What Causes a Chewy Sous Vide Steak?

There are a few common reasons why your sous vide steak may turn out chewy and tough rather than tender:


Sous Vide Products I Use Every Day

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Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
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IMPRESA [10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged & In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags & Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, & Racks
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
IMPRESA [10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged & In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags & Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, & Racks
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
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Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
Anova Culinary AN400-US00 Nano Sous Vide Precision Cooker, 12.8" x 2.2" x 4.1", Black
$99.00
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
Anova Precision Cooker Container 12L
$129.00
IMPRESA [10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged & In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags & Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, & Racks
IMPRESA [10 pack] Sous Vide Magnets to Keep Bags Submerged & In Place - Sous Vide Accessories to Stop Floating Bags & Undercooking - Great Alternative to Sous Vide Weights, Balls, Clips, & Racks
$24.99
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
Anova Culinary ANVS01-US00 Anova Precision Vacuum Sealer, Includes 10 Precut Bags, For Sous Vide and Food Storage
$79.00
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
Wevac Vacuum Sealer Bags 8x50, 11x50 Rolls 2 pack for Food Saver, Seal a Meal, Weston. Commercial Grade, BPA Free, Heavy Duty, Great for vac storage, Meal Prep or Sous Vide
$16.14

Last update on 2024-05-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


 

Incorrect Temperature

Cooking the steak at too low of a temperature is one of the main culprits of a chewy texture. The collagen and connective tissue will not adequately break down at temperatures under 130°F. While a very high temperature above 160°F can also cause meat to seize up and toughen. The ideal temperature range for tender steak is 130-140°F.

Inadequate Cooking Time

Cooking times that are too short will prevent the collagen and connective tissue from fully transforming into tender gelatin. Thick cuts of meat often need to cook for many hours, sometimes up to 72 hours for extreme tenderness. Refer to time and temperature charts to determine the ideal cooking duration.

Poor Quality Meat

Tough cuts of meat with a lot of collagen and connective tissue may never become tender, no matter how long they cook sous vide. It is best to choose tender cuts like ribeye, strip, or tenderloin. Well-marbled steaks with adequate intramuscular fat will also be more tender.

Inappropriate Seasoning

While seasoning is important for flavor, some ingredients can toughen the meat. Too much salt can cause steak to tighten and seize up, becoming chewy. Acidic marinades that are left on too long can start to cook the meat and give it a rubbery texture.

Improper Searing

An inadequate sear will fail to caramelize the exterior of the meat and develop those flavorful browned bits. But overcooking during sear can result in a tough outer layer. Use high heat for a brief time just until browned.

How to Prevent a Chewy Sous Vide Steak

Follow these steps to ensure your sous vide steak comes out perfectly tender from edge to edge:

1. Choose the Right Cut of Meat

Pick a naturally tender cut like ribeye, New York strip, filet mignon, or sirloin. Tenderloin and loin cuts will generally be the most tender. Opt for well-marbled steaks for added moisture and tenderness. Grass-fed beef has less fat so may become chewier.

2. Use the Correct Temperature and Cooking Time

Refer to reliable sous vide time and temperature charts. For medium-rare doneness, cook fattier ribeyes and strips at 131-134°F for 2-4 hours, and lean tenderloins at 133-140°F for 1-4 hours depending on thickness. Thicker cuts need more time.

3. Season Your Steak Properly

Lightly salt your steak before vacuum sealing, about 1/4 tsp per pound. Pepper and other seasoning can be added after cooking. Avoid marinades and excessive salt which could start curing the meat.

4. Sear Your Steak Correctly

After cooking sous vide, pat your steak very dry. Get your skillet or grill extremely hot. Quickly sear the steak 30-60 seconds per side just until nicely browned and caramelized. Do not overcook.

5. Rest Your Steak After Cooking

Let your steak rest at least 5 minutes before slicing to allow juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat. This prevents excess moisture loss as you cut into it.

Conclusion: Tips for Achieving Tender Sous Vide Steak

Perfectly cooked sous vide steak is tender enough to cut with a fork. To avoid chewing on rubbery meat, remember these tips:

  • Cook at the right temperature (130-140°F for medium rare)
  • Allow ample time for collagen to break down
  • Pick high quality, well-marbled cuts
  • Season minimally before cooking
  • Quickly sear over very high heat
  • Let steak rest before serving

Mastering these techniques will give you fork-tender sous vide steak every time. Sous vide cooking offers unparalleled control for getting steak cooked precisely to your preferred degree of doneness while still being tender. Follow this guide and you’ll be guaranteed moist, buttery-soft steak that melts in your mouth with delicious beefy flavor in every bite.