Wagyu Flank Steak, Pan-seared versus Sous-vide


On nice days I often walk from the train station to work, rather than taking a tram or subway. On my way to work I will then walk by the fanciest butcher shop that I know of in Amsterdam (and probably in the whole country): Slagerij De Leeuw. This is not a place to get your daily meat, but for special occasions they have great stuff like organic foie gras, Rubia beef from Spain, and wagyu beef (imported from the US). Wagyu is usually outrageously expensive, but the flank steak (referred to as “bavette”) looked great and almost reasonably priced. The butcher said I should let it come to room temperature, sear it in its own fat (he actually said to also use butter) and let it rest. He said that even though it’s flank steak, it can be eaten like a tender steak since it’s wagyu. I thought I’d also like to try it cooked sous-vide for 24 hours at 56C/133F. And so I decided to try both.

Note added October 10, 2012: a second experiment has shown that 48 hours at 55C/131F is even better.


For the seared version, I seasoned the steaks liberally with salt and freshly ground black pepper. I heated a frying pan to very high heat and put the steaks in with the fat side down. As soon as enough fat had rendered, I seared them quickly on all sides. I was aiming for the rare side of medium rare, so I seared just until nicely browned.


Then I let them rest in foil for about 10 minutes.


I sauteed some spinach in the beef fat. Beef and spinach go very well together. The beef fat takes off the edge off the spinach, and the green spinach is a healthy combination with the red meat.


I then took the beef out of the foil.


And served it with some spinach on warm plates.


The beef was indeed on the rare side of medium rare, and had great taste. It had to be cut very thinly however (2 mm or 1/12 inch) to be considered tender.


I vacuum sealed another piece of wagyu flank steak, after seasoning with salt and freshly ground black pepper.


I cooked it sous-vide for 24 hours at 56C/133F.


I took the beef out of the pouch and patted it dry with a paper towel.


I seared it very briefly in a very hot pan, starting with the fat side to sear the other sides in its own fat.


The resulting steak looked delicious.


And it also was delicious! It was tender enough and medium rare throughout. I chose to use 24 hours at 56C/133F based on my short rib experiments, taking into account that wagyu is more tender than regular beef. Next time I will try 48 hours at 55C/131F to hopefully get beef that is still slightly more tender and still slightly more on the rare side.

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28 thoughts on “Wagyu Flank Steak, Pan-seared versus Sous-vide

  1. Using the ‘control’ piece of meat is very scientific. My approach would be to try it and see if I liked it. That is, if I had the sous vide equipment. I like the spinach paring too. Excellent idea indeed.
    Best,
    Conor

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    1. I think “US beef” is much more homogeneous than European beef, since breeds and production methods vary a lot between different countries within Europe.

      But speaking of Dutch beef, the difference is that Dutch consumers want the meat to be lean. Unfortunately, the majority regard visible fat as a sign of bad quality. And so it is only available imported and at a premium price.

      Another difference is that US beef is from younger animals that were made to grow faster by hormones. So the Dutch beef is more healthy and also more expensive, because it takes longer to grow.

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  2. Excellent post. We recently tried a Waygu tri-tip roasted in the oven and it was excellent. Must try sous-vide. You might enjoy it as well- it is a (somewhat) more affordable Waygu cut…

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    1. Wagyu is imported from the US here, and I get the impression that is imported in cryovacced single portions so we don’t get to pick the cuts and only popular cuts are imported. The flank steak is the least expensive I’ve been able to find (at US$37/lb… ouch; strip steak is US$60/lb or about 6 times more expensive than Dutch strip steak aka entrecote).

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  3. Stefan, we were finally able to enjoy our sous vide steak tonight. I did a strip loin steak – Canada AAA beef. It was OUTSTANDING! I did 131 degrees for 40 hrs and finished it in a cast iron pan on the stove. It was tender enough to cut with a fork. Thanks for the inspiration!

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    1. Congratulations, great to hear! Although I have no experience with Canadian AAA beef, 40 hours seems quite long for strip steak. I would usually cook a cut like that for 8-12 hours at 131 degrees since the meat may become mushy if cooked too long. But what counts is whether you liked it.

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        1. If the beef is tender (i.e. tender enough to cook on a grill) you only need to cook it sous-vide long enough to bring it up to temperature all the way through. The time this takes depends on the thickness of the steak, but is usually between 1 and 4 hours. (From a food safety perspective, it is not a good idea if it takes more than 4 hours to reach 130F all the way through.) A slightly less tender cut like a strip steak might benefit from a few hours more, but for a very tender cut like tenderloin that is not needed.

          If the beef is tough (i.e. needs to be stewed/braised to be tender) then you will need 24-72 hours to dissolve the connective tissue at a low temperature without drying out the meat as would happen with a traditional braise.

          Hope this helps.

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  4. I dont know if its the same cut but here in Oz I use Blade wagyu it has a marble figure of 9 6hrs at 55 hot hot blower or pan with oil to 58 rest 7 mins Better than ribeye!!
    for the whole blade about $14.00 US a kilo…..eat your heart out!!

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