Sink Steak

6 01 2010

Sink Steak

I’ve been away. But I’m back now and have lots of things to share. First up – two nights ago I cooked a steak in my kitchen sink. It was awesome… and the story goes…

Last weekend I was in New York again and ate at the rest of the Momofuku restaurants, Ssam Bar and Milk Bar. I am totally obsessed with Momofuku and at the same time completely despise David Chang and his crew because they do absolutely everything that I want to do or think about doing or did in a dream or would have done if I just had the chance to think about it myself. Honestly sometimes it makes me sick. Cereal milk? Please, did that last year. But I’m not famous for it, I’m not trademarking it. No no no, and I’m definitely not making money off of it, dammit. But as much as I want to hate them, I just can’t… it’s just so damn good and so f’ing clever. All of it. And I love it that much more because every time I try something new it’s that same “ahhhhh of course!” again and again.

Anyway, that trip to Ssam Bar was awesome but I’ll save the details for another post… I actually took pictures of it all like one of those annoying people you see in every restaurant these days. The point of that whole story was that we had the hanger steak and it blew my fucking mind. It was $21 for what was maybe one of the best pieces of beef I’ve ever had. And it wasn’t even a premium cut!

So naturally, the first thing I did when I got back to SF was pull out the Momofuku book and re-read the section about “ghetto sous vide”. I’ve been playing with sous vide here and there on the stove in a big heavy pot for other stuff but the method he suggests in the book is much simpler – run hot tap water into a bowl, adjust until the temp is right, and drop in the steak. Sounds so sketchy… but also so great – cooking a steak in the sink? Yes please.

“What the shit is sous vide??” you ask? It’s Parisian for “under pressure.” The basic premise is vacuum sealing the food in a bag and then slow cooking it in a bath of water at a temperature very near the temperature that you want the food to end up at. It allows you to bring the food to exactly the temperature you want without overcooking and allows you to hold it at that temp. If you live in NYC, you could sublet your kitchen for the summer and just cook dinner in your toilet tank!

“Ghetto Sous Vide” Hanger Steak – adapted from the Momofuku cookbook

You can use a Foodsaver, which I have but was out of bags for so I had to downgrade to sucking and squeezing the air out of a freezer bag. In the book he says to make sure you use the good quality Ziplock brand bags, which is probably a good idea but we didn’t have any so… we used a Safeway brand bag. So far none of us are dead so I think it worked ok.


You’re also supposed to marinate the meat overnight but since we didn’t have time for that I just tossed some stuff (butter, soy sauce, Worcestershire) in with the meat for the cooking – one of the great things about sous vide is that something about the full-contact, airless environment intensifies all of the flavors. You don’t have to use as much and you get a lot more flavor from anything you put in the bag that you wouldn’t get from a quick marinade before say, grilling or roasting that same meat.

Lucky for me, our tap water gets hand-scaldingly hot so I had no trouble getting it warm enough to simmer some bovine in.


The water is supposed to be between 120 & 125F. If the tap doesn’t get hot enough, a heavy pot on the stove will work too with some temperature monitoring and adjusting. The ultimate temp you’re aiming for is around 120 on the steak though I felt like I may have preferred it to get a little bit hotter than it did. The steak sits in the bath for around 45 minutes to an hour.

At this point the steak can be held it in the water at that temp until it’s time to eat. After that it comes out of the bath, out of the bag and into a scalding hot pan for a good sear on all sides.


We ate the steak with roasted cauliflower, caramelized carrots, butter-braised dinosaur kale and some potato/parsnip puree.

If I did it again I think I’d leave the steak in the bath a little longer, maybe 1.25-1.5 hours and I’d make sure I took it straight from the bath to the searing pan and then to the plate. Because you’re working with such a low temperature already, it gets cold really easily.

A couple of words on the beef:

1. Hanger steak is good shit. “Hanging steak”, “bistro steak”, “onglet”, “lombatello”, “solomillo de pulmon”… it’s from the bottom side of the cow and it takes on a little bit of kidney flavor from proximity to, you guessed it – the kidneys. This and more info about the hanger here.

2. I guess it doesn’t go without saying so to be clear – I use high-quality beef that I know I can trust to eat rare. If you’re going to try this, I’d recommend the same. Still there’s always the risk of getting sick when you eat undercooked meat… don’t blame me if you get sick, blame your sink. Or your butcher.

Also, roasted cauliflower is stupid simple and ridiculously good. Oven to 400F. Break up head of cauliflower. Toss with olive oil, salt & pepper. Baking sheet. Oven. 25 minutes later – done.




6 responses

6 01 2010

Man, that really is ghetto sous vide. Couldn’t even spring for the name brand ziplocks!

I’m glad to hear it was tasty.

8 01 2010
Morta Di Fame

I have eaten cauliflower a million ways but roasted is the stupidest best way to go.

29 01 2010
Cooking Sous Vide the DIY Way : MIDEASTA

[…] success with radically less technology — just holding the bagged food at a steady temperature in the sink with the hot water running, or in a conventional oven. I have not had any success with those […]

7 02 2010
Cooking Sous Vide the DIY Way | World News | Technology Updates

[…] success with radically less technology — just holding the bagged food at a steady temperature in the sink with the hot water running, or in a conventional oven. I have not had any success with those […]

14 03 2010
Emily Martin

I’ve been obsessing about sous vide since reading Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck Cookbook and eating in his restaurant. I haven’t been able to justify (to my husband) the £850+ that it would cost for all the eqipment, so I’ll absolutely try this soon.

Great blog, by the way!


27 05 2010

I want one!!!! 😀

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: