Sous Vide Is the Best Way to Cook a Steak, Period

Credit: Stuart Isett

Cooking sous vide sounds complicated and fancy, the kind of technique found only on Chef ’s Table or in destination restaurants. In fact, it's just a matter of putting food — salmon, pork chops, whatever — in a plastic bag and then immersing that bag in water heated to a precise temperature. As for why anybody would bother, and also why a handful of culinary startups are suddenly betting that sous vide is the next big thing in home-kitchen technology, it helps to understand why conventional cooking methods can be challenging.

“Let's say you want a medium-rare steak, which means you want your beef  's internal temperature to hit 130 degrees," says J. Kenji López-Alt, bestselling author of The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science[1]. “The normal way of doing it is to heat a ­skillet or maybe a grill to some way-higher temperature — like 500 degrees." Once you place your steak on that skillet or grill, the internal ­temperature rockets upward. It's on you to pull the meat off the flame at exactly the right moment. But when? Most recipes instruct you to perform the entire operation either by feel or by some vague time frame — say, three to four minutes per side. A meat thermometer helps, but only if you watch it like a hawk. One or two minutes of distraction — an unexpected phone call or a dash to the kitchen for a beer — can mean the difference between rosy medium-rare and unappetizing gray. Even if you manage to yank the steak off the flame at the perfect instant, it won't be cooked evenly: The exterior always winds up hotter than the interior, resulting in those inevitable gradations of doneness, from overcooked around the outside to rare at the center.

MORE: Sous Vide at Home: 4 New Devices to Buy[2]

“Exposing meat to high heat also makes the muscle fibers seize up," says Lisa Q. Fetterman, author of the new cookbook Sous Vide at Home[3]. “That's why normal cookbooks are always telling you to rest your meat before you carve it." Dig in too quickly, and those seized muscle fibers squeeze out all the tasty juices from your meat.

Sous vide addresses those problems by creating a cooking environment — a water bath heated by a small contraption called an immersion circulator — pegged exactly to a target temperature. Sous vide is the French term for “under vacuum," and it derives from the method of cooking food in airtight plastic bags. For years the hassle and cost of a vacuum sealer, along with the fact that until recently immersion circulators ran about $2,000, put the technique beyond the reach of home cooks. But it turns out that standard freezer-storage bags can work just fine. Plus, a new breed of immersion circulators sell for $250 or less, fit easily in a kitchen drawer, and can be integrated with smartphone recipe apps.

Stuart Isett

The first time we used sous vide, we decided to cook a steak medium-rare. We set the immersion circulator to 130 degrees and placed it in a large pot of water. We put the steak in a Ziplock bag with a little salt, olive oil, and chopped rosemary and garlic. Then we partially submerged the open bag (doing so forces out the excess air), sealed the bag airtight, sank it in the water, and waited. It was done in an hour, but it wouldn’t have mattered if we’d cooked it two or three hours longer, because every last fiber of our steak was precisely 130 degrees and would have stayed there no matter how long we'd waited. Plus, those muscle fibers never seized, so there was no need to rest the meat before eating. We've since tried fish, chicken breasts, and pork chops and gotten the same tender and juicy results.

The outcome was just as striking with tough, slow-braising cuts like beef short ribs and lamb shoulder. We put some large chunks of lamb shoulder in the bag, added a few generous splashes of beef broth and red wine, and some garlic and rosemary. We set the immersion circulator to 143 degrees, and 48 hours later, the lamb was melt-in-the-mouth tender, with a distinct meatiness and more of the fresh lamb quality preserved.

One obvious downside of sous vide is that it does not put a sear on food. But that just means a quick trip to a ripping-hot pan or, better still, a few passes with a culinary blowtorch — such as the Sansaire Searing Kit[4], which generates a broad and metal-melting 2,200-degree flame that wraps clear around the food and browns up the exterior in seconds. “You're basically painting the sear on," says Sansaire vice president Geoff Adleman.

Courtesy Sansaire

Cooking sous vide also takes a while, so you need to plan ahead. But the upside mostly outweighs the hassle. From the moment you submerge that bag, you know your proteins are going to be perfect. Invite a crowd for dinner, and you can rest assured that all 10 of your lamb chops will cook to precision — and then wait patiently in the water bath until you're ready to eat.

Sous vide has other benefits, too. “It becomes safe to cook pork and chicken to lower temperatures because you can hold them at those temperatures longer," says López-Alt. Chicken cooked to 140 degrees for an hour, for example, is perfectly safe and much juicier than chicken cooked to the suggested 165 degrees. And then there's barbecue: Sure, you can spend your entire Sunday tending the smoker, but sous vide produces ribs of equal tenderness with a lot less work. They may not have the same deep smokiness, but a sprinkling of smoked salt — or a dash of liquid smoke in the bag before cooking — can introduce plenty of smoky flavor, and a last-minute sear adds bark-like outer texture.

To be sure, sous vide will never offer the soul-satisfying drama of cooking over a live flame, or even of jostling hot pans on a blazing stove — there is something a little bloodless about it. But for the home chef who wants his dinner cooked perfectly without undue worry, a warm bath might be just the thing.


Utah Is About to Lower Its Legal Blood Alcohol Limit to .05%

Credit: Getty Images

Utah is quite possibly about to become even less attractive to tourists. Thanks to legislation passed earlier this week, the state may soon be lowering the blood-alcohol content (BAC) limit for drivers to .05 percent, down from .08 percent, which is standard for the rest of the country. The new law would make Utah the strictest DUI enforcer in the nation.

MORE: Move Over, Craft Beer: Starbucks is Now Barrel-Aging Coffee[2]

Fox News reported yesterday that on Wednesday evening, March 8, Utah lawmakers voted to lower the BAC limit to .05, a level that the National Transportation Safety Board has been recommending for years. Should Republican Governor Gary Herbert sign the bill, the law would take effect December 30, 2018, just in time for New Year’s Eve. According to Fox, the governor has already stated verbally that he supports the legislation, so things are not looking good for those who like to have a drink with dinner, nor for the restaurants that like to serve them.

MORE: Outdoor Retailer Seeks a New Home After Utah Governor Clashes with Industry Over Public Lands, Bears Ears National Monument[3]

So how much can an adult drink without getting a DUI? According to the American Beverage Institute (ABI)[4], one to two drinks, depending on factors like a person’s biological gender, weight, and what they have eaten that day. For a 150-pound biological man, for example, just two beers could put him over the legal limit, while a biological woman who weighs 120 pounds could easily cross that threshold after a single drink.

Many other factors are at play, too, such as a person’s ethnic background — for example, about half of all Asian-descended people lack an enzyme (aldehyde dehydrogenase) that helps the body break down alcohol, meaning they will metabolize alcohol more slowly and thus become more intoxicated than other people.

And further, before it even gets to the drinker’s lips, “one drink” or even “one beer” can mean many things. While it is generally accepted that one drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor (40% alcohol) like whiskey or vodka, 12 ounces of 4.5 ABV beer, or 5 ounces of 12 percent ABV wine, any craft-beer drinker knows that while beer typically ranges between 4 and 6 percent, many styles, like double or imperial IPAs, hover in the 8 to 9 percent range, and imperial stouts can clock in anywhere from 10 to 14 percent.

The .05 BAC proposal, while shocking to some, is not new: the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)[5] has been recommending states lower the legal BAC level for drivers for years, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration[6] says studies show impairments such as trouble steering, coordinating, tracking moving objects, and responding to emergency situations can occur at a BAC of .05 percent. Supporters believe a lower legal limit will save lives, keeping more drivers off the road if they have been drinking.

But those who oppose the bill, including libertarian-leaning Republicans and Democrats like Senator Jim Dabakis, believe the proposal will hurt the Utah tourism industry and its job market by adding to the state’s “weirdness factor,”[7] as the Mormon-influenced state already shuns drinkers.

And ABI managing director, Sarah Longwell believes that rather than being problematic for those prone to drinking and driving, the bill would be detrimental to safe, casual drinkers, who simply could not have a drink with dinner without fearing a DUI.

“Utah legislators missed an opportunity today to target the hardcore drunk drivers who cause the vast majority of drunk-driving fatalities and instead decided to criminalize perfectly responsible behavior,” said Longwell in a statement on Wednesday,[8] According to Longwell, more than 77 percent of alcohol-related traffic deaths in Utah result from drivers whose BAC is .15 or above. 


Exclusive: Stone Unveils 2017 Release Calendar, Featuring Six New Collaborations

Stone Brewing [1]announced its 2017 beer calendar today, noting several new additions to its year-round offerings and seasonal releases, along with six new collaborations and a new series of IPAs.

Last year was a banner year for Stone, opening two new breweries, one in Richmond, Virginia, and another in Berlin, Germany. Both new facilities, along with Stone’s two California locations, are gearing up for a year of brewing a mix of their popular beers as well as several brand new offerings.

First up for new year-round offerings are Stone Ripper, a West Coast–style pale ale (or what Stone referred to as a “San Diego Pale Ale”), and Stone Tangerine Express IPA, an IPA brewed with whole tangerine and pineapple, to be released in early February.

In January, Stone will launch two new series, the Stone Hop Revolver series, the 24-year-old brewery’s first-ever single-hop IPA series, and a heavy metal–inspired collaboration series.

Stone Hop Revolver IPA Series

On January 23, a series of single-hopped IPAs will debut with Stone Hop Revolver IPA — Loral, brewed with Loral hops, a new varietal (formerly known as HBC 291) featuring lemon and floral aromas and flavors (lemon + floral = Loral). The new brew is 7.7 percent ABV and 80 IBUs.

Stone originally debuted the hop in Do These Hops Make My Beer Look Big?, a beer brewed for the 2015 American Hop Convention. According to Stone, the new varietal produces a beer that’s citrusy and fruity, with a light, herbal backbone and floral nose. The new single-hop series will debut in Stone Mixed Packs in 12-ounce bottles on January 23.

Though single-hop IPAs from Stone are new for nationwide consumers, Stone has been experimenting with single-hop beers in recent years through trials at its Liberty Station location in San Diego, Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens, which opened in 2013. The Lupulin Loop series, spearheaded by Kris Ketcham, senior manager of brewing and innovation there, served as a precursor to the new, nationwide offerings.

Heavy Metal–Inspired Collaboration Series 

Odell/Marble/Stone Megawheat Double IPA Collaboration

The first in Stone’s heavy metal–inspired series of collaborations is a hoppy wheat beer available nationally in 22-ounce bottles beginning this week. Megawheat Double IPA, brewed in collaboration with Odell Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado, and Marble Brewing of Albuquerque, New Mexico, features “newer ‘M’ hops” — Motueka, Mandarina Bavaria, and Mosaic — producing a new mix of tropical, citrus, and stone fruit flavors. The beer’s journey also has balanced bitterness with a lingering finish, featuring a blender of fruit flavors (peach, pineapple, grapefruit, mango, and hints of coconut and banana, according to Stone).

Maine/Stone Dayslayer IPA Collaboration

The second of three thrash metal–themed beers will be the Dayslayer IPA brewed in collaboration with Maine Beer of Freeport, Maine, to be released in March.

Beavertown/Garage Project/Stone Fruitallica IPA

The third in the series will be Project Fruitallica IPA, a collaboration with Beavertown Brewing of London and Garage Project, a small brewery based in Aro Valley, Wellington, New Zealand. Fruitallica IPA is scheduled to debut in August.

Also New & Noteworthy

Other new and noteworthy seasonals Stone will be offering this year include two new Stone Imperial Seasonals, Stone Jindia Pale Ale, to be released in February along with Stone Pataskala Red X IPA; and Stone Ghost Hammer IPA, to be released in June. Stone Special Releases in June will include Stone Ruinten Triple IPA with Orange Peel and Vanilla Bean; Stone Ruinten Triple IPA with a local variant to be announced; and Stone Spotlight Series, also TBA. In August, Stone will be releasing a 21st Anniversary IPA.

To view a detailed calendar of Stone’s upcoming 2017 beer releases, visit their website[2].


  1. ^ Stone Brewing (
  2. ^ their website (

Meet the Woman Who's Making Sure Your Beer Tastes Good

Last week the Brewers Association (BA), the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to supporting and promoting the craft brewing industry and community, announced that Mary Pellettieri will be the their first-ever quality instructor. The new role will involve working with the BA Quality Subcommittee to plan and present brewing best practices, systems, and parameters to breweries in the U.S.

MORE: Sierra Nevada Recalls Beers in 36 States[2]

Pellettieri brings decades of experience to the new role, having had past positions in the brewing and beverage industry, such as chemist and microbiologist at the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago; quality manager at Goose Island Beer Company, also in Chicago; and quality manager for MillerCoors in Milwaukee. She also speaks at national events on topics including quality, sensory analysis, and brewing science.

ALSO: In the Golden Age of IPAs, Consumers Deserve Clearer Bottle-Dating[3]

Not to mention, as BA director, Paul Gatza pointed out in the announcement, she literally wrote the book[4] on the subject: Quality Management: Essential Planning for Breweries, a guidebook published by Brewers Publications (the publishing arm of the Brewers Association) providing key insights on quality management for breweries.

“Mary has an unparalleled understanding of how quality management is intertwined at all levels of brewery operations,” Gatza said. “She literally wrote the book on what it takes to manage quality at a brewery, and her appointment underscores the BA’s commitment to advancing quality standards."

We had the chance to speak with Pellettieri about her decades-long experience in the brewing industry, her new role with the BA, as well as the other ways she’s spends her time — such as running her own beverage company, and working as a consultant and auditor for breweries.

“I actually left the brewing industry four years ago,” said Pellettieri, who founded her own soft drink beverage company, Top Note Tonics[5], in 2014. “The craft beer ethos is needed in soft drinks right now.”

As the quality instructor for the BA, Pellettieri is currently working on developing content for a one-day course for breweries, which will take place at the end of the year, likely at a Brewers Association member brewery.

According to Pellettieri, creating a role that incorporates an education aspect to quality management at breweries “is great, because the Brewers Association has a lot of small breweries that don’t have the opportunity to get these tools through larger associations or schools,” she said. The program, which is still in its early stages, is being developed in partnership with the American Society of Brewing Chemists[6] (ASBC).

We couldn’t resist asking Pellettieri about Sierra Nevada’s bottling mishap[7] last week: “A glass defect is a risk for any brewer, especially proprietary glass [like Sierra Nevada’s],” she said, noting that Sam Adam’s had a similar issue in the past. “It’s called a bird swing. The glass is hot when formed into a bottle, and when it cools, it should form a cavity. Sometimes, the temperature and energy going into the glass isn’t exactly right, and a little string of glass can hang between the sides of the glass in the bottle. With the filling process, it breaks off, and there can be shards of glass in the bottle. It’s a real problem, because there’s no real easy way to find it,” she said.

To promote awareness and prevention of such issues, and to keep quality assurance at the forefront of the craft brewing industry as a whole, Pellettieri believes the most important thing is communication between breweries. “It’s important that we’re sharing information and that there’s somebody who's there to help breweries understand the common risks that are out there, and also the new ones,” she said. “Breweries are innovating so much that quality has to go up, too.”


  1. ^ announced (
  2. ^ MORE: Sierra Nevada Recalls Beers in 36 States (
  3. ^ ALSO: In the Golden Age of IPAs, Consumers Deserve Clearer Bottle-Dating (
  4. ^ literally wrote the book (
  5. ^ Top Note Tonics (
  6. ^ American Society of Brewing Chemists (
  7. ^ Sierra Nevada’s bottling mishap (

These Astrobiology Students Are trying to Brew Beer On the Moon

Credit: Lew Robertson / Getty Images

There’s a chance that beer will be brewed on the moon this year, in the form of a glorified home-brewing experiment.

According to, an experiment designed to test the viability of yeast on the moon was short-listed in a 25-team competition promoting sustainable life on the moon. The winning team would have their prototype launch with a rover sent into space by TeamIndus, an Indian team of researchers participating in the Google Lunar XPrize[1].

MORE: Here's Why Whiskey and Outer Space Don’t Mix[2]

The Google Lunar XPrize in an international competition with a $30 million prize purse requiring participants to race to the moon, or more specifically, build, launch, and land a spacecraft on the moon’s surface; travel 500 meters; and transmit high-definition video and images back to earth. The first team to do so wins a grand prize of $20 million.

Currently, five teams are confirmed to compete for the prize: TeamIndus, from India; SpaceIL, of Israel; Moon Express, from the U.S.; Synergy Moon, an international team; and Hakuto, representing Japan.

ALSO: Meet the Woman Who's Making Sure Your Beer Tastes Good[3]

In addition to vying for the Google Lunar XPrize, TeamIndus decided to hold their own competition, Lab2Moon[4], inviting researchers under 25 years of age to conceptualize, design, and construct an experiment that could theoretically help humankind develop a sustainable settlement on the moon.

Enter a group of University of California San Diego (UCSD) Jacobs School of Engineering students, who also happen to make up the UCSD Astrobiology Club — Johnny Koo, Jared Buchanan, Han Lu Ling, Neeki Ashari, Srivaths Kalyan, and Tavish Traut — whose collective appreciation for astrobiology and home brewing got them thinking about yeast’s potential applications in a moon society, not the least of which is, you guessed it, brewing beer.

(Other lesser uses include making bread, other foods, and pharmaceuticals.)

Between their Lab2Moon team name, “Original Gravity” — a brewing term referring to the amount of sugar suspended in wort, the boiled liquid that will become beer after fermentation — and their project name, “ALEiens!,” we think they earned that spot on the rover already.

“The idea started out with a few laughs amongst a group of friends,” said Neeki Ashari[5], who is a fifth-year bioengineering student as well as Original Gravity’s PR & operations lead. “We all appreciate the craft of beer, and some of us own our own home-brewing kits. When we heard that there was an opportunity to design an experiment that would go up on India’s moonlander, we thought we could combine our hobby with the competition by focusing on the viability of yeast in outer space.”

Original Gravity designed a device that they believe could “brew” beer on the moon (technically, the wort would be made beforehand, so only the fermentation part of the process would actually take place on the moon), sent TeamIndus their statement and this video[6] explaining the process, and were selected as one of 25 final teams eligible to move on to phase two. A total of 3,000 applicants from more than 300 cities in 15 countries around the world were considered.

For phase two, Original Gravity and 24 other teams, whose projects span topics from radiation-shielding bacteria to a lunar gene bank for endangered species, will present prototypes of their concepts to an international jury of experts in Bangalore, India, in March.

The winning team will join TeamIndus in launching their project into space on December 28, 2017. Get updates on Original Gravity’s progress on the Lab2Moon website[7]


  1. ^ Google Lunar XPrize (
  2. ^ MORE: Here's Why Whiskey and Outer Space Don’t Mix (
  3. ^ ALSO: Meet the Woman Who's Making Sure Your Beer Tastes Good (
  4. ^ Lab2Moon (
  5. ^ said Neeki Ashari (
  6. ^ this video (
  7. ^ Lab2Moon website (