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My tough proteins come out dry sous vide!

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I'm a hobbyist cook at home and am new to the forums (love), so please forgive the amateurish question but I've searched and can't find a good answer.

I have tried cooking cuts of bottom round steak, chuck and a whole lamb shoulder for the prescribed times and temps as described in Modernist Cuisine, and each time a large amount of liquid is liberated into the bag. The meat correspondingly shrinks and comes out very dry, not the moist succulent things that got me interested in sous vide in the first place. They are also overcooked.

Chuck and bottom round were about 1.5" thick, cooked at 133F for 24 and 12 hrs respectively. Seasoned only with some pepper.

6lb lamb shoulder cooked at 143F for 72 hrs - HUGE amount of liquid in bag at the end. Seasoned with sliced garlic, olive oil, fresh rosemary and sprinkle of salt per the recipe.

I'm using a Crock Pot / Sous Vide Magic PID combination with bubbler. Accuracy of temperature verified with a digital cooking thermometer.

HELP. I must be missing something.

Edited by shantzzz (log)
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Ive had good luck with boneless short ribs but a brisket flat and a prepared corned beef flat done SV were a bit dry. The flats were lean compared to the short ribs

Im interested in those more experienced to respond as well

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you might want to take the time to look at the entire SV thread. its well worth your time.

lamb? 72 hrs? well ...

start again. consider the Baldwin book or its ref. here and in the SV thread.

I cant comment on your system, look over the SV thread and start again.

keep a note book.

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First off I think 72 hours is a bit long for the lamb - Modernist Cuisine recommends 48 hours at 144F for a tender, yielding texture. I prefer 133 F for a firmer, more steak-like texture. It's normal for meat to exude liquid during cooking.

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Use Baldwin's book, not MC. I have all MC books, I'm still not cooking from them, there are too many "I found this too salty" "wasn't worth the time" etc comments in the respective threads.

Some liquid will always come out, let it rest in the bag for a bit. I've never made a brisket SV, isn't 148 a bit low? I make it on the bbq and go for much higher end temp, it's not a med rare cut since you want to melt all the connective tissue. Same for leg of lamb, not something I'd cook SV.

I cook a lot SV, just about any steak, but things like tritip, brisket, legs, etc, all goes on my big green egg low and slow with a bit smoke at the beginning.

Never had anything dry out SV, actually things I usually don't cook because they turn to rubber like pork chops come out juicy and tender as can be. It might just be those cuts you used, try with something "normal" (for lack of a better word) to cook SV. Chickenbreast, salmon, NY steak, filet mignon, pork chops. They all should come out perfect. There's always some liquid, sometimes I use it for sauce or add it to a side dish like mushrooms or veggies, other times I throw it out. But I've never had "a lot" come out. Was the meat frozen before you cooked it? That might also play a role.

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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My best results have been from cuts of meat that have lots of collagen and some fat such as beef cheeks and pork belly. These cuts work brilliantly at around 80 degrees C for 9-10 hours.

I have also cooked extremely lean venison at 54 degrees C for up to 72 hours and also tried at 80 degrees C for 10 hours. Both times the flavour was great but the meat was as dry as anything that I have seen cooked conventionally.

My take is that the conversion of collagen to gelatin is the holy grail for sous vide cooking of red meats. We can add fat to some extent, but the cut needs to be marbled with fat and collagen to be fantastic.

Hope this helps.


Edited by Simon Lewinson (log)
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I'll have to try that sometime. How does a brisket SV compare to one from the bbq? I have mine in for 10+ hours at about 250F with a chunk or two of wood at the start for smoke. I like making them for a crowd since it's hands off, and if it's done too early I just wrap it in foil and stick it in a small cooler, stays warm for hours and hours. the only important part is to start early or the "plateau" might screw up dinner plans :-)

"And don't forget music - music in the kitchen is an essential ingredient!"

- Thomas Keller

Diablo Kitchen, my food blog

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Hey shantzzz. Not everyone here cooks SV, but many of us do. Frankly, I haven't seen these problems Chuck, for example, shouldn't be drying out at 133ºF for 24 hours. On the contrary, at that time-and-temp, I find it unpalatably flabby. Rather, I prefer 24 hours at 150ºF. This certainly throws off a fair amount of liquid (which I then clarify, sometimes reduce, and incorporate into a sauce), but the meat isn't dry. So, as you say, you're going sideways somewhere.

Troubleshooting at a distance is always difficult, but let's try. First, have you cooked meat from this source conventionally? If so, were you happy with the results? Such a baseline makes comparisons easier. Second, what PID settings are you using? For a crock-pot, I like P = 20 and I & D = 0 (and don't bother with a bubbler). Other settings (e.g., the ones recommended with my Auber controller or generated by auto-train) easily overshoot the target temp, although they eventually settle down. Third, what finishing technique are you using? If you're browning the meat after SV, it's terribly easy to undo the advantages of LTLT. Browning can be done, and I do, but it's tricky.

A few other thoughts come to mind, but let's start there.

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pbear, thanks for the response.

The texture of the chuck was good, it was tender just dry. I have not tried to cook these meats conventionally, I have just found that all my SV results are dry. I understand about having some amount of juices in the bag, but my lamb was drowning.

The PID settings as recommended by the manufacturer for my crock pot are P=5C/9F I=800 D=40. This results in temperature maintenance within 0.5F of target with initial over/undershoot of less than 2F.

I am finishing on a very hot cast iron pan for less than a minute, just enough to get a good browning. These have been thick cuts of meat that I've used, so the finishing had little impact on the overall doneness.

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Ha, I was just about to start a thread with this topic.

I have purchased boneless short ribs three time from the same source and ended up with three different results. 144F for 72 hours each time sealed with a little salt and oil.

First time, outstanding. Pink, tender and moist. Short rib perfection!

Second time, slightly dry but still pretty good.

Third time, dry but edible. The sauce helped it a bit but certainly not what I got into SV for.

Where are the variables and unpredictability? Does a lot depend on the specific portion of meat and fat/water content? Doesn't seem like it from everything I've read about SV boasting about perfection every time. Where are we going wrong?

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It sounds like you may be over salting. I usually salt meat after sous vide, or brine it before hand to get the correct salt concentration.

If you add too much salt to the bag, you are essentially curing the meat which will definitely cause dry meat. Read more about this here.

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I'll second the salt comment. We were cooking top round and having problems, once we kept salt out of the bag it fixed our issues. Are you cooling your meat completely and reheating or serving from the water bath?

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From memory Modernist Cuisine doesn't ask you to salt your meat before cooking it sous vide (excluding cured and semi-cured products like the duck confit). I'm assuming you were following the recipe and not just taking some information from the 'best bets' table and seasoning the meat your own way, tho'.

Chris Taylor

Host, eG Forums - ctaylor@egstaff.org


I've never met an animal I didn't enjoy with salt and pepper.

Harare, Victoria Falls and some places in between

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Ive experienced what you described and it all came down to using low grade meat. The way i figured it out was i had cooked two top round roasts medium rare for pit beef sammies. They were both cooked at the same time and were relatively the same size. One i had bought the same day, and the other the day before. One was choice grade and the other was on sale at a different store and was probably lower grade select. Needless to say one turned out nice and deep pink, tender and juicy and the other came out light pink almost white. And was a bit tough and dry.

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had the same problem about dry pieces of cheeks sous vide.

i am quite sure it has something to do with the quality of the product, i did two bags with cheeks from different cows and some of them came out extremely dry while others were just fork tender.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is a image of my second success at making MC SV Pastrami. This time I was able to locate two large boneless short ribs, each about 10 x 3.5 - 4 inches. Sorry for the bad cell phone image. Some say that SV is totally wrong for this type of meat, but they are not enjoying this right now.


Edited by Zmaster (log)
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It was smoked.. 4 h at 77 C / 171 F. The original formula calls for beef cheek, but you could use any cut of beef, but the tougher cuts really benefit from the technique, beef tongue, brisket etc.

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