How Long It Really Takes To Sous Vide Steak

"Sous-vide cooking allows you to cook [steak] better than the best steakhouse," claims Anova Culinary, a company that manufactures sous vide cookers. Believers in the sous vide method, which involves securely sealing foods in plastic bags and cooking them slowly in a temperature-controlled water bath, insist that the technique lends unprecedented precision to the process of cooking proteins evenly and deliciously. The only possible catch is just how long it takes to make sous vide steak.

Many ways to cook steak take only minutes to pull off, as is the case with Bobby Flay's 10-minute grilled ribeye recipe on Food Network, for example. An exception, of course, is the sous vide way, which ChefSteps says takes at least one hour. And we don't mean merely getting the meat cooked through; we're talking about cooking that steak to a precise range of 129 to 149 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on how rare or well done you prefer your meal. Curiously, sous vide cooking any 1- to 2-inch steak typically takes the same amount of time, no matter your desired level of doneness. Let's vacuum-unpack that.

Cooking steak sous vide is a slow but precise affair

Sous vide cooking typically involves vacuum sealing the food you wish to cook, then placing the tightly closed bag into a water bath with an immersion heating device that's set to the final interior temperature of whatever it is you're cooking. If you're looking for steak on the rarer side, that's closer to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to ChefSteps, while a well done steak will be finished around 150 degrees. Both are cooked in about an hour, which means it's the temperature of the water, rather than the cooking time, that affects the doneness of your steak, Anova Culinary explains.

Why does sous vide cooking steak take longer than, say, grilling? That's simply because it takes several more minutes for a gentle water bath to transfer its heat all the way to a steak's interior than it does for a scalding hot grill to cook the center of a steak (via Cook's Illustrated). A key advantage of the lengthy sous vide method, however, is that the heat is more evenly transferred throughout the meat so no one part of the steak is more cooked than another. The other major difference is that you can keep the meat in the water bath for as long as four hours, depending on the cut and the thickness, without risking overcooked steak. That's definitely a plus for the forgetful cooks.