How to choose the best cuts of beef for sous vide . Sous vide is a popular cooking method for restaurants and if you’ve had a steak cooked this way you know how juicy and flavorful the meat can be. Sous vide doesn’t need to be hard, it’s all about your choice of meat and how you cook it. So let’s take a look at the different types of beef that are good for sous vide cooking.
Best Sous Vide Steak Cut Guide
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Steak is one of the most popular food choices when cooking with a sous vide. Gone are the days of overcooked steak or undercooked insides with charred outsides.
Nope! With a sous vide your steak comes out absolutely perfect every single time.
When you realize the beauty of sous vide steaks, there’s a good chance you’ll skip the fancy steakhouse since you know you can cook your steak good, if not better than the restaurant will!
But with so many cuts of steak out there, what is the best steak cut for sous vide cooking? It can get confusing when you’re standing at the meat counter with so many different options.
Let’s go steak cut by steak cut to find out the details of various steaks and how to sous vide each steak cut.
Best Steak Cut for Sous Vide
Other Names: Beef Tenderloin Steak, Tender Steak
The Filet Mignon is the most tender cut of steak, while still being lean. The tenderloin filet is the most expensive steak cut, but it offers the best texture that will feel like it’s melting in your mouth.
Sous vide cook it for 1 to 4 hours at 132ºF / 55.6ºC for a perfect medium rare center that’s juicy and delicious. Longer for more doneness.
Other Names: Scotch Filet, Beauty Steak
The juicy and full flavored Ribeye is a highly popular cut among meat connoisseurs and everyday chefs alike. It can be served boneless or bone-in, with the bone-in variety commonly nicknamed the “cowboy cut” in American restaurants.
The high marble and rich fat content found in Rib eye steaks gives it a looser grain that results in a tender, rich and buttery texture once cooked. The Ribeye is the best cut of steak of sous vide for me.
Cook your Ribeye steak in a sous vide water bath at 129ºF / 53.9ºC for 2 hours.
New York Strip Steak
Cut from the short loin of the cow, the New York Strip Steak comes from muscles that don’t do too much work. That makes it one of the most tender cuts of meat you can find, only second to the Tenderloin.
Typically served boneless, the lean muscle fibers present in a New York Strip Steak cooks evenly and quickly. You get a great beefy flavor with great texture, especially when prepared via sous vide.
New York Strip Steaks should be cooked at a temperature of 130°F / 54.4ºC for 2 – 4 hours.
Other Names: Porterhouse
Fans of the TV show Seinfeld will probably find this name familiar – T-Bone.
The T-Bone steak is a giant cut of steak – enough for 2 people or a very hungry person. This cut combines a New York Strip and delicate filet mignon separated by a T-shaped bone in the middle – hence the nickname T-bone. It’s packed full of great beefy flavor and has a perfect tenderness.
To sous vide a porterhouse, the perfect sous vide temperature comes at 131ºF / 55ºC for 2 hours for a juicy medium rare center that is still pink.
Prime Rib Steak
Other Names: Standing Rib Roast
Compared to the Ribeye, the Prime Rib steak cut contains more bone, fat and connective tissue as it is a larger roasting cut. This results in more complex flavors present in the Prime Rib.
Since the cut itself is so tender already, a sous vide temperature of 131ºF / 55ºC is just perfect for a nice medium rare center.
Other Names: Top Sirloin
The Sirloin is lean and full of juice and flavor. Moderately tender with no bones present and very little fat makes it good for both grilling and frying.
The Sirloin also provides excellent value for money for those looking for quality cuts at an affordable price, tasting delicious in any way that it’s cooked.
At 131ºF / 55ºC water bath temperature, cook your sirloin for 2-4 hours and finish it off with a quick, high-heat sear on each side with a kitchen torch.
Other Names: Onglet, Butcher’s Cut, Hanging Tender
Known as onglet in France, it’s a highly popular cut of steak prepared in most French brasseries. The hanger cut isn’t one of the more well-known cuts of the cow, but you can ask your butcher for it.
When at the butcher shop, the savory flavor and tender qualities of this cut is astonishing and because it isn’t as popular as the other more well-known portions of the cow, you can afford to spend relatively little for maximum payoff – if you cook it right.
To sous vide your hanger steaks, go for a 130ºF / 54.4ºC water bath temperature and set the timer for 2 – 4 hours.
The Flank Steak, found in most fajitas recipes, is sinewy and full of hardworking muscle fibers that can sometimes be tough to chew on. The texture from the flank steak can be considered low quality, hence its very attractive affordability factor.
However, a braised Flank Steak produces a large number of servings that makes it perfect for the buffet table.
Sous vide your Flank Steak at 132ºF / 55.6ºC for 1.5 hours for an inch thick cut, or 2.5 hours for a thicker cut.
This is the go-to choice for carne asadas because of its flavorful qualities and great marbling. It’s just as savory as a Ribeye at a fraction of the price. A quick marinade is a great way to amp up the flavor of the Skirt Steak.
Sous vide your skirt steak at 130ºF / 54.4ºC for 2 hours for a great tasting medium rare quality.
Flat Iron Steak
Other Names: Top Blade Filet
The Flat Iron Steak is cut from the shoulder, or “chuck” of the cow. It’s tender and marbled, with rich flavor, and the cut itself is of a uniform thickness and shape. The flat iron steak only needs a simple marinade and takes on the flavors of the ingredients it’s combined with for a great taste experience.
Sous vide your Flat Iron Steak at 135ºF / 57.2ºC for 2 hours for a juicy, tasty medium rare doneness.
Steak Cut Temperature and Time Chart
Here is a temperature and timing guide chart you can follow generally to get the doneness of steak you desire in your home kitchen. Different steak cuts and thicknesses will require different times.
|Medium-Rare||129-134ºF / 54-57ºC||1 to 4 hours||Juicy, tender, and still pink|
|Medium||135-144ºF / 57-62ºC||1 to 4 hours||Less Juicy, less tender, pink center|
|Medium-Well||145-155ºF / 63-68ºC||1 to 3 hours||Barely any juice, tougher cut, barely pink|
|Well Done||156-170ºF / 69-76ºC||1 to 3 hours||Almost no juice, tough meat, no pink|
Best Steak Cut for Sous Vide
There is just nothing like a juicy, well marbled steak. However, It’s super easy to overcook steak on a skillet or grill.
That’s why meat lovers opt for sous vide because it guarantees a perfect steak every time.
You also don’t have to slave over a hot stove when preparing steaks for friends and family. Simply pop it in the sous vide bath and get on with your day. When it’s ready, take it out, sear, and enjoy!
But everyone has their own opinion on what the best cut of steak is.
So in this post, we’ll cover the best steaks for sous vide. I’ll also go over what to look out for when shopping for steaks.
1. Ribeye Steak
Ribeye steak is one of the juiciest cuts of meats, making it a popular option among chefs and meat lovers.
A ribeye steak comes from a cow’s rib area. It runs down from the hip bone to the shoulder blade, and since it doesn’t get much exercise, you’re left with a tender cut of meat.
You can pair ribeye steaks with:
Ribeye steaks are sold bone-in or without a bone. Bone-in ribeyes are a popular cut of meat in the US and is nicknamed the “cowboy cut.” With a high marble and fat content, you’ll notice that after you take it out of the bath, it’ll have a looser grain.
Many home chefs love this loose grain because it offers a buttery, tender texture. Ribeye steak isn’t as lean as a filet mignon, but the extra fat gives it a taste that’s hard to find anywhere else.
If you’re a wine lover, ribeye goes well with:
- Cabernet sauvignon
This steak is also easy to find. Any grocery store or butcher should sell it. But if you’re looking for pricier cuts, opt for high-end retailers. Some online shops also source high-quality grass-fed ribeye steaks and will ship to you for free.
Once it arrives on your doorstep, you’ll need to store it properly. I seal it with salt and pepper and toss it in the freezer. If you have leftover meat, keep it in the refrigerator and consume it within three days.
2. Filet Mignon
Filet mignon is a thick cut of meat that comes from the tenderloin and eye fillet. Like ribeye steak, a filet mignon doesn’t get much exercise, so it’s tender and juicy.
You’ll notice you don’t have to chew a lot when eating a filet mignon. It melts in your mouth.
But it doesn’t have thick marbling like other meats that signal high-quality. You’ll have to look for cuts that have a consistent shape and thickness. When you touch it, it should also be firm.
Filet mignon is a good option for sous vide cookers because it’s thick, so you get an even cook throughout the entire steak. And when you sear it, the thickness ensures you won’t overcook the inside.
Here are some temperature rangers to cook your filet mignon:
- 120°F to 128°F for rare
- 129°F to 134°F for medium-rare
- 135°F to 144°F for medium
- 145°F to 155°F for medium-well
- 155°F and above for well done
Although a filet mignon is expensive when eating at a restaurant, it’s quite affordable at most local butchers. You can buy in bulk to save money or wait for a sale.
3. New York Strip Steak
New York strip steak is a well-marbled cut of firm yet tender meat. It’s cut from the short side of a beef loin because the muscles don’t do much work.
Making a New York strip steak in a sous vide bath is a reliable way of producing a quality steak. It’s slightly firmer than a ribeye and has less marbling. If you’ve bought a cut with a bone in it, you can even use it to make bone broth.
But you might get confused between the New York and Kansas City strip steak. However, it’s basically the same thing. Both are delicious and come from the same area of a cow. But a Kansas City strip steak has a bone while its New York cousin doesn’t.
4. T-Bone Steak
Nothing can beat a T-bone steak with a glass of top-quality red wine.
T-bone steaks are easy to recognize because you’ll find a distinctive T-shaped bone in the middle. It’s popular amongst sous vide cookers because it’s tender, juicy, and thick. It comes from the front section of a cow’s short loin, where the tenderloin starts to narrow.
I find that a T-bone steak is a combination of a filet mignon and New York strip steak. It has the tenderness of a filet mignon because the muscle rarely gets exercise, with the meaty flavor of a New York strip steak.
Although a T-bone steak is traditionally fantastic for grilling, chefs love cooking it in a sous vide bath first. This is because it sets a solid foundation for you to grill it.
If you’re grilling with family or friends, you won’t have to wait as long, and it’ll be perfectly cooked.
5. Prime Rib Roast
A prime rib roast is similar to a ribeye. But the critical difference is that the prime rib roast is essentially a roast made out of ribeye steaks!
A prime rib is a well-marbled cut of meat known for its tasty juices.
A whole prime rib roast is huge, around 15 to 18 pounds, so most people only buy a portion.
However, it is possible to ask your butcher for a smaller roast.
Prime Rib Roasts are an excellent idea for a large family gathering or holiday, and are often the centerpiece of the meal.
It takes a lot of skill to cook a perfect prime rib in the oven, but the sous vide makes it a no brainer!
Cooking the entire prime rib roast with sous vide is becoming more popular because getting an even grill on such a large cut of meat is problematic. So, chefs will sous vide it to get a consistent cook before putting it on the skillet or grill.
Ranking Cuts Of Steak To Sous Vide From Worst To Best
When it comes to irreplaceable kitchen devices of the 21st century, there is a lengthy list of appliances that make the cut, but fewer that fit onto the short list. Whatever your personal rankings, a sous vide machine is at the least an honorable mention, and at best a kitchen essential. As a precise tool that heats and circulates water, the sous vide device is an easy tool to use. Yet, the function is only half of what you need to cook a great dinner; your chosen steak cut is going to have a great effect on how a meal turns out.
Science shows that sous vide cooking has many general effects that are noticeable regardless of the specific cut used (via Cook’s Illustrated). For example, by circulating the flow of hot water at a certain temperature, the sous vide technique achieves an extended low-heat state (around 130 degrees Fahrenheit) which activates protein-softening enzymes found in muscles of a cow’s body. So no matter where your steak is carved from, this device leverages biology into a perfectly prepared piece of meat. However, while the general effects of tenderizing collagen and retaining moisture are active regardless of the style of steak you’re using, some slices remain a cut above the rest.
- Skirt steak
Serious Eats writes that there are two basic steps to sous vide cooking. The first is the hands-off part of the process when you will vacuum-seal your bag, submerge it in a bath, and allow the sous vide to keep a perfectly regulated temperature for as long as your recipe suggests. The second step is a finishing flourish: This is when you will sear the steak, either on a scalding cast iron pan or on the grill. The food lab at Serious Eats suggests the ideal thickness of steak is around 2 inches. With those points in mind, the skirt steak ranks as one of the worst cuts to sous vide, primarily due to its lack of body.
Skirt steak is by no means small, but it isn’t a very voluptuous slice either. Per Cook’s Illustrated, the skirt can be around 2 feet in length, though as a flat cut from the diaphragm of a cow, the average steak is around a ½-inch thick. It is also tough without proper marination or when overcooked, which reveals why skirt is the worst steak to sous vide. This cooking method can bring meat to the optimal internal temperature precisely. But, with something as thin as skirt steak, the final sear is nearly guaranteed to take your beef past its prime. You can attempt to get both texture and flavor from sous vide skirt steak, but trying to develop bark without baking the inside to a rubbery finish will add risk and guesswork back into grilling.
Hanger steak is another slice from the diaphragm, which if you aren’t familiar is the area between a cow’s rib cage and tenderloin (via Chicago Steak Company). As part of the same grouping as skirt (and flank), hanger is considered a flat steak with a thickness suited for rapid, high-heat grilling. Chicago Steak regards it as the most tender of the group, even suggesting that it can shine as a centerpiece when prepared correctly. The question is: Does sous vide cooking bring out the best in this cut?
Unfortunately, we don’t believe so. Although the internet abounds with recipes for sous vide hanger steak, it is a riskier piece to run with if you’re looking for a shoo-in, at-home steak house experience. The issue with cooking hanger via sous vide is that the only thing thinner than your steak is the margin for error. As a flat cut, grilling hanger steak already requires dedicated attention as it can go from crisp fatty edging to inedible jerky in a brief moment.
Further, should you choose to skip developing a charred texture on the outside, you may be serving one of the biggest sous vide mistakes. Per Digital Trends, fat takes an extended period to render crispy, meaning that the fat studded throughout a hanger steak can become very chewy without some time on the grill. The sous vide method should make things easier, but this cut has too many variables.
Flank steak is the final diaphragm cut, though it has a few distinctions that make it better for sous vide preparation. There is flank steak’s composition, for one. Fine Cooking details the flank steak as leaner than skirt and hanger steaks. This alone does not necessarily solve what you might call the “flat steak” issue, but it does mean that your steak can spend slightly less time on the grill since you’re only searing meat and not trying to render fat to a flaky finish. According to this recipe from Tasting Table, sous vide flank steak should blister on the grill for two minutes per side. That should be plenty of time to crust your steak while maintaining a perfectly moist medium, instead of turning it into a garish gray hunk of overcooked tarmac.
Although flank steak can be lean, tough, and fibrous, the science at work in sous vide can break down the muscle fibers and highlight the best parts of this intensely flavorful cut (via Cook’s Illustrated). When considering that this is an overall meatier cut than the other diaphragm pieces, the flank steak should be your go-to if looking for a flat steak to sous vide and slice fajita-style.
- Rump (round)
Here at Mashed, we have said some fairly harsh things about rump steak in the past. And we’re not here to recant calling it one of the worst cuts of steak out there, but we would maybe like to add an asterisk. Sous vide cooking gives a new outlook on this ordinarily bland and rough piece of meat, though be warned that the technique isn’t a miracle worker.
Great British Chefs explain that the rump steak comes from the hindquarters of a cow, which is an area that experiences a lot of movement. You can expect that a rump steak will have firm, tightly bound muscle and protein fibers, with very little fat at 2 grams per 3-ounce serving (via LiveStrong). According to Cook’s Info, you’re more likely to find this steak sold as part of a larger cut in America, known as a rump roast, though it is sometimes available as a solo cut in specialty meat markets. If you come across the brawny meat and are feeling up to an inexpensive experiment, know that science is on your side when it comes to cooking it sous vide. Rump roasts are often braised or slow-cooked so that low heat can break down tough muscle threads — which is exactly what sous vide cooking is designed to do (via Cook’s Illustrated).
- Top sirloin
When deciding between one piece versus another for sous vide preparation, consider the marbling and the overall thickness of the slice. Among those qualities that separate the best from the worst sous vide steak cuts, top sirloin steak sits in the middle, if not a bit on the superior side. For starters, top sirloin is definitely a thicker cut of meat — the ideal sirloin to look for is a 1 ½-inch piece — and top sirloin is incredibly lean compared to other steaks. All that is to say, sous vide will tenderize the meat just like it should, without any worries about whether or not there are hidden bits of unrendered gelatinous fat in your next bite.
Home cooks on StackExchange (and science) agree that lean cuts, which don’t ordinarily hold the fat to cook tender, have the most to gain by cooking with a method that stresses moisture retention. Top sirloin steak is not as naturally flavorful as, say, ribeye. But, it is economical compared to “premium” cuts and will take weeknight dinner beyond the pale (via Omaha Steaks).
Can you sous vide bone-in meat? It’s a common question that regularly bounces around virtual cooking forums, and the answer is simple: Yes, you can absolutely sous vide bone-in meat. As long as your vacuum bag is large enough to fit it, you can basically sous vide anything. With that in mind, you might think that the tomahawk steak, which Ruth’s Chris Steak House defines as a bone-in ribeye, would be a great steak to cook with a hot water bath. After all, the tomahawk cut has an excellent distribution of fat to meat, and it averages 2 inches thick (or greater). Plus, cooked meat is often more moist and tender when prepared with the bone (via Serious Eats). Why then, does the tomahawk steak earn a middling rank in terms of sous vide cooking?
In our perspective, it comes down to convenience and ease. Commenters on various Reddit threads and culinary forums for sous vide cooking mention several difficulties and special considerations that bone-in styles (and the tomahawk in particular) require. The large bone — Ruth’s Chris sizes it is approximately 5-inches long — can be challenging to submerge, and you might struggle to wrestle the steak flat for an even crust when searing. However, saw the bone off and you risk puncturing the vacuum bag. A torch can cook the outside, but if you don’t have that or a grill handy, you could be left unable to fully render the perfect crackling coat to an expensive piece of beef. A lot of work when you could just go for boneless.
- Prime rib
Tomahawk, ribeye, and prime rib are all steaks that come from the same primal cut that’s removed from the rib cage of a cow (via Chicago Steak Company). Unlike the other two butcher favorites, prime rib is more of a standing roast than a traditional steak. As a special occasion meal, prime rib often gets a long, slow roast preparation that preserves juices and fats without drying out the meat. Sous Vide Magazine writes that preparing prime rib via sous vide is an excellent substitution cooking method, thanks to precision temperature management and the fact that you can supposedly cook prime rib in a hot water bath as long as necessary. The publication even recommends preparing this cut via sous vide for up to 24 hours!
If sous vide prime rib sounds like a delicious shortcut to you, then buckle up for a long ride, because it’s not all flaky fields of golden charred fat cap. Digital Trends reminds us that two of the biggest mistakes one can make while cooking sous vide are treating fat in the wrong ways, and expecting a sous vide item to taste like the conventionally cooked version. Take that with experiments from the Serious Eats Food Lab that suggest meat loses a significant amount of chew and resistance when cooked for long periods, and preparing a prime rib in the bath begins to feel questionable. Overall, the considerable fat content can become gelatinous and there are easier cuts to cook with this method than bulky prime rib.