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I'm new to sous vide cooking. The equipment I'm using is a Ronson slow cooker connected to Sous Vide Magic PID controller, no bubbler. No vacuum sealer.

I calibrated the SVM temperature reading to boiling water, and it was very close (99.9 oC). I then "auto-tuned" the PID. The end result is that it takes a long time to get up to temperature (/slow/ cooker), but holds it within 0.1 oC once achieved consistently.

For my first experiment I wanted to try Douglas Baldwin's Flat Iron Steak recipe. (12hr @ 55 oC)

I chose three well marbled blade steaks (cheap cut) with a little bit of bone in the centre. Each steak was individually sealed in a zip-lock bag using the water submerge method Doublas Baldwin recommends.

The first day I cooked them for 10 hours (not 12, it was dinner time, and I was impatient :( ). I quickly seared the steak 30 seconds per side in a very hot pan and rested it for 3 minutes before serving. It was very tender and had a beefier flavour than any other steak I can remember. But there were some tougher bits around the sinew, but still edible.

I left the other two pieces in the fridge over night and continued cooking one of them for 10 hours the next day. To my surprise after 20hr total of cooking at 55 oC, this piece felt tougher and more rubbery than the first, and the sinewy bits were distinctly even tougher. Does anyone have an explanation for this?

I know thickness in a slab shaped piece of meat is most crucial in determining cooking time, and each of these steaks was about 15mm thick (so not very thick), so potentially even 10hr was too long?

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I'd guess the refrigeration caused the toughening, or it was just a tougher piece to start with. –  derobert Feb 1 '13 at 18:00
    
I agree with @derobert, preparation can only go so far. If you have a really, really tough piece of meat it may never get tender. –  GdD Feb 1 '13 at 20:26
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2 Answers

Anything you salt will firm up in texture over a period of time. I suspect that since you cooked these with seasonings and then chilled and left them in the fridge before reheating an eating they firmed up a great deal in the fridge.

If you check out this blind tasting conducted by Dave Arnold at Cooking Issues you'll find some more detailed info about this topic. The gist of it is that for cook-chill-reheat purposes you shouldn't salt the meat before searing. For cook-direct serve meals your just fine doing it that way.

http://www.cookingissues.com/2011/10/12/to-salt-or-not-to-salt-thats-the-searing-question/

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As an experienced sous vide home enthusiast, I can vouch for this. Limit your salt in sous vide recipes. If possible, use little or no salt and season with salt or soy sauce at the end. Also worth noting that if you do use salt, a little slat (or any seasoning) typically goes a LONG WAYS when sous vide cooking. –  Adisak Feb 17 '13 at 1:10
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Another possibility is that the extended cooking time dissolved and extracted all the collagen in the meat, making it seem "tougher". The best way to judge doneness of food (especially when cooked sous vide) is to take its temperature, rather than use size/time tables.

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But for many cuts, the time the piece of meat is held at a particular temperature is just as important. Just getting short ribs up to temperature is not sufficient to make them edible, for example. –  Stefano Feb 5 '13 at 8:55
    
Absolutely. For the same reason. You need to dissolve the collagen. For short ribs this is often 72hrs at low temp. However, for leaner cuts with less collagen, longer times "dry" it out. –  Eli Lansey Feb 5 '13 at 14:46
    
I highly doubt he rendered out all of the collagen at 55C/12h though. I've honestly never found that to be an issue with any temp/time combination but I think you should seam butcher bigger pieces of meat like a big pork shoulder so you don't overcook certain portions. –  Brendan Feb 5 '13 at 17:54
    
As I understood the question, it was 10 hours the first day + another 10 hours the next. 20 hours would do it, I think. –  Eli Lansey Feb 5 '13 at 18:46
    
The refrigeration firmed it up between the two cooking times though so in this instance maybe more than 10h the second day could have actually helped the situation (i doubt it though). –  Brendan Feb 14 '13 at 1:05
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