Sous Vide Steak vs. Grilled Steak (Similarities and Differences Explained)

If you’re a meat eater, chances are you enjoy a good steak.

One of the best characteristics of steak is that it can be prepared in numerous distinct ways, depending on the effect you want to achieve.

Grilling is probably the most popular method. However, other cooking methods such as sous vide will also provide an excellent result: more evenly cooked, delicious, and juicy meat.

The most apparent difference between these two is the absence of direct heat in sous vide, but it isn’t the only one.

This article sheds light on the sous vide steak vs. grilled steak debate and discusses their similarities and differences. After reading it, you’ll have no trouble deciding which one suits you better.

sous vide steak vs grill

What Is Sous Vide Steak?

Sous vide steak is a steak prepared using the sous vide cooking method. Also known as low-temperature long-time cooking, sous vide represents a unique way of preparing food.

How Sous Vide Steaks Are Made

The first step is placing the seasoned steaks in plastic bags and removing all of the air.

Then, you add water to your sous vide container and preheat it to the desired temperature before dropping the bags in.

The sous vide device maintains a constant temperature and enables you to cook your steak for hours.

Why You Should Sous Vide Your Steaks

The process may sound complicated, but it’s actually simple.

Learning when is the best time to take your steak out is the only aspect that might be challenging. But after a few attempts, you’ll become an expert on the subject.

Generally, sous vide steaks are cooked between one and four hours, depending on your preferences (rare, medium rare, well done, etc.).

As you probably know, meat is made of proteins. When using the sous vide cooking method, the temperature is high enough to cause protein denaturation, giving the meat a soft and tender structure.

On the other hand, the temperature is not hot enough to extract the moisture from the meat, keeping the steak juicy.

Sous vide enables you to have complete control over the cooking process. That means you can set the temperature and determine how long you want to cook your steak.

Since there is no direct heat, you don’t risk undercooking or overcooking the meat.

Instead, you can simply leave it in the sous vide device, take it out once it’s ready, and be sure it’s evenly cooked.

Disadvantages of Cooking Steaks Sous Vide

While sous vide steak has its benefits, it also has its disadvantages. The most important one is probably the steak’s appearance.

Besides their excellent taste, steaks are known for their characteristic carmelized, crispy exterior.

If you don’t finish a steak with a sear, you won’t get distinctive grill marks or dark colors when using the sous vide method.

What Is Grilled Steak?

A grilled steak is a steak cooked over an open flame. Whether it’s a gas, electric, or charcoal grill, many would agree this is the best way to prepare a steak.

Why You Should Grill Your Steak

Grilled steaks feature a distinctive color and flavor. One of the culprits for this is the Maillard reaction.

When amino acids are combined with reducing sugars, it gives the food (in this case, steaks) a unique brown color and characteristic flavor.

This creates a slightly charred, crispy exterior with mouth-watering carmelized flavor.

Disadvantages of Grilling Steak

In contrast with sous vide, grilling requires hotter temperatures and less time. However, this doesn’t make it simple.

When grilling, it’s much harder to control temperatures, and you can accidentally burn the steaks or undercook them.

Plus, you could end up with unevenly cooked meat that is overcooked on the edges and almost raw in the middle.

The higher the heat, the easier it is to denature proteins and melt fat, resulting in a softer texture. However, high temperatures also lead to water evaporation, which can cause your steak to be dry.

Another disadvantage of grilling steaks is that you constantly need to monitor them constantly. Even when you’re careful, you can easily make a mistake and ruin the meat.

What Are the Similarities Between Sous Vide Steak and Grilled Steak?

In the sous vide steak vs. regular steak battle, there are many differences. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any similarities at all.

Let’s review the essential similarities between the sous vide steak and the grilled steak methods.

The first similarity is the kind of meat used. You can use the same meat for both cooking methods.

By definition, steak meat is beef. Depending on your preferences, you can choose different cuts of beef: tenderloin, ribeye, T-bone, rump, etc.

Whatever your choice is, you can prepare it sous vide or grill it.

Another similarity between sous vide steak and grilled steak is that both undergo thermal processing.

By exposing the meat to high temperatures, we ensure there are no harmful bacteria in it that could jeopardize our health.

Although they involve different temperatures and vary in the amount of time, both cooking methods use heat that makes the meat 100% safe to consume.

One more similarity sous vide and grilling have in common is that they require practice.

If you’re a steak novice, it will take time before you discover the perfect technique for each method, regardless of the one you opt for.

The first few tries may not give the result you were hoping for, but don’t give up. After making a few tweaks as you learn, you perfect the process along the way and become a steak pro.

Finally, both cooking methods give you a similar result: a delicious, tender piece of meat you’ll enjoy eating and sharing with your loved ones.

What Are the Differences Between Sous Vide Steak and Grilled Steak?

The first and the most obvious difference is the cooking method. While sous vide takes a long time, grilling doesn’t.

This is because sous vide means using low, constant temperatures to cook the meat evenly.

On the other hand, grilling involves exposing the meat to extremely high temperatures. For this reason, grilling is a significantly shorter process.

This means it takes more attention to ensure the meat is cooked evenly and to the desired doneness.

One more difference between sous vide steak and a grilled steak is that sous vide doesn’t involve direct heat. Thanks to this, you can cook the meat for hours and run errands while your steak is prepared to perfection.

In contrast, grilling is based on direct heat. While this can result in a delicious piece of meat, it also leaves much more room for mistakes.

Direct heat is much harder to control, and if you’re not careful, you could end up with raw or burned meat.

Another sous vide steak vs. normal steak difference lies in the equipment.

You can’t prepare sous vide steak without a sous vide machine, an appropriate size container, and the right bags.

In most cases, you’ll have to spend several hundred dollars, if not more, on equipment. So if you don’t think you’ll use the tools often, think about whether this is a worthwhile investment.

In this sense, grilling is more accessible and widespread. You can grill a steak in a pan, skillet, or on gas, electric, and charcoal grills.

There may be no need to buy special equipment you won’t use since you probably own one or more of the tools already.

The most obvious difference between sous vide steak and a grilled steak is their appearance.

Since sous vide doesn’t involve direct heat and allows the meat to cook slowly, you’ll get a juicier piece of meat.

However, the texture comes at a price. The meat will look pale, giving the impression that it’s still raw, although this isn’t the case.

As mentioned above though, you can give it a quicks sear when you’ve sous vide it.

If you’re used to grilled steaks, you may find the appearance of a sous vide steak not much to your liking.

The atypical color and lack of distinctive marks may seem unusual at first, but most people get used to it after a while. After all, taste is vital, and this method allows you to get perfect results.

Grilling a steak is the more traditional way of preparing it, and most people are used to its brown, slightly charred color and appearance.

Grilled steaks have the distinctive marks, which also contribute to the overall impression.

Finally, sous vide gives you the ability to control the process, which guarantees even cooking without constantly standing next to your stove.

Since preparing a sous vide steak takes hours, you can do your chores, run errands, and come home to a delicious, evenly-cooked piece of meat.

Thanks to the special equipment, you can set the temperature and decide how long you want the meat to cook. Most modern sous vide cookers have a timer that will inform you when your steak is ready.

In contrast, grilling takes much less time, but it also gives you less control.

If you want excellent results, you need to constantly monitor the meat, turn it over, and move it around to ensure it’s evenly cooked.

Even if the outside looks cooked, there’s still a chance the meat will be rawer than you would like on the inside.

Since it’s harder to control the temperature for a novice, you could end up with a steak that’s undercooked on one side and burned on the other.

For this reason, grilling takes a bit more practice.

Summary Table: Sous Vide Steak vs. Grilled Steak

Let’s summarize the similarities and differences and conclude the sous vide steak vs. traditional steak battle.

 Sous Vide SteakGrilled Steak
MeatVaries in size and cutsVaries and size and cuts
MethodLow temperatures, long timeHigh temperatures, shorter time
Control over the cooking processYesNo
TextureJuicierIt can be dry if overcooked
AppearancePale without traditional characteristicsTraditional appearance
Direct heatNoYes
EquipmentRequires specific equipmentNo special equipment required

In Summary

Who’s the winner of the sous vide steak vs. grilled steak challenge? It’s up to you to decide.

While grilling is the more traditional approach, it comes with an increased risk of making a mistake, resulting in unevenly-cooked meat.

In addition, the characteristic appearance of grilled steaks comes at a price: you need to monitor it constantly.

Sous vide enables you to relax while your steak is slowly cooking. Although it offers a richer texture, the end result may not look like a “real” steak (though you can finish it with a reverse sear).

Perhaps the most significant advantage of this method is that it guarantees even cooking.

If you can’t decide between the two, why not try both? Sous vide your steak and then give it a quick sear in a pan. That way, you’ll get the best of both worlds.