Using a Cooler for Cooking?

This week for our cooking project we wanted to do a low cost Sous Vide cooking. To do this we used a regular beer cooler. We want to compare the Sous Vide steak quality to just the traditional grilling. Will the new age, fancy Sous Vide beat the old school grill in the cook out? Well, let's find out!

For this we needed two KC strip steaks about 1 inch think and of equal weight and size. A beer cooler or small cooler, gas grill, a 1 gallon plastic bag, salt, pepper, garlic, and olive oil. We wanted to keep it very simple and basic to truly test the quality of the cooking.

We used a standard beer cooler, a Tappecue, Extra-Care Probe and Long Probe to monitor the cook of the Sous Vide, single piece of Sous Vide tape and a gallon zip-lock bag. The challenge is to get the water to the right temperature. We cooked the meat to the wonderful "medium" which is between 140° Fahrenheit, and 145° Fahrenheit. So we had to get the water to at least 145° Fahrenheit with a combination of hot stove top water and warm sink water. You want the water to be warmer than the ideal temperature of the meat because it will lose temperature when the meat is added and over the course of the cook, the duration of the cook was a little over an hour. While the water was heating to the correct temperature and the grill warming up, the steaks were seasoned. The seasoning was kept simple to showcase the quality of the methods instead of the flavoring of the steaks. They were kept light and simple, seasoned to taste for just a minimalist flavor profile.

After the water reached its desired temperature, a seasoned steaks was put in the zip-locked bag and the air was removed using the water displacement method (Instructions). A piece of the self sealing Sous Vide tape was placed on exterior of bag in center of meat, and the extra care probe was inserted. At this point the cooler was opened and the bag of meat was placed inside, With a long probe to monitor the temperature of water.

**It is important to note scalding water had to be added twice to keep temperature above 135°.**

While the Sous Vide portion was running, a gas grill was heated. Using a second Tappecue and Extra-Care Probe we cooked the second steak to the temperature of 140° Fahrenheit. First over direct heat for the sear and then on indirect heat to finish the cook. The whole process took about 30 minutes.

After an hour of cooking the first steak in the beer cooler, it was removed from bag and then placed over direct heat from the grill and seared, about a minute per-side. Our very own Jacob Bourret taste tested the steaks. His conclusion was that the Sous Vide produced a significantly more tender steak, "almost artificial", but grilling gives a better, "more natural" flavor. Based on looks, we also felt that the grilled steak came with better colors. Because of the Tappecue's ability to monitor the temperature we know the meat comes out the perfect medium at 140-145°F.

Top is the Sous Vide and Bottom is the Grilled!

If any of our readers have suggestions on how to improve the Sous Vide to get more flavor and a better steak let us know!

If you are interested in purchasing the products used in this article:

Click HERE!


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Tappecue has saved Pit Master BBQ thousands in the last year. With the Idaho weather being what it is, the smoker was going out in the middle of the night. With the Tappecue alerting functionality no more ruined meat.

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