Bison is a low-fat meat that is hard to cook without drying it out. Sous-vide is a technique for perfectly cooking even the most challenging cuts. Seems like a match made in Heaven.
Except I’ve never cooked bison before and I’ve never done anything sous-vide. Plus, I don’t even have a sous-vide machine.
But my son wanted to try bison and I wanted to try sous-vide. So tonight we had Bison Sous-vide.
Those are two 12 oz. bison rib-eyes cooked a perfect, uniform medium rare through the whole steak. I’m almost embarrassed to tell you how easy this was.
I wasn’t going to drop $400 on a sous-vide machine just to experiment. Instead, I used Serious Eats’ sous-vide in a beer cooler technique. Just fill a small beer cooler with 135° F water, submerge the steaks in it for 45 minutes to an hour and finish them in a blazing hot cast iron skillet.
You’ll set off your smoke alarms, but it will be worth it.
Start with the bison. I got these at The Meat House in Fairfax. They are very well marbled. They’d be great for beef steaks. For bison, they are amazing. I probably could have grilled these without too much risk, but I had my heart set on trying something new.
I don’t have a vacuum machine either, so I used a trick from the Serious Eats video. Place the steaks in individual quart sized zip lock plastic bags.
Don’t bother trying to suck the air out of the bags. There’s an easier way.
Next you need some way to keep the two steaks from touching each other in the water bath. You want the water to freely circulate around the meat so it warms evenly.
I tied two cooling racks together to form a V and put them in the bottom of my cooler. Then I put two Coke cans filled with hot water in the V to keep the steaks from sliding down to the bottom.
I filled the cooler about 3/4 full with hot tap water. My water comes out of the faucet at just under 130° F so I was almost at the right temperature I added about two quarts of boiling water. That got me to the 135° butter zone.
Now comes the trick for getting the air out of the bags. I couldn’t get a picture of that because it took two hands. But it’s easy.
Just zip one bag almost closed and slowly submerge it in the hot water. The pressure of the water will force the air out of the bag. Once all the air is out, but before any water gets in the bag, zip it closed and repeat with the other bag.
Believe it or not, at this point I’m cooking steaks. That’s all there is to it.
An hour later, the temperature of the water and the bison had equalized at 127° F.
Note: A real sous-vide machine lets you hold the meat at temperature for hours, allowing you to prep the steaks far in advance of mealtime. You can’t do that with this method. Without a continuous input of heat, the temperature will eventually start to drop and you risk bacterial growth. Only use this method for an hour or so, then take those steaks straight to the skillet.
Perfect! I’m just south of medium rare. I can sear the hell out of these babies without over cooking them.
Turn on your exhaust fan and open the windows for this part. I generously seasoned the meat with salt and pepper and heated some vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet until it was smoking. The I added the steaks and dropped little pats of butter between them.
About two minutes later, I flipped the meat and seared the second side.
My god, those are beautiful.
I let them rest while I finished the asparagus and garlic bread.
This might become my go to method for cooking steak. I used to use the reverse sear method. That works very well, but it takes up a lot of space on the grill.
Heating the meat to just under medium rare sous-vide would allow me to prepare the rest of the meal on the grill while the steaks warmed. Then I could crack up the heat on the grill and finish them off there.
I’ll try that next time.
Recipe – Serves 4
2 12 oz bison rib-eyes
1 tsp course ground or kosher salt – I used Himalayan pink salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 TBS vegetable oil
1 TBS butter, cut into small pats
Cook the rib-eyes sous-vide, as described above.
After an hour, remove steaks from the bags and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large cast iron skillet, heat oil over high heat until smoking. Add steaks. Drop pats of butter between steaks.
Cook one to two minutes. Flip and repeat on second side.
Let rest five minutes. Cut and serve.