getting steak fat to melt

In the General Sous Vide Questions Forum
Hi,

I've been cooking steaks in a Sous Vide Supreme for a few years, and always have "good" results, but only occasionally have "great" results.

To me, "great" is when the fat on a rib eye or around a NY strip "melts" (I guess renders), and instead of being gross and hard and chewy (like fat always was on steaks when I was growing up), it's tender, juicy, and succulent.

However, this "great" result only happens maybe 1 of out 5 times I cook steak. I just can't consistently reproduce the result I want.

I've tried different types of meat and different temperatures and nothing seems to dial it in.

For awhile, I thought it was grass-fed beef, which supposedly has "better" fat, but both grass-fed beef from Target and the local farmer's market were hit and miss.

Then I thought it was temperature, as I read that, with BBQ, collagen melts at ~155 degrees (IIRC), but 140/145/150/155 doesn't seem to guarantee it either.

I've also heard about letting steaks come up to room temperature, so I'll leave them sit on the counter for an hour, or even sit in lukewarm water in the sous vide for an hour, before turning it up for a few hours.

I've also tried varying the time; thought maybe it took 4-5 hours, but I was in a hurry one day, cooked it an hour or so, and the fat turned out great. No idea why.

Any ideas? Do you guys know what I'm talking about? I would really appreciate the help; this is driving me nuts.


4 Replies So Far

No sure I have encountered your problem. Have you tried first doing a quick sear of the steaks before sealing (either then chill or into the sous vide machine). Then after your chosen time (again chill or use), re-sear the steak before serving.
Hi Shapoe, thanks for your reply.

My last attempt had good results--the biggest difference is that I did not heavily salt the steak like I usually do.

I read in another post here on the forum that too much salt will pull the moisture out of the meat, so perhaps I was basically drying the fat out too much.

Also, I'd been trying to do a poor-man's dry age, but leaving the steak in the fridge for 3-5 days, after heavily salting it. This actually seemed to produce the worst results.

This time I still let the (regular grocery store ribeye) steak sit for 3-5 days, but unsalted, and only applied a meager amount before sealing it, and the results were quite satisfactory--the fat on the ribeye was rendered and delicious.

So, I think over-salting was my core issue.

I hadn't heard of pre-searing. That sounds interesting, I'll try it and see how it turns out.
You have a lot of variables when cooking, even meat labeled "grass fed" or "organic" (what is inorganic meat...made from stone):-), the breed of the steer, the amount of water available, and the genetics of the animal all vary. One of the big pluses of sous vide is consistency, much more than any other method of cooking SV produces the same results more than other methods. What makes meat tender in the cooking process is the conversion of collagen to gelatin. This is a function of time and temperature, this why we my process less tender cuts like; chuck, round, tri-tip, plate, etc., for up to 72 hrs.
Bottom like, try processing for 4-6 hours for tender cuts at temperatures between 131 - 145.
Hope this helps
Chef John - Master Chef
Growing up as a "lean beef" lover, and these days also being aware that animal fat has a detrimental health effect on people, I haven't tended to gravitate towards fat as a desirable flavor in meats to the degree that, for example, Douglas Baldwin does. My taste buds taste blandness in fat. So I may not be the perfect advisor on this (I usually don't choose ribeye). But I am skeptical on the issue of salt drying fat. I haven't found salt to dissolve well in fats, and I've found fats to be too full of membranes to allow for salt to disperse within fats, let alone draw out moisture. And I suspect that blaming seasonings for drying cuts of meat in a forum discussion is a convenience but that temperature is probably the true issue.

Just as with ribeye fat. That eye, and the fat around the edges is such a dense sort of fat that I can hardly imagine salt affecting it. It demands heat to render. Here's where Douglas Baldwin really applies a blow torch to the max--in his YouTube videos you can see him applying extra heat to the fat, especially around the edges. I don't use a blow torch, but clearly there's a technique for making the fat sing in a ribeye with a torch. You surely can't do this with a 131 degree water bath...


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