Summertime is both a cook’s best friend and a horrible fiendish experience. On the one hand, there’s an abundance of lovely fruit and vegetables at the peak of their season. On the other, it can be hot everywhere but especially in the kitchen, which makes me want to just eat ice cream instead, which isn’t a healthy solution. This paradox brings me to the latest innovation in my kitchen: a sous-vide roast beef for 2.
Why on earth would I want roast beef in the summertime? We love to have tender cold roast beef sliced for sandwiches or in salads in cool suppers. And you know I wouldn’t want to run the oven on a 95 degree day when the household air conditioning is already struggling. I could turn to the Instant Pot. I’ve already published a recipe for Instant Pot Rare Roast Beef that’s pretty good. But the sous-vide method is even easier! Sure, it takes longer, but it’s hands-off unattended time, meaning that’s time I can be doing something else.
I can find petite beef roasts, usually eye of round, sometimes sirloin tip, at my grocery store. They are relatively inexpensive, since not a lot of people want to roast in the oven during hot weather. When I find these little roasts – typically 1.5 to 2 lbs – I grab a bunch, especially if they’re on sale. Then I seal them into bags with a vacuum sealer. Next, I’ll take out my Sharpie pen and label them “beef roast 132 6 h” (I’ll explain this code) and stash them in the freezer.
Okay. What’s that code mean? 132 means 132˚F, which is the temperature I’ll set on the sous vide machine. That’s the temperature to which I’ll cook the beef, and will produce a medium-rare result (see the photo above). If you’d prefer beef more well done, the temperature should go up: try 138 for medium, 148 for medium well. I can’t verify those temperatures, since I prefer medium-rare, but that gives you a place to start.
6 h means 6 hours, which is the time it’ll take to fully cook that lump of beef to 132˚F from the frozen state. (It would take more like 4 hrs if the roast were not frozen). Having this written on the packaging means I don’t have to think much on cooking day, because everything is already figured for me.
Because I have a small family, I love these small cuts of beef. One 2-lb eye of round roast will feed 2 of us for one meal plus leftovers for sandwiches: the perfect size. Now if I have company, and need to make a larger meal? I can simply stick TWO bags in the sous vide bath; double the result for exactly the same effort. As long as there’s room for water to circulate around the bags in the waterbath, there’s no change at all in the timing.
Sous vide roast beef for 2: it’s a winner at my house.
Sous Vide Roast Beef
- 1 small beef roast: eye of round, sirloin tip (1½ to 2 lbs)
- salt and pepper
- Don’t be dismayed by the length of this recipe! If you’re new to sous vide cooking, the detail here will help you. If you’re used to SV, this is for you: sous vide petite roast beef: 132/55 4-6H. Let me explain just what that means, okay?
- Set up your sous vide container and device. Set the temperature to 132˚F or 55˚C. While the water comes up to temperature, bag the roast beef, if you're not grabbing it from the freezer.
- Take the petite roast, salt and pepper on all sides, and place in an appropriately-sized bag. Seal each bag appropriately. If using a vacuum sealer, follow the instructions for your device. Special directions for a heavy-duty zip bag, by water displacement: holding the opening above the water, dunk the rest of the bag. Press out any air and zip the bag shut. Then remove the bag from the water; it will only go back into the sous vide system once the water is at the correct temperature.
- When the water is up to temperature, place the sealed bag in the water. Make sure that water can circulate freely around the bag, and then simply let it hang out in the warm bath for at least 4 hours, and not more than 7 hours. (More sous vide time would start to affect the texture of the beef, edging it toward mushy.)NOTE FOR COOKING FROM FROZEN: minimum time is 6 hours, and not more than 9, for the same reasons of texture.
- At the end of cooking time, pull the bags from the water and set it on a towel. Remove the roast from the bag, and discard any accumulated liquid. Pat the beef dry with paper towels.
- Heat a skillet, add just a bit of oil or butter, and sear the beef on all sides. Remove to a cutting board and slice as you wish.