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Steaming seems like an ideal cooking method; I've seen it used for mostly vegetables, sometimes fish (salmon).

Is it possible to steam a steak? Does it cook well? (I assume the target is medium doneness.)

What are the limitations of steaming steak? For example, I usually marinate mine in some oil, soy sauce, salt, black pepper, and garlic; I assume if I steam it, I would put the soy sauce in the steaming liquid.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You could do it, and it would certianly cause the meat to be cooked. However, I suspect it would lead to a less-than-tasty result. There are two potential issues here that I can see:

  1. If you're steaming, the temperature maxes out at 100 degrees Centigrade. This leads to longer cooking time, and a "washed" look. Think of how the chicken meat looks in chicken soup.
  2. You'll be losing the Maillard reaction, which is what gives that lovely outside texture to anything fried. This is because of the relatively low temperature of steaming, and the lack of liquid (oil) to react with.
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The Maillard reaction also contributes a lot of flavour. –  ElendilTheTall Feb 24 '13 at 11:32
The oil has nothing to do with promoting the Maillard reaction; its only function is to more effectively conduct the heat from the pan into the steak. –  SAJ14SAJ Jul 20 '13 at 0:12

As Sean already says, yes you can. The result will be different than cooking on a high heat. So, if you are going to steam, think about:

  • Sous-vide (like) bags to prevent watering down the steak and losing flavor.
  • Low heat for some time (50ºC) for the enzymes to tenderize the meat (adjust time according to meat tenderness).
  • A bit higher heat (54ºC) for doneness (adjust according to meat/preference).
  • Let the meat rest until 50ºC, then sear very high heat, very short on both sides.

Look at Cooking Issues for more and better info.

This nice chart will give you the minimum temperature and time needed to fully pasteurize the food.

enter image description here

Source, again Cooking Issues.

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Hmmm, 50°C is well within the danger zone, and you haven't had the sear to kill everything on the outside. So you're probably going to want to limit cooking time to two hours, max. Use a thin steak, I guess. –  derobert Feb 24 '13 at 5:44
@derobert, I just added a safety chart from Cooking Issues. –  BaffledCook Feb 24 '13 at 11:07

I don't see any reason that you couldn't steam a steak. It would provide a gentle cooking environment to get your cut of meat to a desired level of doneness, so you would be hedging against the drying effect that flareups can have. And you are going to heat the outside surface quickly enough to overcome any objections to having meat in the danger zone for too long.

As far as limitations go, I don't know that there would be any from a cooking perspective, but it may alter the flavor profile (maybe for better, possibly for worse), and you're going to get a sickly looking piece of beef with uninteresting texture. Maybe you get around that by searing it at the end, after you've reached your desired internal temperature.

The only way you'll find out if this is a winner or not is through experimentation. Get two cheap steaks, both of the same cut and roughly equivalent size, and cook one the way you normally would, and the other with your steam method.

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Yeah, searing is definitely not something you want to skip, even if you steam it. It seems like the main advantage would be a more even cooking. –  ashes999 Dec 5 '11 at 16:44

Steamed steak can be seasoned after cooking and added to salads. Very delicious and easy. Cooks a lot of fat away as well.

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Better to use off cuts form your leftover roast beef for this. –  ferdiesfoodlab Feb 25 '13 at 23:21

It's possible to steam a steak. You will cook it and you will remove all the flavour.

@BaffledCook is giving you good advice with the sous-vide route, but it requires specialist kit to do, which even a lot of professional kitchens don't have. You can glad wrap or bag your steak before steaming - highly recomended since it with retain all the flavour of both the steak and the marinade. But to get that lovely finish, brown surface (the Maillard reaction mentioned by @Carmi) you're going to have to drop it onto some hot iron! A Skillet, pan, what ever you want to call it!

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that steaming a steak is disrespecting the animal it came from. Bring your steak and marinade up to room temp or a little warmer and sear it on a smoking hot skillet. Enjoy.

PS putting soy in the water will have very little effect since the mineral element will not evaporate in a manner that will season your meat, and any of the more volatile compounds that might add the light, more fragrant seasoning notes, will have evaporated in the first couple of minutes.

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Steaming is actually very similar to sous vide. There are ovens called combi ovens where you control both temperature and humidity. First you steam until it has reached the appropriate internal temperature and then you sear it in a hot dry oven or hot pan to give it a nice crust. Here is a webpage of someone that has done it.


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