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I'm an amateur cook and I can't afford to buy "good" steaks, so I made my own Sous Vide circulator to try and get the best out of cheap meat cuts. Thing is, where I'm from, even the less-glamorous cuts of A-Grade beef is too expensive for me. So I buy C-Grade rump, which is basically meat from older animals. My question is: How do I adjust my Sous Vide temperatures and times for the older beef? I tried a 1-inch rump steak at 65C for 2 hours and it came out dry cos all the juices from the meat seemed like it oozed out into the bag. I salted it before the sous vide phase. I previously tried a big piece of rump on a 16 hour cook time, and it was also very dry cos all the juices had come out into the bag.

What are my option to make a decent steak out of C-Grade rump?

EDIT#1: So a few suggestions that my temp controller isn't accurate... I do have a candy thermometer lying around. I'll try double-checking it against that. Also, from the other question that was linked, there's a suggestion to hold back on the seasoning until after the cook is done. I'll give that a try next time. I've looked at Douglas Baldwin's "Practical Guide to Sous Vide Cooking" and I think I might try a sub-60C cook to extract the magic from this passage:

Indeed, collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin above 122°F to 131°F (50°C to 55°C) (Neklyudov, 2003; This, 2006). Moreover, the sarcoplasmic protein enzyme collagenase remains active below 140°F (60°C) and can significantly tenderize the meat if held for more than 6 hours (Tornberg, 2005).

EDIT#2 : See my link below. It's a scholarly article on fibrous connective tissue, which makes comments about older animals and the effect on collagen. It's a bit over my head, but might be interesting to anyone who has the appetite for food science... Click Here for the article

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    Not an answer as I don't use sous vide methods. However, what we typically do with cuts that tend to get tough and dry out is to sear and braise. The meat always comes out juicy and falling apart tender. – Cindy Feb 20 '17 at 14:35
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    @GdD if this is a stewing cut, 2 hours at 65C is not enough to melt the collagen. – rumtscho Feb 20 '17 at 19:04
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    @GdD I meant that, at 2 hours at 65 C, if this is a stewing cut, it is perfectly expected to get tough meat because the collagen won't melt. – rumtscho Feb 21 '17 at 8:52
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    I'm no sous-vide expert, buit salting the meat first seems like something that should be avoided if your meat is coming out dry – canardgras Feb 23 '17 at 10:28
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    For reference: what locale are you getting "C grade" meat in? It's not a designation I'm familiar with. – Nat Bowman Feb 8 '18 at 21:56
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Older animals will have much more flavorful meat, but the only way to get the meat tender is to cook for a long time with moisture, at a relatively low temperature. This means braising or steaming. It is unlikely that sous vide methods will provide the temperature necessary to break down the collagen proteins, nor does it usually provide enough moisture. It is really not appropriate to use this grade of meat for steak, or any quick cooking method.

A possible alternative would be to use a marinade which includes fresh pineapple juice or papaya juice. These juices contain enzymes which break down the protein structure of meat and make it more tender, but must be used fresh, as the canning/pasteurizing process denatures the enzymes, making them ineffective.

  • Collagen breakdown starts at 60C, A decent SV circulator will maintain temperatures significantly in excess of that (not that you'd necessarily want to, but the point is a decent SV circulator will maintain temperatures well in excess of what is needed to break down collagen). – Nat Bowman Feb 8 '18 at 17:57
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I have cooked some older cheap cuts with some success using sous vide. Indeed, there are some that love old cows, and there are movements to bringing these cuts to market (Google old dairy cows) and sous vide is a great way to cook them.

There are two things to do to increase how juicy the steak is:

  1. Reduce the temperature. 65C is high enough that significant amounts of liquid will leave the meat. Look at this document to see different levels of liquid lost from different temperatures: https://www.seriouseats.com/2015/06/food-lab-complete-guide-to-sous-vide-steak.html.

  2. Do not apply salt to the beef until just before you eat it. I would only put the meat in the sous vide bag, nothing else.

The problem of course is that using a lower temperature will lead to a less tender steak, which is a problem with a cheap cup. The solution to this problem is to cook the steak for longer, which contributes to tenderness.

In brief, the solution for a tender and juicy steak in sous vide is to use a lower temperature, and a longer cooking time. I'd try the steak at 140-145F for 8-16 hours if it is a particularly tough cut. All of this, of course, assumes using accurate instruments :)

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One technique I like is a form of "turbo-aging" using the oven.

Start with steaks about 1.5" (4cm) thick. Season with salt and pepper, then put them in a low oven (275 F / 135 C) on a wire rack set inside a baking sheet and leave them there about 25 minutes, until the interior of the steak is 90-100 F / 32-37 C.

After that, grill or sear them as per your preference and as you normally would. The interior will be medium-rare to medium depending on how hot you let the interior get in the oven.

I normally do this with strip steaks, but it will work for any cut.

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    Do you do this with old grade meat? Cos that's the real key question... Rump is a decent cut, but it's the older grade meat that's the unknown. There's alot of info on using 'less glamorous' cuts of meat and those are all great, but they are always a-grade beef. I've seen no YouTube videos or cooking articles which discuss older grade meat. – hashim alkabaaz Feb 27 '17 at 14:46

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