with the devices.

      1. re: DallasDude

        Train food....yum! And the delicious water! But I suppose a wine cellar on a train is impractical.

    2. Really, if I went into a high-end steak place for a 24 oz porterhouse, there's no way I want anyone sous-viding anything near my steak.
      Sous vide has certain applications for particular food products, say seafood, vegetables or certain cuts of meat, but pan searing, broiling or char grilling aren't going away. Upscale or not, it doesn't work for everything.
      I'm not sure about the Amtrack usage, as mentioned by Dallasdude, as sous vide is vacuum cooking at low temp for long periods of time so I don't know how it would apply to the NYC to Philly ride, but maybe to LA?

      22 Replies
      1. re: bushwickgirl

        Amtrak sous vide? :-))

        They take their food out of the fridge and stick in the MV on the BOS to DC runs.

        1. re: jfood

          Who wants a slow-poached steak, for Christ's sake?

          1. re: pikawicca

            you know? i saw michael mina's cookbook. in there he poached his steak in huge amount of melted butter

            1. re: hae young

              Poached or sous vide? What cut of steak are we talking about? To what degree of doneness? Which cookbook? These are questions that need to be answered before any decision can be made regarding cooking techniques discussed in this thread. This is an apples to oranges thing. Poaching is a great way to cook for some food products like seafood, but other methods, aformentioned, work for others.
              With all due respect, I *guess* I could see a ribeye poached in butter but where's the char, the tasty crust gained in searing or grilling? How would you guarantee the steak be med. rare? or rare, for that matter?
              I googled Michael Mina but could not find any reference to steak poached in butter at any of his restaurants or with any of his recipes.
              With further respect and not to be snarky but I think you have sous vide on the brain. It's not the entire answer. It's a technique that has limited, if not appropriate use.

              1. re: bushwickgirl

                Michael Mina does in fact sous vide his steaks in butter:

                "Enough about the surroundings—it’s the food that really deserves your attention. Yes, the steaks (poached sous vide in clarified butter, then seared and grilled) are as tender and juicy as you could hope for, but we were also pleasantly surprised by the wide array of tempting fish, poultry, and meat offerings on BOURBON STEAK’s menu."

                Read full review here:

                1. re: ipsedixit

                  Ok, but the review doesn't mention what type of steak he poaches in butter, nor does it get into the finer points of the process. I guess it's a trade secret, or something like that. At this point, I can only think the steak's got to be a hefty one, as not be to done well.
                  Does the process really improve over prime beef with great marbling?
                  Anyway, thanks for the link.

                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    I think the reviewer really didn't fully understand how the steaks were cooked, or she just wanted to throw the phrase "sous vide" into her story. "Poached sous vide" is self contradictory. Poaching is a technique in which flavors from the poaching liquid are infused into the item being poached. Sous vide (literally "under vacuum") isolates the food from the cooking medium. What would be the point of cooking sous vide in clarified butter since the butter never actually touches the meat?

                    If the technique is slow poaching in fat, which is what I suspect is true, then is has nothing whatsoever to do with sous vide.

                    1. re: kmcarr

                      Could butter have been added to the vacuum pack with the steak?

                      1. re: Humbucker

                        Exactly. The butter would be the liquid in the pouch with the steak, essentially.

                        1. re: Humbucker

                          One typically will add flavorings such as herbs, spices, small amounts of wine, oil or butter when you are cooking sous vide but I can't imagine what the benefit would be to seal a large volume of clarified butter along with the steak in a sous vide bag and then submerge that in a water bath. You would then need the water to first heat the mass of clarified butter which in turn poaches the steak. It would be far easier to simply poach the steak directly in clarified butter.

                          1. re: kmcarr

                            A sous vide pouch doesn't need very much liquid, actually. It is vacuum sealed around the solids, and so you can use much less butter than you would need in a pan.

                            Edit: And to add one more point, to my knowledge the review doesn't say anything about a "huge amount" of butter being used.

                            1. re: Full tummy

                              But in sous vide you do not put the cooking medium inside the bag; it stay strictly outside the bag. The phrased used by the reviewer was "poached sous vide in clarified butter". Reading the Q & A with chef Mina at the bottom of the page there is this exchange:

                              Q: Tell us about the origins of your cooking technique?

                              A: I was not a fan of the filet cut, and American [Wagyu] is not as tender as Japanese Kobe. So I experimented with a small steam table and poaching meats [sous vide] at a set temperature. I finish them on the grill. This lets the meat get to rare with no shrinkage and a consistent color.

                              Apparently chef Mina conflates these two cooking techniques.

                              O.K. Just found a much better description of how the steaks are cooked at Bourbon Steak:

                              They use a water bath with an immersion circulator (the typical set up for sous vide) but only as method for keeping their poaching solution of clarified butter at a constant temperature. I imagine the pumps in the circulators could not handle the viscosity of the butter. The steaks are then poached in the flavored clarified butter. There is no sous vide (vacuum sealing) involved.

                              1. re: kmcarr

                                The actual meaning of "sous vide" is "under vacuum". Does that mean there is a vacuum created in the internal well? Thanks for the link.

                                And, I just wanted to add that you wouldn't call the cooking medium (the water), the poaching liquid. So, if you wanted to poach fish in olive-oil, using sous vide, you would put the olive oil inside the pouch, with the fish.

                                1. re: Full tummy

                                  No, I don't believe there is any vacuum involved here. Further down the article they make the distinction between sous vide, cooking of individual portions in vacuum sealed bags, with fat poaching which is what they do now. Chef Mina did at one time cooks steaks sous vide but now uses low temperature fat poaching.

                                  1. re: kmcarr

                                    I guess the author, Anita, got it wrong, as you suggest. Thanks for the additional info. Wonder what would be better: Butter poached steak or sous-vide steak, hahaha.

                          2. re: kmcarr

                            Kmcarr you are absolutley correct. I do not think many of the people posting have a clue about sous vide. You can put butter ,olive oil etc inside the packet BUT we are talking a very small amount. With a pound of salmon you might add a tablespoon or so.
                            In addition , you do not bring the product up to a certain temperature and then throw in fridge...... you sous vide the product for many hours.......depending what,sometime 50 plus hours at a fixed temperature. It is crucial the temperature not vary . Even a degree can cause problems.
                            You will not find more tasty and tender meat if done properly. Yes it even makes a big difference with prime and kobe. You do not get some weird product, 95% would not even know except they got a really tasty tender meal.
                            Most high end restaurants use. In Europe it has been used since the early 70's and probably 75% of Michelins stared restaurants practice .

                2. re: bushwickgirl

                  Yes Amtrak. I got my information from a handy press release from a leading manufacturer of such devices, Cuisine Solutions. The following is from the release for visitors of the NRA trade show last year in Chicago:

                  “From quality to flavor profile and packaging, sous-vide products from Cuisine Solutions have played a vital role in Amtrak’s past, current and future design,” maintains Timothy Costello, Amtrak Corporate Executive Chef. “With their dedicated partnership and knowledge of our foodservice operation; Amtrak is able to offer to our customers safe and consistent menu selections.”


                  1. re: DallasDude

                    I looked at the Cuisine Solutions website - it seems as if they sell pre-cooked food in pouches. Which means Amtrak is likely just reheating the pouches in a microwave and serving them, not going through the entire sous vide process. Cuisine Solutions has videos of this on their site:


                    1. re: DallasDude

                      Yup, they prepare the food in the sous vide methon and sell it frozen.

                      Double-D if you read further down this link at the Cuisine solutions article


                      you will also find the following statement:

                      "Cuisine Solutions' sous-vide products have helped us at T.G.I. Fridays increase quality as well as maintain consistency," says Scott Randolph, Senior Director of Culinary Development.

                      So yes, from a technical POV AMTRAK is usingthe sous vide method (jfood stands corrected) but they buy frozen food which uses TGIF as their benchmark. Not exactly Citronelle.

                      1. re: jfood

                        mmm sous-vide stuffed potato skins. A morose use of the method.

                        1. re: DallasDude

                          Sous-vide just means vacuum sealed. Those Green Giant and Stouffers boil-in-the-bag meals and pouches you can or could get from the freezer section of a supermarket are just as sous-vide as anything you can get at your fancypants New-York restaurants. Sous-vide is just a method of packaging and preparation. Whether it's used for cooking foie gras in a five-star restaurant or boiling up fettuccine alfredo at TGI McFunster's is neither here nor there.

                  2. I've only had it for fish and duck, very nice, tender and moist. I can't imagine sous vide for steak, I understand it's a long low-temp process (whereas my favourite rare steak would be short and high-temp).

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: hsk

                      I really don't know if sous vide is around for the long haul, as a cooking technique. I first heard about it in the 80's, in Hartford CT and it wasn't very well accepted, certainly not understood. Humans just can't get beyond the blazing flames style of cooking, I think, is it a gene thing?

                      1. re: hsk

                        it seems tomas keller cook his meats in sous vide style. i am going to purchase his cookbook about sous vide style. i cannot afford to buy sous vide equipment though

                        1. re: hae young

                          I wonder if you can get away with vacuum sealed bags in a slow cooker with the lid off?

                          I poach in chicken fat but have no real temperature control. I use a meat thermometer, a cast iron casserole and on the lowest setting of my gas cooktop can maintain a reasonable 130 +/- 10 by displacing the lid slightly. Is there a better way?

                          Thirty years ago I had an electric range with a 'meat thermometer' built into it that controlled the temperature on one of the rings. Not seen anything like that since. Never used it except to stop milk boiling over.

                          1. re: Paulustrious

                            The equipment used controls temperatures within 1/10th of a degree. There are guidelines on what temperature to use for various products. You need to becareful of botulism.

                            1. re: Paulustrious

                              Slow cookers do not keep the temperature stable enough for true sous vide cooking. A home unit with a recirculating heater that keeps the temperature within a fraction of a degree of the setting is about a grand. Oven, stove top units with temperature sensor and thermostaticcally controlled counter top appliances all have way too much variation in temperature because they switch off and on to maintain a "temperature range" as oppose to an outright continuing temperature.

                              It's been a while since I did much research on the equipment, but prices MAY have come down. I don't know. Google things like "sous vide," "immersion circulators," and any other "key word" type terms you run across in your quest. Keep in mind that true sous vide is always accomplished by sealing the food in a cryovac vacii, pouch and then immersing that in a circulating water bath with low constant temperature. Do not fall for equipment spiels that tell you you can cook food directly in it. Well, with the possible exception of eggs in the shell. There is a ryokan in Japan that is famous for its eggs "cooked" by keeping them overnight in their natural hot spring, and from that sous vied eggs in the shell have become a favorite. Good luck!

                              1. re: Caroline1

                                One of the things we really haven't touched on in the thread is the lliklihood of poisoning when using the method in less than stellar environment, or equipment. Botulism thrives in a vacuum. I would be careful in using an ad hoc solution.

                                1. re: DallasDude

                                  I thought about mentioning that sous vide can be a form of Russian roulette, but thought, hey! They'll find out soon enough! '-)

                                  You make a valid point, and welcome to the nay-sayers bench.

                                2. re: Caroline1

                                  I am prepared to take that chance. There are only on average 24 cases per year of foodborne botulism in the USA. According to what I have been reading most occurrences are in home-canning where the contaminant has had months, or even years, to reproduce. Next is from long-preserved processed meats - salamis etc.. (The previous statement is semi-informed opinion). I age meat for up to 28 days in my fridge - so do many others. Botulism is a relatively slow reproducing bacterium even under ideal conditions. Granted sous vide is an aerobic environment - but so is any submerged confit. So what evidence is there that one has a reasonable chance (say 1 in 100 million) of 'catching' botulism from after a twelve hour stint in a plastic bag at 120F. The French routinely poach meat in fat at low temperature - as do I. What difference does it make if it is sous-vide?

                                  I am not trying to minimise your worry - but just get a reasonable handle on the odds. As far as I can see you are a 1000 times more likely to contract MRSA or die from it.

                                  Oh yes - chucking a bit of vinegar in the bag will decrease the odds even further.

                          2. According to this website, steak can be cooked sous vide and then finished with a blow torch, resulting in a medium-rare steak!!! I live in Toronto and don't know of any restaurants preparing steak this way, though it is possible there are. I do, however, know of many restaurants preparing steak the old-fashioned way on a grill.


                            1. Why would a restaurant turn to methods that are cumbersome, take much longer than the traditional method, and that produces something the customer is unlikely to be familiar with and may therefore reject it because "this isn't what I ordered?" Thomas Keller does not run "standard" high end (or any other end) restaurants. The vast majority of diners are not all that flexible with what they are served. If they order mac and cheese, not everyone will be happy with Camembert over orzo. Restaurants, by nature, must pursue quality, consistency and expediency. Sous vide is a no-show on most of that list.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Caroline1

                                " Sous vide is a no-show on most of that list"
                                It is very much the opposite and that is why your best trained chefs utilize.