Sous Vide Porterhouse with Tamed Onion Salad

Sous Vide Porterhouse Steak

With all the beer cooler sous vide recipes floating about the interwebs I’ve been itching to try it out. Last week after a Fresh Direct event, I was given what was perhaps the best goodie bag I’ve ever received at any press event. It was overflowing with ramps, an awesome banana bread, freshly ground peanut butter, and most importantly, there was a 1.5″ thick porterhouse steak in a vacum sealed bag.

It sat in the fridge for a few days, and when I finally had a chance to make it, I surveyed my closet containing the beer cooler and decided it wasn’t worth getting buried under a avalanche of shoe boxes to have my steak sous vide. Disappointed, I headed back to the kitchen, eyeing the cast iron pan for a minute before refocusing my gaze on my blue enameled dutch oven.

I could feel the excitement surge up from the bottom of my stomach and through my brain to a little lightbulb floating whimsically above my head. I use the dutch oven all the time to do slow cooked eggs at a controlled temperature, so why not use it on the steak as well.

Tamed onion salad

I quickly prepared a 131 degree water bath, dropped the Cryovac sealed steak into the water and put the whole assembly in a 170 degree oven. My oven tends to run cool, and by checking the temperature every 30 minutes, I let just enough heat out to keep the water at a steady temp between 128 and 133. After an hour and half I took out the now rather unappetizing looking pink and grey steak, opened up the bag and was greeting by a ridiculously tender piece of meat that was still bleeding.
Vacum Sealed Porterhouse Steak

Some salt and pepper and a quick sear in the cast iron skillet and I had a normal looking steak on the outside that was impossibly tender and perfectly pink all the way through.

Taking some inspiration from my carne asada recipe, I paired this with a salad of tamed onions, cilantro and lime juice. The crisp, sweet and tangy salad was the perfect counterpoint to the rich fatty slab of caramelized meat on the plate.

Tamed Sweet Onions

To get rid of the strong oniony taste and to make the onions extra crisp, I borrowed a Japanese technique often used with cabbage. First you slice the onions super thin (I used a mandoline), then you drop them in an ice water bath for an hour, changing the water once in the middle. This takes most of the edge off the onions, allowing the natural sweetness to shine through.

Sous Vide Porterhouse with Tamed Onion Salad

1.5″ thick porterhouse steak (in a heat-safe vacuum sealed bag)
1 sweet onion sliced thinly
4 sprigs cilantro
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to the lowest setting it will go to (mine only goes down to 170 degrees F)

If it’s not already, vacuum seal the steak in a heat-safe plastic bag. I’ve heard of people using Ziploc bags to do this, but it’s pretty hard to get all the air out and the safety of using Ziploc bags in hot water is debatable. Put the steak in a large dutch oven and cover with hot water. Check the temperature of the water using an instant read thermometer and heat on the stove as needed. The goal is to get the water just a smidge above 130 degrees (the perfect temperature of a medium-rare steak). Once it reaches the proper temperature, cover the pot with a lid and place it in the oven.

Cook for one and a half hours checking the temperature every 30 minutes, turning the oven off if the water is too hot, or turning it up if the water is too cool.

While the steak is cooking, cut the onion in half and use a mandoline to slice it very thinly into a bowl of ice water. Allow it to soak for 30 minutes then drain and add more ice water, soaking for another 30 minutes. Drain and use a salad spinner (if you have one) to dry the onions. They should be crisp, sweet, and only faintly oniony. Keep them in the fridge until the steak is ready.

Once the steak is done, remove it from the bag and salt and pepper generously. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add a splash of oil and sear the steak on one side (about a minute), then flip and sear the other side. Plate the steak.

Get the onions from the fridge and toss with the cilantro, lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mound the onion in a huge pile on top of the steak. The steak should be enough to feed two people with a normal sized appetite, but if you use a smaller steak (or you’re really hungry, double or triple the recipe).

  • Manggy

    The steak looks great, Marc. I’m definitely tempted to do this with an advanced rice cooker with a thermostat or something :)

  • Jerry (CbsoP)

    Perhaps I'm one of the last holdouts in the foodie world, but i think I would rather have just used the cast iron and pan-seared the bugger. I will however, give you kudos all the way around, both for your creativity and for the tamed onion salad, which I will definitely have to try!

  • christinefreshlocalandbest

    This is a fascinating technique to cook steak, let alone humungous cut like the porterhouse. This is something I am looking forward to experimenting with when I get my hands on a heat-safe seal.

  • Christina

    That looks so good. I'm drooling over my keyboard. I can only imagine how tender that steak must've been!

  • tasteofbeirut

    I am in awe of your techniques and creativity; this method is new to me but so effective to ensure a perfectly cooked steak; thanks for sharing the Japanese technique with the onions; we have a similar salad we use in Lebanese cooking when we eat kafta (minced lamb with onion and parsley); we serve kafta with a salad of onions, chopped parsley and sumac; have you ever tried sumac?

  • Barbara @ VinoLuciStyle

    Jerry…I'm with you. Would love for the author to comment on the difference in taste or texture for using this method vs frying in cast iron or grilling. Not that I don't love knowing what the heck sous vide is…for that I'm appreciative!

  • norecipes

    I love Lebanese food, and sumac is one of my favourite ways to finish salads and meat dishes:-) Actually this steak would have looked/tastes better with a little sprinkle of sumac on top.

  • norecipes

    The technique actually works best with bigger cuts of meat because it let's you cook it evenly to the perfect temperature, so you don't have a tough exterior and raw interior.

  • norecipes

    With more tender cuts, like fillet mignon, I do actually love having that “blue rare” (a.k.a. raw) center that you don't get by cooking sous vide. But for cuts with more fat or tendon, sous vide can't be beat. Also, for anything bone in, I'm just not a big fan of tearing raw meat off the bones (which inevitably happens since the bone doesn't allow the steak to cook through evenly), which is why I think sous vide works so well for a porterhouse. But that's just one guy's opinion. I think it's awesome that you take a stand and stick by the method that works for you. Check out this post for how I do things in cast iron

  • vanillasugar

    i need to steal this tamed onion salad, very nice.

  • Thomas H White

    I'm with Jerry. For me there is no need for the upfront cooking sous-vide for this particular cut. The whole “Heat a cast iron skillet over medium high heat until very hot. Add a splash of oil and sear the steak on one side (about a minute), then flip and sear the other side. Plate the steak.” is all I ever actually would use for the steak anyhow. And, the “tearing of the raw meat off the bone” has always been my favorite part.

    I got this way because of too many overcooked steaks in restaurants. I'd ask for medium-rare and they'd come to me brown or lightly pink in the center. Out of frustration I started ordering them rare. That way I figured that they might end up medium rare. After actually eating a couple that were cooked rare as I requested I couldn't go back to any more well done than that. It's amazing how even after stressing that I want my steak walking to the table bleeding all the way I continuously end up with steaks that are overcooked. I've gotten pretty good at sending them back, but it is really annoying when I can't eat at the same time as my dinner companions.

    However, as Barbara stated, I'd be interested in a comparison between steaks cooked both ways. If the steak is truly much more tended rather than just evenly cooked then maybe when I really have nothing else to do I'll try this, although the whole 130 degree thing is a overdone for my taste.

  • Ben cachila

    Marc has a good technique here, used by many high end places these days for consistency of product… it would be pointless to to this with a filet or a perfect strip alone, but the uniformity of temperature throughout and the release of connective tissue along the bone make it a different porterhouse experience. There is also the fact that while cooking, all of the deep flavor released from the bone permeates the meat. The crust is then very easy to achieve to get that texture. Imagine being able to cook all of your guests steaks ahead of time and just searing a crust on to them when they arrive. Good stuff Marc…

  • Mike

    Well done Marc…no pun intended. Although I have yet to try it, you are one more person I've seen go about it in a low tech way with great success. I may just be inspired yet, thanks!

  • my little expat kitchen

    I've never made myself or tasted anything cooked sous vide. This looks quite exciting though!

  • Nadia

    This looks like utter perfection. I am always by intimidated cooking such large pieces of meat. Sous vide is such a fascinating technique, your instructions are simple and clear, I will try it, hopefully with success!

  • carolynjung

    Sous vide in the oven! How cool is that! 馃槈

  • Carrie Oliver

    How unusual to receive a steak in a goody bag! Was it something special? No matter, I'd not thought to use a dutch oven & oven to cook sous vide. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • joannova

    Very interesting to sous vide steak. I was wondering how it looked grilled till I saw you finished with a quick char. The onion salad is a perfect accompaniment.

  • Sherry Li

    Neat onion trick!

  • gabecross

    It is really hard to imagine that steak looking any better, I would love to see that. Do you use a professional photographer? Or do you shoot your own food? I keep a blog and my photos all turn out gray and dull, my food looks and tastes better than I can get a photo to look. Any advice?

  • gabecross

    I don't think there is any question that steak is great just seared and still raw in the middle, but I do like to experiment. I am always looking for a new way to do something, and quite frankly if the title of this post had been “seared porterhouse” I would not have read it. I know how to sear a steak, but sous vide? That is a new one to me. And if one steak didn't turn out just the way I like it because I tried something new, that is still a really good day in my opinion.

  • norecipes

    Thanks Gabe, I do all my own photos. I don't have a fancy setup, just a
    digital SLR with a good lens. The key is good lighting. I use a 40w
    “daylight” compact fluorescent bulb in a cheap tabletop lamp that came with
    a rice paper lampshade. To get the lighting more even I have someone hold a
    white piece of poster board opposite the lamp to bounce some of the light
    back which prevents harsh shadows. Feel free to email me if you have
    specific questions.

  • Gabriel Cross

    Thanks! I will give that a try next time I am shooting my meals. And thank you for responding so quickly, I appreciate it.

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  • marksinkansas

    looks delish! I just tried an experiment cooking a chuck roast for 24 h in a convection oven set to 128 F, no water, just let fan-blown hot air heat the bag and contents. It worked nicely to get a medium rare, very pink and juicy, tender result. A couple minutes of browning on the stovetop gave it an attractive finish.

  • Marie Chan

    Delicious! vacuum sealed food in a low temperature water bath to achieve texture and doneness not found in other cooking techniques.

  • SiliconValleySousVide

    Great recipe for the tamed onions. 聽Will have to try it this weekend. 聽I love sous vide and steak is a great food to sous vide! 聽Thanks


I'm Marc, and I want to teach you some basic techniques and give you the confidence and inspiration so that you can cook without recipes too!

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