Sous Vide Cooking & Grilling

HYBRID COOKING with sous vide and grill

Using a Sous Vide cooker in combination with your grill is a great way to yield the perfect steak, pork chops, ribs and more. In this article we provide the recipes to and details to get the most out of your sous vide cooker in combination with grilling.

As self-proclaimed meat geeks, who better than us to bring out new ways to create scrumptious cooked meat products for everyone to enjoy. We’ve been playing with a new style of cooking for the last couple of years that is best called ‘Hybrid Cooking’. *shh…we think it may be the start of a new school of cooking, so we’ll keep it between us as we wait to get discovered*

Those of us who have spent time in agricultural locales think of hybridization as the process of combining two different plants or animals to get the best attributes of each. Contemporary vernacular generally means a car with multiple fuel sources. Proper definitions express these, and encapsulates the idea that we are bringing forward:

Hybrid: produced by a combination of two or more distinct elements. Having two different types of components performing essentially the same function.

Low & Slow is Sous Vide’s Middle Name

We all know that low and slow is an incredible way to get textures and flavors that cannot be achieved any other way. That is true of not just smoked meats either, as any kitchen will show with crock pots, roasting pans etc. One approach that has been used in commercial kitchens for decades and is rapidly gaining popularity with the home cook is using an immersion circulator to preform a ‘sous vide’ process.

hybrid food cooking process

The term sous vide first appears about 1986, but the idea is ancient. The process is to seal the food and let it cook in a temperature controlled water bath. The device called a Sous Vide keeps a set temperature for as long as needed to complete the cooking process. That way everything in the water bath gets to a precise temperature and stays there. We prepared all these recipes using Anova’s Culinary 500 Precision Cooker. We tested out the Anova’s accuracy when we conducted our instant read thermometer testing with a reference thermometer and it held the warm water bath dead on point within a two tenths of a degree.

A little background

Sous vide cooking actually has the same eons of history that smoking meats has. Thousands of years ago people would put eggs and hard vegetables into hot springs to slowly cook. And of course baked custards and such use water baths to maintain constant temperatures and regulate the speed at which they cook. So the concepts are not new.

Like smoking meats though, the technology has allowed us to take things to another level. Between the arrival of food grade plastics that do not impart flavor, and smaller electrical components to run the devices, the technology of the sous vide process has allowed it to blossom well beyond its roots.

Right up our alley

With most meats the sous vide process is very familiar to us. Season, cook at temp, and then sear to get a crust. Our hybridization of this takes the familiar smoking techniques and creates a similar process;

  1. Cold smoke with minimal internal temperature increase
  2. Rub or season and let marinade.
  3. Controlled cook with the sous vide.
  4. High heat to get a desired crust.

Trust us when we say this will elevate your cooking to a whole new level.


HYBRID COOKING: SOUS VIDE + GRILLING RECIPES

At SMG controlled cooking is our life blood, right? So shifting the way we do that is where it gets interesting. We’ll go over a number of recipes in this series of articles. One of them is for beef spare ribs. The sous vide portion is for 36 hours at 150 degrees. You heard that right, one and one half days, with a set and forget device that doesn’t even need you to monitor the fuel. Imagine those ribs having been smoked first and then cooked really low and slow. There’s the start of our hybrid process.

As we know from the science behind, say, smoked pork shoulder or brisket, the long slow cooking breaks down the collagens and connective tissues to give us the amazingly tender meats we love. The same science is at play with the sous vide. Incredibly, it offers the most precise control of the process that you will find. For example, restaurants will put a two inch steak in a sous vide bath at 120 degrees for two hours, it will come out perfectly rare and tender from edge to edge. Then a quick sear on their broiler and its ready to serve.

example of sous vide steak
example of overcooked steak

What made the sous vide so successful in the commercial environment is that you could now launch a fleet of steaks individually sealed in your controlled water bath. They all hit a precise doneness, typically just under medium rare. For group service, including banquets, this was a game changer. The combination of the complete control on the first step, a full cooking process that not only keeps the integrity of the steak, but actually improves it, is what makes this work. Then a quick finish with a sear for color and flavor and done. Perhaps the most consistent cooking technique available.

Cooking the same cut of steak but from different steer will react differently to being broiled to desired doneness, including shrinkage, drying out, etc. The sous vide step helps eliminate even most of that variable.

1. Steak Recipe

The question we get is why bother? After all, a steak done properly, seared at high heat, minimal seasoning and cooked to your favorite doneness is an awesome meal. All that is true. However, imagine getting any steak to have a great flavor, hit the mark on doneness and be tender and juicy every time. A filet or ribeye is pretty easy, but moving into your loin steaks you get more flavor while sacrificing tenderness. This process really will help you get the best of both worlds.

raw grocery store T-bones

In this case we used grocery store T-bones, so predominantly a NY strip cut with a little tenderloin and of course the bone. These were not a choice grade but we got them to that level through this process.

The process

cold smoking steak
seasoned T-bones
Start with your steaks straight out of the fridge. Cold smoke them for one hour, preferably with a minimum increase in their internal temperature. After smoking, season the steaks. Very simple; we want a visible layer of kosher salt, cracked pepper and granulated garlic.

sealed T-bones

Seal the steak for sous vide. Even with a vacuum sealer, when sealing a bone in product always put a second layer and seal again. It is almost guaranteed that a bone will poke a little tiny hole, which will let in a surprising amount of water when the whole thing is warmed up and soaking for a couple hours. We knew right away we had a hole with this batch, after sealing you could see the package taking back air.

Chillin out

hybrid T-bones after sous vide
seared hybrid T-bones
Put your packet in the fridge and let it sit for 24 hours. Warm up your sous vide to 125 degrees. The thicker the steak the warmer you may want to go. 125 is a solid rare, so with a thinner steak after searing, you can keep a nice medium rare. Thicker steaks you can take right to 130 which is medium rare. The thickness prevents your searing step from changing the internal temperature very much.

Let the steaks cook in the sous vide bath for 3 hours. As you get near the end, preheat your broiler or skillet to a high temp. You will get a very nice sear with about 2 minutes per side. We did one minute, rotate 180 degrees, one minute, then flip and repeat on the other side to get those fun grill marks. Let rest a few minutes, then serve and enjoy.

Sous Vide Cook Times for Ribeye, Strip, Porterhouse and T-Bone Steaks

Done LevelsTempsTimes
Rare 120°F - 128°F 1 to 2.5 hours
Medium Rare 129°F to 134°F 1 to 4 hours
Medium 134°F to 144°F 1 to 4 hours
Medium Well 145°F - 155°F 1 to 3.5 hours
Well Done 156°F+ 1 to 3 hours
Pro-tip:
Put a nice layer of spray oil on your grill if you want to get impressive grill marks on your steak.

hybrid T-bones served

2. Pork chops recipe

This is the most gratifying way to prepare a pork loin chop, or possibly any pork chop, that you may ever enjoy. We’re using 9-10 ounce chops, so they are a nice thickness, at least one inch. To make the first step easy, we are using a pellet smoker.

raw pork chops for Hybrid cooking
pork chops after smoke for Hybrid cooking

Pro-tip:
Since this recipe benefits from time for the rub and meat to marinate overnight, you can smoke them first, at the beginning of a longer smoke you may be doing. Especially if you choose to freeze them, which we will point out a bit deeper into the recipe.

The Process

Take straight from the refrigerator;

  • 4 pork chops, 2-3#s total weight

Cold smoke for one hour, preferably at a temperature under 150 degrees. While this is happening, make your rub.

Mix in a small bowl;

  • 1-½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon granulated sugar

rub for Hybrid cooking
 seasoned pork chops
pork chops vacuum sealed
After smoking sprinkle the generously on both sides of each chop. The smoke process can make the chops dry on the outside. If you feel the seasoning won’t stick, spray them with a very light coat of vegetable oil. Then, if you have the option, use a vacuum sealer to wrap and seal the seasoned chops.

Pro-tip:
Make a double seal, two lines about 1/4” apart. A blown seal can ruin your dish and it does make a mess by bringing food contact to things you do not usually bring in contact with food products.

If you do not have a sealer, place the chops in a zip type bag and place in a bowl of water to force all the air out before sealing. Place this in another zip bag and repeat the process.

At this point you can freeze the chops until you are ready to cook them. The best part is that you can take them straight from the freezer to the sous vide and cook them up.

sous vide at 145 degree
pork chops in sous vide for Hybrid cooking
sous vided pork chops
Now you get to pick your doneness. We like a chop just above medium rare. That is 145 degrees, and is the recommended safe temperature for cooking pork loin. Frankly, you can safely go down to 140 because of the amount of time that we will be holding the meat at that temperature.  Solid medium will be at 150, medium well at 160, etc.

Now We’re Cookin’

Get your sous vide up to temperature, as we said 145 degrees for what we are doing. When at temperature, place your sealed chops into the water bath and set your timer for 3 hours. Add one hour if they are taken directly from the freezer.

Before the time expires in the sous vide, pre-heat either a broiler or skillet to a high temp. Remove the chops from the sous vide bath, and from their packet. Dry the chops and sear 1-2 minutes until nicely marked. Serve and enjoy.

seared pork chops
Hybrid pork chops served dish with apple gastrique

Sous Vide Cook Times for Pork Chops

Done LevelsTempsTimes
Rare 130°F 1 to 4 hours
Medium Rare 140°F 1 to 4 hours
Medium Well 150°F 1 to 4 hours
Well Done 160°F 1 to 4 hours

3. Spatchcock Hybrid Chicken

If you haven’t done a Spatchcock process before, it is an old timey name for a very specific way of prepping fowl to cook. Simply put, you remove the spine from the bird, split the breastbone and flatten it for cooking. It does look a bit odd the first time you see it, but it gives you a more even flattened meat that cooks very well together.

SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken preparation

Because we are playing in the hybrid cooking arena, we will of course incorporate multiple techniques in this recipe. Step one, split and flatten. Step two is cold smoke for one hour.

Basting

Sticking with technique that has deep roots – Spatchcock and smoke so far – we are going to prepare a basting for the meat while it cooks in the sous vide. Heat your sous vide to 155 degrees

In a bowl, mix:

  • ½ cube, 2 ounces, well softened butter
  • 1 Tablespoon finely minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons dry basil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ lemon, zest and juice

SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken filling
SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken after smoke basting
This will form a nice paste that you can easily slip under the skin in four target areas. Using a long handled teaspoon or such, starting from the cut edge where the spine was, slip the paste under the skin. Roughly one quarter on each leg and thigh section and along each breast. Then seal it up in either zip bags double layered, or with a vacuum sealer. Just to be sure the rib bones did not puncture our seal, we cut a piece of the vacuum bagging and put it under the chicken before vacuum sealing.

SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken vacuum sealed
SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken sous vide
Because we are basting rather than a rub or marinade, we are going straight to the sous vide for this meal. Three hours at 155 degrees. This is more than enough to cook and pasteurize the meat.  Health guidelines are written to the easiest denominator, saying just get to 165 and all is well. And it is. However, they don’t share the time aspect of achieving a temperature and holding there to insure safe wholesome food.

Sous Vide Cook Times for Chicken

Done LevelsTempTimes
Juicy & Tender 150°F 1 to 4 hours
Juicy & Firm (Traditional) 160°F 1 to 4 hours

Our friends at Thermoworks did a deep dive into safe coking temperatures that back of the safe aspect of these time and temps. Their article is based on FDA guidelines.

Everything You Need To Know About Chicken Temp | ThermoWorks

Their safety guidelines are great, and this recipe meets them easily. However, we may vary in opinion as to dark meat preferences. This recipe will give you very tender, extremely juicy dark meat with the slightest of pink hues to it.

Finishing the meal

The other result of this recipe is an incredible jus that comes out of the bag. We highly recommend that you reserve this after the sous vide process. Very easy, cut the corner of the packet, drain the juice through a strainer. Use it as part of your stock while cooking Risotto and you will have a wonderful meal!

SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken ready to broil
SPATCHCOCK HYBRID chicken after broil
Back to the meat. After the sous vide we want to sear the skin to finish it off. We used a top broiler in the oven for this step. If you have a large enough skillet or griddle, that will work. A barbecue broiler will get even more color, although we have a good fat content with the butter baste and skin, so watch for flare ups.

how to serve SPATCHCOCK HYBRID

The bird will section into four easy pieces, two light, two dark. Or break it down further depending on the preferences of your group enjoying the meal.


4. Chicken thighs

This is a wonderful way to use boneless skinless chicken thighs and get them flavorful, tender, juicy, and ready to serve in all kinds of ways.

As with most of our hybrid cooking meats, this starts with one hour of cold smoke. We want to avoid raising the internal temperature, which is problematic considering the thinness of the meat. So we take an extra step to cool them down rapidly. We chose to get them sealed and spend 30 minutes in the freezer, then proceed. You can also spread them out and put them in the refrigerator before sealing, then proceed. What we are working toward is avoiding the danger zone of a couple of hours at temperatures that can become less healthy, so please act accordingly.

The recipe

cold smoked hybrid chick thighs
barbecue sauce on hybrid chick thighs
Cold smoke the chicken thighs for one hour.  After smoking, put a layer of your preferred barbecue sauce, we used our homemade Memphis style sauce. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Vacuum seal, or use zipper bags, two layers, and refrigerate for 24 hours.

sous vide applied on hybrid chick thighs
searing hybrid chick thighs
Bring your sous vide water bath to 150 degrees. Cook the thighs at this temperature for 3 hours. Remove from the packet and pat dry. Sear on your broiler or in a very hot skillet, and serve!

But wait, there’s more

different ways to serve hybrid chick thighs

Or don’t serve right away. This is an item that you can find a multitude of ways to enjoy. They do make a great meal right off the broiler. They also made a nice hearty soup with rice, corn, caramelized onions, chicken stock, and a couple of tablespoons of barbecue sauce. We’ve diced them up and tossed them with pasta or served them cold on top of a salad, or inside a tortilla for a lunch wrap. With good texture and deep flavors, this is a great recipe to make now, so you have some on hand for future meals.


5. Beef spare ribs

This recipe calls for lots of time. Not necessarily yours, the prep is actually pretty easy, but we run the clock to get a wonderfully textured tasty product. This is also a simple recipe that doesn’t clutter up with a bunch of flavors. Instead the goal is to just let the meat flavors shine.

raw ribs meat for hybrid cooking
peeled raw ribs meat for hybrid cooking
For this batch we grabbed just over a half rack, four bones, of beef spare ribs. We recommend peeling the membrane from the back of the rib bones. Use a paper towel to grip the film and a butter knife to get the process started, it comes off fairly easy.

raw ribs on the smoker for hybrid cooking
raw meat ribs ready to sous vide

The Process

Start with cold ribs from the fridge, put them in the smoker for one hour. Keep the temperature low, preferably under 150 degrees, this is not the actual cooking process.

For the rub, mix equal parts;

  • Kosher salt
  • Ground black pepper

Get your sous vide fired up with the water at 150 degrees. Because we are going to cook this for an extended period of time, we won’t need to let the flavors marinate together prior to using the sous vide.

After smoking, rub the rib meat liberally with the mix. Seal them either with a vacuum sealer, or in a double layered zipper bag. If using the zip style bag, place in water bath to push out the air, seal, then repeat the process with another zip bag.

hybrid ribs in sous vide process
hybrid ribs after 36 hours sous vide process
Place the packet in the heated sous vide water bath. Leave for 36 hours. We recommend a lid or covering of some kind for this length of cooking. It will keep the steam from filling up your space, and it will also diminish the evaporation so that you do not end up low on water toward the end.

As you near the end preheat your broiler to a high temperature.

both sides seared hybrid ribs
hybrid ribs served in dish
When finished cooking, remove from the bath, and remove the ribs from the packet. Pat them dry and sear them about two minutes on each side. Cut and serve. We did put some homemade barbecue sauce on the table, but it remained untouched because these were so tasty just the way they were served.


6. Leg of lamb

Lamb is one of those meats that has such a depth of flavor to begin with that we can really play with peripheral flavors to make a good dish. It also is readily available with the hard work finished when you buy what the trade calls BRT; boned-rolled-tied.

We generally see imported lamb, which generally run smaller and milder in flavor. The difference can be as much as two pounds between domestic, average 7 pounds, and imported averaging 5 pounds. The size will only affect this recipe in the coverage of the seasonings, times and temps remain the same.

The process

BRT lamb
thick butterflied piece of meat
This dish will be one hour of cold smoke, 12-24 hours marinating and 8 hours on the sous vide. The first step with the BRT leg of lamb is to undo the tie, cut the strings or mesh covering.  You will want to cut across a couple spots where the meat is thickest to get a flatter, somewhat evenly thick butterflied piece of meat.

cold smoked meat
seasoning smoked lamb meat
As seems to work best, we smoke the meat for one hour without any seasoning. Place your lamb spread out on the rack and cold smoke for one hour, keeping the ambient temperature at 150 degrees or less. After smoking we add the other flavors.

Sprinkle a medium coating on both sides of the meat with roughly equal amounts;

  • Kosher Salt
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried thyme
  • Black pepper
Pro-tip:
if you want a new (but really old) flavor use finely ground “Long Pepper”, which has some heat with floral flavors and a deep green color. Thousands of years ago it was well known, and many centuries ago it was used extensively in Europe, until the cheaper alternative of black pepper became readily available. Here’s what I use, you can grab it here on Amazon: MB Herbals Long Pepper Powder

lamb meat packaging technique
vacuum sealing lamb meat
Now you have to wrangle this into a zip style bag or your pouch to vacuum seal. If you use a sealer, try this technique. Cut your sealing material off the roll. Reach your hand through the ‘sleeve’ of the plastic and pull the leg into the tube. This is the easiest way we’ve found to get it packaged up.

It is also easiest to get the last ingredients on the meat while it is in the sleeve. Using a long handled teaspoon, distribute as evenly as possible:

  • 4 Tablespoons of minced garlic

Place a few sprigs of fresh rosemary on both sides and seal the packet. If using zip bags submerge the bag, with the meat inside, in a pot water to push the air out. Repeat the process with another bag. With longer cook times, double bagging is always a good idea. Using your vacuum sealer prep your packet, and here too, we highly recommend a double seal on each end just to be safe. Let it rest refrigerated for 12-24 hours.sous vide at 135 degrees

Cooking

Set your sous vide to 135 degrees and cook in the bath for 8 hours. This will put you toward the top end of medium rare. As a point of reference, here’s the general guidelines for temps and doneness for leg of lamb:

  • Rare: 125°F to 130°F
  • Medium Rare: 130°F to 137°F
  • Medium: 138°F to 145°F
  • Well Done: Above 145°F
**Note; Health guidelines generally say 130 plus is the safety range for extended time cooking. This is a muscle tissue cut of meat, so it tends to be a somewhat safer at lower temperatures. But to thoroughly pasteurize stay above 130.

searing Hybrid lamb
served Hybrid lamb
Preheat your broiler or skillet to a high temperature. From the sous vide remove the meat from the packet. The juice will be very heavily seasoned. You can strain it off and use it to make a jus, but we’ll let you explore that on your own. Remove the rosemary sprigs and pat the meat dry. Sear about 2 minutes per side, until you are satisfied with the crust. Let the meat rest for 10 minutes if you want, then slice thinly and serve.

Ingredient list recap:

  • 5-7 Pound BRT leg of lamb
  • Kosher Salt
  • Dried oregano
  • Dried thyme
  • Black pepper
  • Minced garlic, 4 Tablespoons
  • Fresh Rosemary, 5-6 sprigs

7. Beef Fajitas

This is a fun way to go because it brings together everything we want in the hybrid cooking process. The layers of flavor from smoking, citrus, seasoning and more, will make this a go to dish for you.

smoked hybrid fajitas
seasoned hybrid fajitas
We started with a rack of sirloin steaks, still cold, let them spend an hour on a cold smoke with only a minor increase in the internal temperature. We realized that we had way more meat prepped than we could use in this one meal.

But that is one of the very cool things if you are new to a sous vide. We pulled three nice looking steaks, seasoned them with salt, pepper and granulated garlic, vacuum sealed them and put them in the freezer. When the time comes, they can go straight from the freezer to the sous vide, add 30 minutes to the cook time, and you don’t have to worry about thawing them first.

vacuumed sealed hybrid fajitas with lime
how sous vide hybrid fajitas
Back to the star of this story. Time to season our smoked steak, about two pounds, and get them prepped for their sous vide bath.

In a bowl mix;

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon granulated garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon Mexican oregano

Sprinkle this liberally on your steaks. Thin slice one lime. Put the steaks in your sealable bag, zip style or vacuum. Distribute the lime slices evenly on both sides of the meat. Seal them off and place in the fridge overnight or 24 hours.

Bring the sous vide up to 130 degrees. Cook the steak for three hours.

In the meantime, thinly slice;

  • ½ white onion
  • ½ sweet onion
  • ½ red onion
  • 1 orange bell pepper (remove seeds stem)
  • 1 Poblano pepper (remove seeds and stem)

Have ready a mix of;

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne

Also;

  • 1 Tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons canola oil

¼” slices hybrid fajitas steaks
peppers, garlic, steak, onions, fajitas in skillet
Preheat a large skillet

When the steak is cooked, cut off the corner of your packet and drain the juice through a strainer into a bowl or cup. Remove the steak, discard the lime, and cut the steaks into approximately ¼” slices.

Add the oil to the skillet, followed by the sliced onions. After a minute add the peppers, garlic, steak, seasonings, the juice of ½ lime, and the juice from the steak packet.

how to serve hybrid fajitas

Let cook for two minutes or so. Serve with chopped cilantro and tortillas, and maybe some avocado and other typical garnishes.

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