Selecting your steaks:
Beef strip loin steaks go by many nicknames, including New York, Kansas City, Entrecote (a misnomer), and others. The shape of the steak is distinctive enough that the confusing assortment of names is not usually a problem. In generic terms, this primal cut extends from about half way down the spine of the animal and ends just before the leg area.
These cuts are frequently available whole in some “big box” stores, and with a little trimming can offer some savings to the customer. Pictured whole, the visible end below is the section closest to the hip, and is generally considered less desirable because of the presence of more gristle.
Pictured below from the other end, you can see that the visible face resembles a rib eye steak, and not without reason. This spot is where the rib eye muscle “becomes” the strip loin muscle. This end is the tenderest because the animal exerts so little force on its location in the middle of the spine.
In the butcher’s case, you usually see this steak represented in two basic forms:
Above, this steak is cut from the hip end, which comprises approximately one third of the primal cut. You can see the semi circular strip of nerve/gristle cutting a swath in the middle of the steak. Although this cut comprises half of the very popular bone-in Porterhouse steak, this section can be quite tough. Whereas…
This steak is cut from just above where that circular vein/nerve occurs, so this would be the “center cut” of the strip loin. The shape is not round or oval, but more that of a long triangle. This is the preferred cut!
Stage the steak(s) in single layers into dedicated vacuum bags. If you want to use self sealing plastic bags, remove the air from the bag using the water displacement method.
How do you like your steak?
The appearance of doneness can be increased (but not reversed) after the sous vide processing step by extending the duration of the searing stage explained below. There is debate as to the exact definition of “rare,” “medium rare,” “au point,” etc. A little practice will help you learn just exactly what temperature achieves your preferred appearance of doneness.
Here are some basic temperature setting guidelines:
Rare: 129 F/54 C.
Medium rare: 135 F/57 C
Medium: 140 F/60 C.
Medium well: 150 F/66 C.
Well done: 165 F/74 C.
Preheat the water in your sous vide bath to the temperature that most closely matches your preference. Process the steaks for 4 hours to achieve pasteurization.
For enthusiasts who like their steaks extremely rare, steaks can be processed at temperatures as low as 122F /50 C; HOWEVER, in this case the steaks will not achieve pasteurization, so the processing time MUST be limited to TWO HOURS in order to meet USDA standards of food safety. The steaks should then be consumed immediately, just as one would if sous vide were not being utilized.
Remove the steak(s) from the bag and pat dry.
Season the steaks with the salt and pepper, and spray or spread a few drops of vegetable oil on them. Preheat the skillet to a surface temperature of approximately 300 F+/150 C. The pan should not quite smoke.
Lay the steak (one at a time if you are doing two) in the pan and sear until the desired color is achieved. Avoid moving or excessively flipping the steak–this cools the pan. This process usually takes about one to two minutes per side. Remove from heat and add the butter to coat the steak, allow to rest for two minutes. Remove the steak from the pan, slice, and arrange.
or, if you chose to cook two steaks, they can also be presented as below…
Just as I explained what is the desired shape of a strip loin, as depicted below…
At service, if the steak is served whole it should be presented just like this–cooked of course, but with the point of the triangle aimed to the right, “4 o’clock” position, and the long strip of edible gristle away from the diner.
On the left end, you can see a distinct nugget of meat that is alternately called the head or the tail, depending on chefs’ viewpoints. This is a very very tender and unctuous piece of meat, connected to the tenderest part of the larger muscle.
MOST people take their fork in their left hand and their knife in the right hand to cut their steak (apologies to lefties). Logically, they take their first “stab” at approximately the “7 o’clock” position, which will lead them to this favorable first impression.