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Sous Vide Flank Steak Tacos

 So, here is the first important lesson that I just learned for you, you're welcome. We were out and about and decided to splurge on an expensive bit of meat at The Friendly Butcher on Yonge St. for our next sous vide dinner. Because we had made an amazing strip loin in an hour, we were excited to see what kind of results we would get with this cut, a favourite of ours for the grill. We get home, I prepare a mojo to marinate the steak in since we decided we would turn it into tacos and then I sat down to check on times and temps for flank steak.

Well, as it happens, cooking a sous vide flank steak is not ANYTHING like making a strip loin because flank steak requires five million years in the water bath. I read at least 20 recipes and charts and it looked like it was going to require anywhere between 18 hours and 48 hours. So much for tacos for dinner.

Flank steak is considered a leaner, tougher cut of meat so it requires a much longer cooking time to soften the meat up and make it tender.

We toyed with the idea of scrapping the sous vide experiment and just doing it on a grill pan but, in the end, what kind of pioneer would I be if I threw in the towel right after I promised you that I would waste my hard earned cash and pull my own hair out so you don't have to?
the marinade looked pretty but added little so skip it and that grey slab of meat is ugly on the outside but oh, so pretty inside

I marinated the meat in my Food Saver Marinator contraption, fired up the Anova and had the flank steak in by about 3pm, thinking that it would most likely be ready by supper time the next day. Before I put it in the bag, I scraped off all of the solids from the mojo because I keep reading that raw garlic doesn't react very nicely to this process (one instance where garlic powder works better), so keep that in mind too.

The next morning, I had to go out at about 9:30am and thought I had better check on it before I left so I removed the bag, cut it open and checked the meat, intending to put it back in the bag and reseal it but the meat was cooked perfectly. I took it out, skipped the water bath and just threw it straight into the fridge and left it until the next day. 

So, in this instance, 18 hours at 57C worked beautifully.

When it was time to eat it, I let it sit for a bit at room temperature, heated up my cast iron pan until it was smoking hot, used a bit of oil and seared it before slicing it thinly against the bias for the tacos.
Like butter.

So thoughts:

Check on temps/times BEFORE you plan on cooking anything that day.

In retrospect, I would skip the marinade all together until you get the method down because I don't feel like it added all that much to the end product. It was a really nice piece of meat and only required salt and pepper so, although I did marinade it this time, I am not including that in this recipe. I will leave the marinades, etc, for cheaper cuts of meat.

Make sure to check it periodically when you are cooking for long periods of time. You an use a thermometer to make sure the temperature is maintaining and it won't hurt to slice a bit off and check it to see if it is tender enough. I knew that after all that time, the meat would be cooked but, with flank steak, we were looking for tender. I am not sure if it would have suffered from more time spent in the water but I am glad I checked when I did.

We used an expensive flank steak from a really good butcher so I am going to try this again with a cheap flank steak from my Chinese butcher and see what happens. Those flank steaks are sometimes kind of chewy and tough when we grill them so if using the sous vide can turn that sow's ear into a silk purse, I will be thrilled.

 The meat was absolutely perfect. It was soft, tender, melted in the mouth and was perfect for tacos. I used leftovers for quesadillas and then the last little bit went into fried rice for The Kid's lunch.

Flank Steak Tacos

1 lb flank steak
kosher salt and ground pepper

pico de gallo
pickled red onion

soft corn tortillas
sour cream, sprouts optional garnish

Preheat the water to 57C or 135F for medium rare.

salt and pepper your meat and put in either a vacuum sealed bag or use a zip lock freezer bag, getting rid of the air using the water displacement method (close most of the zip lock closure, submerge the bag up the closure line and then finish the seal - the water will force the air out of the bag).

Drop the bag in the water bath and leave it for at least 16 hours. At that point, open the bag, check the temperature to make sure it has reached 57C, cut off a slice if you are not sure to make sure it's tender. If it is not tender yet, reseal the bag and keep checking it every couple of hours.

A word about evaporation: If you haven't figured out some sort of a cover hack for your water bath, you should cover the pot or the container with some saran wrap. If you don't use anything to cover the pot, check the water level from time to time and top it up if you need to ( I did this by heating water to the temperature of the water bath before pouring it in using a thermometer and a pot)

When it's done, unless you are going to sear it and eat it immediately, you need to plunge the bag into an ice bath immediately to cool it quickly. You can then just pop it into the fridge until you are ready to sear it and serve it.

To sear, you can use a hot, heavy pan with a bit of oil (i like my cast iron) and give it 1 minute per side or you can use your kitchen blow torch on a baking rack set on a baking tray...come on, don't tell me you don't have a blow torch in your kitchen. If you don't, get one, they are fun.
However you sear it, make sure that you dry off the meat after you remove it from the bag first - you don't want to sear or bbq damp meat.

Sear the meat, cut it thinly against the grain and assemble your tacos. 

Pico de Gallo

2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 shallot, minced
1 seeded, minced jalapeno pepper
a handful of cilantro, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, grated or minced
juice of a lime
pinch kosher salt

mix everything together and set aside for at least half an hour


1 avocado 
a handful of chopped cilantro
juice of a lime
pinch kosher salt

Cut the avocado in half, scoop out the flesh and discard the skin and the pit. Smash up the avocado with a fork, squeeze the lime juice in, throw in the cilantro and the salt and mix together.

Pickled Red Onions

1 red onion, thinly sliced
boiling water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 clove garlic, smashed
1 tsp black peppercorns
juice from 1 mandarin orange or 1/2 small orange
pinch hot chili flake optional.

Put your sliced onions in a strainer and pour boiling water over them to blanch them. Stuff them into a glass jar. Mix together the salt, sugar, vinegar, garlic, orange juice and peppercorns and a pinch of hot chilis if you want some heat. Set aside and they are ready to use in half an hour but they are great, left in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
Use on tacos, quesadillas, chili, sandwiches or with grilled meats.

For the tacos:

Warm corn tortillas how you wish - I like to warm them on a hot, dry cast iron pan and stack them in a tea towel but you can do it in a microwave if you like. 

Smear some guacamole on a tortilla, pile on a few slices of steak, add a scoop of pico de gallo, some pickled red onion and a drizzle of sour cream and pinch of sprouts if you like. Lather, rinse, repeat until the tortillas are gone.

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