Sous Vide vs the Grill – the Cook Off!

by Ross Bowen, Tastemaker in Residence

I’m a big proponent of the grill.  I love the ritual of starting the fire, choosing the meat, marinating, mixing spices, and watching (or not watching!), waiting for the meat to be just right.

So when friends of mine starting adopting Sous Vide cooking, I was skeptical.  Without smoke, how is there BBQ?  I decided to test the sous vide method.  We decided to have a cook off!  Grilled NY strips vs. Sous Vide NY Strips!  

A sous vide cooker for the home looks like a stick blender.  It is easy to use – just drop it into a large pot full of water.  The cooker circulates the water and maintains it at a constant temperature – typically around 130 degrees.  The cook time is lengthy, but your control of the cooking temperature and time is just about perfect.

We randomly selected four of the strips for the sous vide, and four for grilling.  I trimmed the hard fat from the strip and placed them in large plastic bags with some olive oil and a salt and pepper rub.  I brought the water to 130 degrees in the pot,and put the steaks in.  They stayed submerged so I did not need to add any weight in the bags.

While the steaks were cooking I marinated the other four in Worcestershire sauce. I seasoned and grilled these four starting about 8 minutes before I finished the sous vide strips.

After two hours I pulled the steaks out of the sous vide pot, re-seasoned them and put them on the fire with the other four strips.  This is called a “reverse sear”.  Many people recommend searing the steaks before they are cooked sous vide.  I will try this method another time (pre-sear vs. reverse sear!).

The four sous vide steaks were perfectly done, and the grilled strips were great.  I can’t really declare a winner – I recommend both methods, but here are some pros and cons of the two methods.

Sous vide

  1. Perfectly done every time
  2. Appearance was slightly less attractive
  3. Could skip the grill and sear the steaks in a cast iron pan (pro or con?


  1. More smoke flavor
  2. Since I had less than perfect control, there was some variability in level of doneness.  It is easier to customize level of doneness for each person’s taste.
  3. Exposed to greater risk of flame up

New York strip steaks
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Cracked black pepper
Garlic powder


  1. Remove the hard fat along the sides of the strips.
  2. Place streaks in individual large Ziploc bags.  Add a splash of olive oil.  
  3. Bring heat in pot to 130 degrees.
  4. Place bags of steaks in pot.  If not submerged, add a piece of silverware.
  5. Cook for two hours.
  6. With half an hour to go, start the grill.  Add a piece of cherry if desired.  Grill should be very hot.
  7. Remove steaks from bags at two hours and season with Kosher salt, cracked pepper, and garlic powder.  (I used Dipstix Steak Seasoning).
  8. Grill for about two minutes to a side.  Watch closely.
  9. Serve.