Steak—Smoke Flavor or Charcoal Flavor B/4 Sous Vide?

In the Modernist Techniques Forum
After a few years of mulling sous vide over I'm about to start. But I know that we won't be happy if the flavor that charcoal or a wood fire provides is missing.

I have a pellet-fired BBQ pit with a grilling area directly over the flame so I could smoke a steak at a relatively cool temperature or sear it in the flame zone. Searing over the flame doesn't appeal to me, It would only be a momentary sear and not add the wood fire flavor we like. Additionally, I'd rather sear in blazing hot cast iron, 'cause the pit's flame zone could quickly overcook a 140° steak. So I think that leaves cold smoking as my only option for adding the flavor that we think we'll miss.

Are any of you smoking your steaks before cooking sous vide and then searing?


3 Replies So Far

Unless you are talking about really long smoking times, like real barbecue, the amount of 'smoke flavour' imparted in grilling is minimal.

You get just about as much in a quick sear as you do in the 10 minutes or so it takes to grill a steak


so my first response is that perhaps you might experiment a bit before you just decide intellectually that "searing doesn't appeal to me" or that "I'd rather sear in cast iron"

in truth, unless you have restaurant BTU burners, you get a much quicker and better (because the shorter TIME over higher heat doesn't cook through to the centre) sear with a grill or torch.

you can certainly cold smoke (meaning truly cold, such as with The Smoking Gun), but again, what are trying to duplicate?
when you say "smoke a steak at a relatively cool temperature" the issue is WHAT temp?
because if it's any hotter than the 130 you sous vide your meat to, and you are planning on being over that heat for any length of time more than a minute or so, you ARE going to cook it beyond your intended target.

that's the advantage of high temp searing - it's FAST.

If on the other hand, what you want is long slow smoking then you have the means for that too.
Sous Vide does many wonderful things, but so does real barbecuing.


you need to try some things and decide for yourself, but I have to say for ME, that I don't believe much in "wood fired flavour" beyond a quick sear.
Most of that flavour has to do with the maillard reaction forming the crust. NOT about smoke penetrating the meat.
Unless, again, you are talking about 48 hrs of barbecuing.

I'm trying this out right now. Just bought a large pot roast and chicken hind quarters at the butcher. Seasoned them and put all of them on my Traeger grill to smoke for 6 hours. From there, I vacuumed sealed each separately and they are now in the sous vide cooking away. I'm hoping the smoke flavor comes through when they are ready to eat.


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