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How do I stop my sous vide steak drying out? I have tried various temperatures and times from 55°C to 60°C and from 40 minutes to 4 hours. The colour and texture changes but the meat is always too dry to enjoy.

My mother eats steak well done conventionally and it is much more moist than this sous vide medium rare. The meat is still very red, so it's not over cooked.

I am using sirloin, about 20mm thick. It's 28 day aged, according to the packet. When cooked in a pan it is very nice, as it should be at £22/kg. I have tried presearing plus postsearing and postsearing only. Sealed in Sous Vide Supreme vacuum pouches. They then go into a 30l water bath heated by a Vac-Star Sous Vide Chef 2. The temperature is totally accurate according to my certified thermapen and does not vary at all.

I also tried cooking chicken breast with garlic butter potatoes and carrots, as per Douglas Baldwin's book. Carrots were delicious. Potatoes were hard and bland. Chicken was downright weird. Very unpleasant texture and very dry. I invited a couple of friends who are keen to try sous vide over during the whole process. All 4 of us agreed. The machine is going back.

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What cut or type of steak are you using? –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 1 at 4:20
    
If your steak has good marbling and your bag is sealed properly there should be no problem –  geedubb Jan 1 at 12:19
    
I am also very surprised by this question. For example, I yesterday had non-marbled supermarket steak from the pan, which hit 59 Celsius internal after residual heat transfer, which is more than I usually do. It was still very tender and moist. I cannot imagine that a 54 degrees steak will be dry. Can you post pictures of what the steak looks like when prepared? Have you measured the steak internal temperature right after taking it out, maybe your controller is not working properly? Finally, do you really think it is dry as in overcooked, or are you missing fat? What are your expectations? –  rumtscho Jan 1 at 13:30
    
I found this article which seems to describe my problem but to a lesser degree.beyondsalmon.com/2011/06/why-sous-vide-sucks.html –  kippford Jan 1 at 17:18
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The article you found says there's 8-13% moisture loss from the sous-vide cooking at 131F, which is way more than the ~4% Kenji Lopez-Alt found in this column. Perhaps there's some difference in cooking method here that's causing you to lose more liquid, but I don't think dry steak is an inevitable result of sous-vide cooking. Plenty of home cooks and restaurants have been enjoying sous vide steaks for quite some time now. –  Jefromi Jan 14 at 2:43

1 Answer 1

The machine

I invited a couple of friends who are keen to try sous vide over during the whole process. All 4 of us agreed. The machine is going back.

My immediate first thought was that you had a bad machine. The Vac-Star Sous Vide Chef has excellent reviews on Vac-Star's website and it looks like you are using it within proper specifications. That would be my first hunch, as nothing else seems particularly out of place. If you are able to come back, since this was over a year ago, it would be curious to see if a different machine solved your problems.

On a side note, I looked up reviews for Sous Vide Supreme vacuum pouches and they seem good, too.

Other things

I looked up for reviews of the I noticed the Beyond Salmon blogger had posted a follow-up experiment with sous-vide steaks that I found had useful data. This summarized it well:

What most sous-vide books and websites tell you is that you can't overcook using the sous-vide method. It all depends on how you define "overcook." The steak will not go above the desired temperature no matter how long you hold it in the water bath (well, dah!), but the longer you hold it, the more juice you lose.

I have noticed this from your post:

I have tried various temperatures and times from 55°C to 60°C and from 40 minutes to 4 hours.

Per her experiment, steak A, B and C turned out the best. They also had the lowest temperatures and cooking times:

Steak A: 121°F (49.5°C) water bath for 50 minutes

Steak B: 126°F (52.2°C) water bath for 50 minutes

Steak C: 131°F (55°C) water bath for 100 minutes

It likely would be a good idea to try lower temperatures, and stick to the lower-end of the time scale. Also from the article:

But if you are using an immersion circulator, you might be tempted to put meat in the water bath whenever it's convenient (in the morning before going to work, during kids' nap, etc.) and then have it ready for dinner. It will surely be very tender, but you'd better have a lot of demi-glace handy because it will be dry.

Hope this helps!

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