Sous Vide Temperature and Time

Sous Vide is not magic. It is among the SIMPLEST methods of cooking. It is used to make food MORE safe for consumption than it was before. This is probably how cooking became popular in the first place: primitive populations realized that less people got sick if heat was applied to food before consumption, and culinary arts were born. Sous Vide Temperature and Time are simple but essential elements that form the keys to Sous Vide Success.

That being said, keep this in mind when calculating your times and temperatures for SV processing:

STARTING POINT. In most cases, food goes into the bath either at approx.

40F, or, frozen, 0F,

or thereabouts. Allow half an hour extra per inch of thickness if your project is frozen.

TEMPERATURE determines the “appearance of doneness”.

While beef and lamb are most commonly cooked with the appearance of “rareness” in mind, the principle applies to all meats. The lower the temperature, the more “raw” the meat will appear to be. Meat–ANY MEAT–can appear to be almost completely raw, and, yet, be safe to eat, as a result of SV processing (low temperature pasteurization). If your 2” Rib Eye steak, for example, appears to be rare after being processed for two hours @129F, that same steak will appear to be rare after twelve, even eighteen hours @129F.

One note on rareness:

The presence of myoglobin is what causes the meat to appear rare. We know that temperatures above 132F will cause the myoglobin to denature and lose its color. Time itself contributes to the dissipation of myoglobin as well, so a piece of beef processed for 48 hours will not appear to be as rare as a steak cooked for 12 hours, even at the lowest of acceptable temperatures.

TIME determines texture/tenderness.

The longer meat is processed via SV, the more tender it will become. In the case of very tender steaks, they may be tender before they even go in the bag, but they will become more so as time passes. Tough cuts may take up to 72 hours to become tender, but even the toughest of cuts will eventually get tender, even @129F. The presence of bone may interfere somewhat, and cuts with bones should be processed a little hotter–closer to 132F is enough, though–a mere three degrees. The higher the temperature, the faster the tenderization process will occur, and the more “damage” to the structural integrity of meat will also occur. This is why seasoned practitioners always seem to shoot for lower temps and longer times.

 

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Beef–fresh, cured, pickled, etc.

In order to be safe (and to pasteurize),

processing temps start at 129F, and can go as high as you want.

If there are bones still attached to the meat, I usually recommend 132F to compensate for the difference in thermal conductivity of bone vs meat. Temperatures can range up to as high as you want, but, to fully take advantage of the SV process, they rarely go above 150F. The appearance of doneness that we refer to as

“rare” is right there @129F,

and graduates to

well done subjectively somewhere between 140F and 150F.

That being said, tender cuts like Filet, NY, etc. achieve pasteurization @129F Rare within 4 hours. Tough cuts like Brisket, Chuck, Eye of Round, Round, etc., achieve the pasteurized state at the same rate, but take longer, or, even, MUCH longer to achieve tenderness, depending on the temperature used. @129F, some cuts can take as long as 96 hours to become tender. Since MOST tough cuts are preferred

“well done,” using temperatures between 135F and 145F,

desirable results can usually be achieved within 48 hours, with the added application of the pinch test.

In the case of cured beef, the concept of rareness goes out the window, and, typically, temps between 140f and 150F create the highest quality product, meanwhile causing the least cellular damage and color degradation.

 

Sous Vide Temperature and Time - Pig2a

Pork-Fresh or Cured

In order to be safe (and to pasteurize), processing temps can start as low as 129F. Temperatures can range up to as high as you want, but, to fully take advantage of the SV process, they

rarely go above 150F.

Even though

pork can be safe at 129F,

most people are much more familiar with, and prefer, the appearance of well done. Therefore, boneless pork is typically processed at temps

starting at about 135F.

Cuts with a lot of bone may require an extra 5F to minimize “pink along the bone,” where penetration experiences greater resistance–processing at the lower temps may run the risk of pathogen free autolysis, which is what typically creates a sour, “off” odor, and even bag inflation.

Most pork cuts are then “reprocessed” via BBQ, smoker, oven, fryer, etc. The results still benefit from the SV processing, as most practitioners discover in short order.

That being said, tender cuts like chops, baby backs, and tenderloin achieve pasteurization @135F-140F “Medium” within 4 hours. Tougher cuts like shoulder, leg, spareribs and belly achieve the pasteurized state at the same rate, but take longer to achieve tenderness, depending on the temperature used.

@135F, most cuts can will be tender after 24 hours,

although many people go considerably longer, and hotter, to achieve the “pulled pork” result. Again, use the pinch test to refine results.

A word about fresh pork: Fortunately for us, our romantic notions about food safety have been dispelled, as a result of learning about SV. Not so for the public. If you plan to serve fresh pork “right out of the bag,” and you process lower than 145F, you may find yourself making last minute adjustments to accommodate your guests.

 

Sous Vide Temperature and Time chicken1

Poultry

In order to be safe (and to pasteurize),

processing temps can start as low as 132F.

Temperatures can range up to as high as you want, but, to fully take advantage of the SV process,

they rarely go above 150F.

Even though poultry CAN be safe at 132F, most people are much more familiar with, and prefer, the appearance of well done, with the occasional exception of duck breast. Therefore,

poultry is typically processed at temps starting at about 135F.

Chicken (and other poultry) are frequently “reprocessed” via BBQ, smoker, oven, fryer, etc. The results still benefit from the SV processing, as most practitioners discover in short order.

That being said, chicken achieves pasteurization @135F within 4 hours. Turkey takes longer, only because it is larger, so, usually 6 to 8 hours becomes the guideline. Some people process drunsticks and thighs longer, or higher, to achieve desired results, but this is optional. Tenderness is rarely an issue with poultry, but, the pinch test can still be applied as desired.

 

Sous Vide Temperature and Time sheep1

Lamb

In order to be safe (and to pasteurize),

processing temps start at 129F.

If there are bones still attached to the meat, I usually recommend 132F to compensate for the difference in thermal conductivity of bone vs meat. Temperatures can range up to as high as you want, but, to fully take advantage of the SV process,

they rarely go above 150F.

The appearance of doneness that we refer to as

“rare” is right there @129F,

and graduates to well done subjectively somewhere between 140F and 150F.

That being said, tender cuts racks and chops achieve pasteurization @129F, “Rare” within 4 hours. Tougher cuts like leg and shoulder achieve the pasteurized state at almost the same rate (due to slight differences in thickness), but take longer to achieve tenderness, depending on the temperature used. @129F-132F, some cuts can take as long as 48 hours to become tender, although somewhere between 24 and 36 hours usually achieves excellent results. Again, use the added application of the pinch test.

That’s it. A good, basic primer on Sous Vide Temperature and Time to get you started.

IT’S AS SIMPLE AS THAT.

Sous Vide Temperature and Time - Pinch1

The Pinch Test

Time results may vary, so, the best way to tell if your meat is tender to your liking is to “pinch” it, while it is still in the bag. It’s pretty easy to tell using this method, even for the novice.

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Shocking

Shocking refers to putting a completed SV project into cold water, or ice water, to quickly reduce the temperature to safe levels (40F). This cannot be achieved practically by just putting a hot package in a refrigerator, and, it also puts surrounding foods at risk by raising the temperature inside the fridge. Therefore, sealed packages to be served later should be cooled in ice water, or, at least, cold running tap water, to 70F within two hours after processing, and to 40F within two hours after that.