Contains: Apparently, no standard allergens. Is: Paleo, Whole30.
This is in some sense, an experiment. I left the meat in the sous vide bath for varying amounts of time.
For inspiration, though I didn’t follow this exactly (regards to cooking temperature), as I wanted some pink:
But, cook at 133 -134 F for medium rare, bordering more towards medium. Some pink remains.
The beef bottom round roast is a cut from a hard working muscle in the hind region of the cow/steer. Eye of round is similar. Being involved in a meat share where I got a quarter of a cow coming home with me – meant it was almost certain I’d be getting both those cuts. I did not get the opportunity to choose. I’ve already eaten the eye (it wasn’t memorable), using some more conventional method of cookery. Here, pulling out the sous vide device seemed like a reasonable response. I mean, the round is here – while a very less-desirable cut, I should see if I can improve it somehow. If not, Obi-Wan (the cat) is looking at his future dinners! (Serenity won’t eat beef. She’s a poultry connoisseur.)
I’ll note this is one case where the supermarket bottom round would probably be better in a culinary sense than grass-finished. The animal here is still roaming around until the last day, exercising his / her hind quarters. Even less fat, and less marbling, than the supermarket one.
The longer you cook something, the more you can keep that something at high enough temperature to break down tough tissues to something palatable. And if you can keep, say steak, at low enough temperature, you should be able to get something approaching medium rare throughout.
This meant I needed to cook this cut of meat anywhere from 1 to 3 days. I decided steaks would be more interesting than a roast (plus it would be easy enough to freeze up the extras afterwards). This was three pounds of meat as a roast, anyway. The steaks would be thick-cut, which is better when it comes to sous vide anyhow (with the reverse-searing step that is optional after the cooking process, thin steaks might as well be cooked entirely on a grill or in a skillet – well, except in this case (due to innate toughness) – not here). But I wanted medium rare meat. I cut my steaks around 1 inch or so thick.
You don’t want to hold meat for over 3 or 4 hours at anything less than 130 F (USDA guidelines) due to potential for bacterial growth. Above that, the nasty little bacty buggers will croak, or at least not multiply. I chose 133 F for this reason. (Some will sous vide long term at 131 F, since there’s probably some wiggle room in the USDA number – but hey. I wiggle in the other direction…)
For steaks, it is typical to reverse-sear after cooking. You can use your grill (not with the level of snow out here), a torch (don’t have, and don’t want), or a skillet indoors. I chose the latter.
I added salt, pepper and garlic powder to the steaks – all sides. Adding fresh sprigs of thyme is also appropriate. For this length of cooking, it is seriously recommended to use garlic powder instead of whole or minced fresh garlic.
Bagging your meat for sous vide: I splurged on reusable silicon sous vide bags, they have a zip-lock style seal. You have other options: regular zip-lock style bags which are disposable plastic, and at high temperatures can fail, or specialized sous vide vaccuum bags that you seal with a vacuum/heat-sealer, and are made not to fail at high temperatures (that’s like around 160 F or so). I opted for the silicon bags because 1) they are far more inert than plastic and 2) I already add enough to the planetary waste stream as is, and 3) Ultimately, it’s not a splurge, but a savings in many regards. If there’s a place where I can call a halt to disposables, especially plastics, I really SHOULD. Oh, the zip-locks remove air by the water displacement method.
Accessories: There are all sorts of gadgets a sous-vider can purchase – specialized tanks with lids, racks for standing your bags upright in (not usually necessary to stand them upright…), weights you can add to bags to make sure they sink below the waves – but all you really need is a sous vide immersion unit (preferably not ONLY operatable by your smart phone but also by hand, which for me rules out the Joule brand). And an inventive eye as to what you have in your kitchen. I sous vide in my stew pot (which also doubles as my lobster pot, my home water bath canner, and my, um, chicken dunker pot when I need to remove feathers to put a home-grown cockerel or so in the freezer). I weigh bags down (where needed) by placing a cup or saucer over them, or adding something heavy and inert into the bag with the item being cooked.
My salt note: I use a LOT less salt than the professional chefs tend to use, at least those with cooking shows. My first hangar steak was ruined by following their advice, even though I was using the same type of salt as they (yes, types of salt make a difference). But you do you – you can always add more salt at the table, although having some on the beef while cooking definitely adds depth to the meat not fully obtainable if it’s all added at the table.
Horseradish note: It’s come to my attention that parts of the world don’t seem to use the term, “prepared horseradish”. This is NOT to be confused with a horseradish sauce sold in the condiment section of your supermarket, that comes out creamy and is usually full of things not appropriate for Whole30 – and won’t impart the same flavor as the gravy sauce I make below. Prepared horseradish is finely shredded horseradish root with a preservative like citric acid to keep it from discoloring – and is located in some refrigerated section of your supermarket. (Location may vary from supermarket to supermarket.) Store even the unopened bottle or jar in your fridge. I have horseradish growing here – if it gets enough sun it’s near impossible to kill off in the garden, even if you want to – and plan to start some root harvesting of my own next summer.
Whole30 January: I’d normally use soy sauce or Lea and Perrins, and I’d use butter. But it’s Whole30 January, so this was prepared via Whole30 guidelines for the blog (despite my making this in December…) Substitute back as you desire.
Prep Time: 15 minutes.
Sous Vide Time: 1 day, 2 days (two timings tested below)
Sear Time: About 3 minutes.
Rest Time: Not needed.
Cuisine: Well, sous vide is a French phrase???
Serves: As part of a meal, I’d say 3 pounds of the meat portion – about 6-8?
Sous Vide Beef Bottom Round Steaks
- 3 pounds or thereabouts of bottom round beef roast, in this case grass-fed / finished.
- Salt, pepper, garlic POWDER.
- An optional sprig of fresh thyme for each steak.
- Ghee (or butter). For the whole cut, up to a quarter-pound.
Set your sous vide immersion device to a desired temperature according to device instructions, attach it to your water bath whatever it may be, and let the water come to temperature. For medium rare, mostly pink, I went with 133 F. 140 F will provide a solid medium.
Slice your bottom round roast into 1 inch or so steaks. (2.5 cm or so.) You can remove or keep the fat cap. I left it on some slices, but removed it for ease of cutting on others – I’ll render (ahem) a verdict at the end of this post.
Salt, pepper and garlic-ify your steaks on all sides to your predilection. Stuff into sous vide bags of choice (I prefer reusable silicon, see above). Don’t double layer the steaks, but keep them as a single layer, and just pull out another bag for the rest of them. Add a sprig of thyme if you remember, for each steak slice.
Seal bag(s) via water immersion method, or via a vacuum/heat sealer, depending on your bag type.
Place in the water bath (if the bath is not up to temperature yet, don’t worry, the meat can certainly go in now!) Insure that no water is leaking in, and if you need to, weigh down the bags with a saucer or cup balanced atop, or something small yet heavy that can go into each bag before being sealed. You want the water to surround your future meal! Although for a long cook like this where it is not necessary, I find it a good practice to time the sous vide cooking time from when the water bath reaches the desired temperature.
Set, and go. Since my roast / steaks ended up in two separate bags, I decided to experiment. The smaller bag was removed at about 24 hours – actually about 22.5 hours for personal logistical reasons. I left the other in for 48 hours. You can cover the water bath with foil, or you can monitor and add more water when needed so that the level doesn’t evaporate off. (I’d still check even if you use foil.)
When ready, [approximately 24 Hours] remove the steak bag(s) from the water bath. Open, and reserve the juices for the gravy/sauce. (I ran the other bag for 42 hours, to see how that would work.)
While still warm, sear any steaks you plan to eat at this time. I used my skillet on medium high with a bit of avocado oil, and turned on the range fan (smoke detectors going off in winter are unpleasant events). Seared about a minute on both sides. Serve with sides, and with whatever sauce or gravy you like. I used the recipe below:
- 2 heaping tablespoons mustard (Gulden’s Spicy Brown here)
- 1.5 teaspoon prepared horseradish (See my note just up above, before the start of recipes proper, as apparently parts of the world don’t use this terminology?)
- 0.5 teaspoon sesame oil.
- About a third of the total amount of juice from the beef sous vide cooking bags. This would be about 3-4 tablespoons. (I reserved the rest. If you want to make this gravy without having to go through the process of doing sous vide, reserve drippings from however you and up cooking any cuts of beef – I do think pre-packaged beef stock won’t add much umami to this, however.)
- 2 tablespoons coconut aminos for Whole30 (or low sodium gluten-free tamari or soy sauce, or even Lea and Perrins, if you are using soy and don’t mind a little anchovy…)
Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl, and drizzle over the meat to whim. Reserve leftover sauce for the rest of the steaks, if you plan to eat them within 4 days.
Leftover steak: I froze most of the leftovers. Whether you refrigerate or freeze your steaks, hold off on searing until when you plan to eat them. thaw the latter in the fridge, then bring either type out of the fridge to room temperature for 45-60 minutes. Sear, and carry on as before. Since I don’t think horseradish freezes all that well, I’d make up a new batch of sauce rather than freezing it – (you can freeze the rest of the drippings from the bags to make the next batch).
Verdict: This is never going to be a favorite cut of beef, but you can make it taste good using sous vide. Leave the fat cap on – that piece was decidedly more tender. You can always remove it prior to serving, or at the table. I pulled one pack of steaks out at 22.5 hours (served with asparagus), and the second at 42 hours (served with cabbage and onion). Although I didn’t taste them side by side, there wasn’t any noticeable benefit to me in leaving the meat in for the extra time. Indeed, the second set of steaks tasted subjectively a little bit mealy, but not enough to be annoying. The meat in either case does have flavor, and is much more tender than if you’d used other methods of cooking it, plus you can retain some pink. Well, Obi-Wan isn’t going to get more than a bite for his share!
The gravy/sauce is a true winner. Indeed, the little that remained after eating the meat ended up being scooped up by a spoon and consumed directly! (Okay, I’m a bit weird.)
Let’s hear it for Fiesta Friday, where this recipe is sous-viding away Zeba @ Food For The Soul is your co-host. And for Full Plate Thursday, where the sauce is simply making me happy – as well as the recipes you can find at both the above sites!