The BEST steak I’ve ever had was Sous Vide Steak from my Instant Pot Ultra. This is no lie, my friend. Of course, you don’t need an Instant Pot to cook Sous Vide Steak. A Sous Vide circulator is actually the optimal tool for the job. But the Ultra and Instant Pot Max can get it done.
What is Sous Vide Cooking?
Put simply, Sous Vide is cooking food, sealed in a bag, in a water bath kept at a specific temperature for a particular period of time. The cooking temperatures are far lower than in a pan or the oven, but you cook the food longer. What’s nice is that you don’t have to worry about overcooking. The recommended time is the minimum. If you cook it longer, even by half an hour or an hour, it’s no big deal.
And cooking Sous Vide Steak (or anything else) is super easy and totally idiot-proof! You take the steak, put it in a water-tight bag, add your favorite seasonings, and seal the bag. Put it in the temperature controlled water bath in the Instant Pot, and wait for it to be done! If you’re using a Sous Vide Circulator, you can use any pot or container that’s big enough.
You can use ziplock style freezer bags for Sous Vide cooking. However, I strongly urge you to invest in a set of reusable Sous Vide bags. Freezer bags you can realistically only use once. This just adds more plastic crap to the environment. Reduce, reuse, recycle!
Cooking Sous Vide Steak
A ribeye steak that’s 1” thick, cooked at 129F for one hour, will be medium rare all the way through. That last bit is important: it will be perfectly done all the way through, from top to bottom, every time. The temperature controls the doneness. If you like your steak done medium or well, you’d set the temperature higher. The cooking time would stay the same. Setting the temperature at 140F will cook it medium-well, for example.
The thicker the cut, the longer you’ll cook it. A half inch thick Sous Vide Steak will be done in 30 minutes. A 2 inch thick cut will take 2 hours.
You can also toss in your steak frozen: you’ll just increase the cooking time.
And how do you know how long to cook your Sous Vide Steak or other food? There are a variety of tables out on the web that you can use. But I prefer the Joule Sous Vide Circulator app which is available free, even if you don’t own a Joule. The app is really cool, because it will even show you pics of what the finished doneness looks like. It also has directions for meat, fish, poultry, and other foods.
So, getting the Sous Vide Steak cooked is easy. Now we get to the super yummy part: searing it! You want a nice crust on the meat that’ll really punch up the flavor.
With Sous Vide cooking, you typically DON’T sear the meat first. You do it last, which is why this is called “reverse searing.”
Take that perfectly cooked steak out of the Sous Vide bag and slap it on a nice, hot skillet. I prefer my cast iron skillet, and add a bit of oil and butter before I toss in the steak.
UDPATE: I had previously suggested swirling the steak around in the pan after you put it in, but Drew, a concerned reader who actually was trained how to cook (unlike me, lol), pointed out that this is the wrong way to go. Instead, Drew suggests the following method:
The best sear, and one that is MUCH better than your pictures show (note: my pics aren’t the greatest, lol – MRH), is to put the steak in a hot pan and do NOT move the steak. Let it go 45-60 seconds and turn it once. Now the top of the steak is the service face of the steak. Leave it for 30 seconds on the reverse side and then serve. The sous vide method means you don’t need to let the steak rest before serving.
When you take the first bit of that gorgeous Sous Vide Steak, you’re going to just go, “Ahhhh, that’s AWESOME!”
Instant Pot Sous Vide Steak
I wanted to add a bit of expectation management here. Sous Vide circulators move the water around and have a very tight tolerance on the temperature. The Instant Pot Max has a stated tolerance of +/- 1.8F, while the Ultra has a +/- 5F tolerance. That means that your Sous Vide Steak may be slightly over- or under-done. Some folks have reported major temperature variations with the Ultra, but I’ve never had an issue. I’d recommend you try an inexpensive cut of meat first. And if you want the best tool for the job or really get into Sous Vide cooking, get a circulator!
- Use a table or the app for the Joule Sous Vide Circulator. To calculate the cooking temperature and time for your Sous Vide Steak (or other food).
- Fill up the Instant Pot’s inner liner with HOT water from your tap. This will save a lot of time. Otherwise, the pot has to heat that water to the right temperature from a cold start.
- Use the Ultra Setting to set the temperature (I’ll be making a video on how to do this soon). I usually add at least half an hour to the recommended time. Remember: it’s almost impossible to over-cook something Sous Vide. Well, if you leave it for hours, sure. Don’t do dat.
- Season the steak as you like. I usually sprinkle some salt, pepper, and garlic powder on each side.
- Take your steak and put it into your Sous Vide bag (again, get a reusable one!). I usually also toss in a couple pats of butter, one on each side, and a couple bay leaves.
- When the Instant Pot beeps that it’s achieved the set temperature, immerse the bag with the steak into the water. Squeeze out as much air as you can from around the steak. Do NOT allow water into the bag. Make sure the bag is surrounded by water, and the meat isn’t directly touching the bottom. I use wooden clothespins to pin the bag to the rim of the pot. NOTE: You can cook more than one bag at a time, just make sure there’s enough space for water to circulate between them.
- Cover the pot (I use my Instant Pot Glass Lid) and go take a nap.
- About five minutes before the time is up, crank up the stovetop and your cast iron skillet. I use medium-high heat. When it’s hot, add some butter and oil, as you like.
- When the time’s up on the Instant Pot, remove the bag from the water.
- Remove the steak from the bag. Toss it on the skillet and swirl it around, gently, for 30 to 60 seconds. NO LONGER! You don’t want to cook the steak, you just want to sear the outside to a nice crust. Flip it over and do the same for the other side.
- Presto! You’re done!
Now pair that mouth watering Sous Vide Steak with your favorite sides. For this meal, I made some Instant Pot Potato Salad and Baked Beans. Enjoy!