Sous vide brisket debacle

As I said in the previous post that I just finished writing, I was cooking a beef brisket sous vide for 48 hours.The temp I used, 62°C which is a completely acceptable temp for this kind of meat was coming from Douglas Baldwin’s “Practical guide to sous vide cooking” he’s talking of 64°C, because I wanted to cook some pork belly with the brisket I decided to reduce the temp by 2°C.Comme je l’ai dit dans le message précèdent que je viens de finir d’écrire, j’ai cuit une poitrine de boeuf sous vide pendant 48 heures. La température que j’ai utilisée de 62°C – Ce qui est une température parfaitement raisonnable pour ce genre de viande, venait du “Guide pratique pour la cuisson sous vide” de Douglas Baldwin. Il propose une température de 64°C. Comme je voulais cuire une poitrine de porc en même temps que le boeuf, j’ai baissé de 2°

While the famed French Laundry is said to cook their brisket in a 147°F (64°C) water bath for 48 hours, I prefer to cook brisket at 176°F (80°C) for 24–36 hours.Les chefs du fameux “French Laundry” cuisent leur brisket dans un bain marie de 64°C pendant 48 heures, je préfère la cuire a 80°C pendant 24 à 36 heures

From A practical guide to sous vide cooking by Douglas BaldwinGuide Pratique pour la cuisson sous vide de Douglas Baldwin

I left the meat to cook for 48 hours from 7 pm on Sunday to 7 pm today (Tuesday). I couldn’t wait anymore to take the meat out of the water and eat the damn thing. When the time was up, I took it out. The feeling to the touch was odd, it didn’t feel as tender as I was expecting. It felt actually quite tough. Anyway I waited long enough. I grabbed a slicer knife an cut it open.J’ai laissé cuire la viande pendant quarante-huit heures. De 19 heures dimanche à 19 heures aujourd’hui (mardi). J’étais évidemment très impatient de retirer la viande du sac et de m’en faire un dîner. Le moment venu, je l’ai sortie de l’eau. Au touché la tendreté de la viande n’était pas celle à quoi je m’attendais. Elle avait l’air plutôt dure. J’avais assez attendu, j’ai attrapé un couteau à trancher et je l’ai coupé.

God it was beautiful, a bright red colour. completely appetizing. The knife went through quite easily, which was a good sign, well, my knives are quite sharp.Nom de dieu il était magnifique! Une belle couleur rouge intense. Très appétissant. Le couteau a traversé la viande très facilement ce qui était plutôt bon signe. Mais bon, mes couteaux sont plutôt bien aiguisés.

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But then, when I grabbed a piece, I realised that it was, indeed tough. The connective tissue were like rubber, the meat itself was reasonably tender, but it was stuck between these honeycomb-shaped pockets of rubbery collagen. it was completely inedible. I have to say that I was pissed off, the temp/time were pretty standard so the problem in my mind didn’t come from that side of the equation. I cooked ribs for twenty four hours in the same bath and they were perfectly cooked, so the circulator wasn’t the problem.C’est quand j’ai pris une tranche pour la goûter que je me suis rendu compte qu’elle était en fait dure. Les tissus conjonctifs avaient la consistance du caoutchouc, la viande en elle-même était passablement tendre, mais elle était emprisonnée dans des alvéoles de collagène. C’était complètement immangeable. Je dois dire que j’étais vraiment en colère. Les températures/temps étaient plutôt standard donc à mon sens le problème ne venait pas là. J’ai cuit des travers pendant 24 heures dans le même bain et ils étaient parfaitement cuit, donc le circulateur n’était pas en cause.

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So what caused this horrible result? The meat? I bought this piece of meat at Selfridges on Oxford street and I can tell you that they don’t give them away and they usually sell only top notch beef. so what? I don’t get it. The meat was spent some time in a brine, could this have caused the horrendous texture? I’m not sure I brine pretty much all my meat with no problems.Donc qu’est ce qui a causé cet horrible résultat? La viande? J’ai acheté cette viande à Selfridges sur Oxford street et je peux vous dire qu’elle n’est pas donnée et généralement ils vendent des viande de superbe qualités. Donc quoi? Je ne comprends pas. J’ai trempé la viande dans une solution saline avant la cuisson. Est-ce que cela serait la cause de la texture immonde de la viande? Je ne suis pas sûre, je fais cela avec quasiment toutes mes viandes sans problème.

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28 Responses to “Sous vide brisket debacle”

  1. Chris says:

    Die Homepage von Chris
    Hi, I have also cooked brisket from MB in Kent. Excellent quality meat. Anyway based on my experience it really depends on what results you are looking for. For british style sliced roast beef the lower temperatures ranges 55-60 degrees celcius will give a nice medium pink flesh.
    If you are looking for US style BBQ that you can shred with your hands or a fork I think 80degrees celcius and over is required to completely break down connective tissues. I usually use a dry memphis rub and make a bbq sauce with the liquid from the bag.

  2. Pritch says:

    Die Homepage von Pritch
    My first attempt at brisket left me pleased. 60 hours at 64C yielded tasty,slightly pink, very tender results.

    I started with a joint that was particularly well marbled and had a very healthy (unhealthy) layer of fat. I seasoned only with a sprinkling of salt and a few grinds of pepper in the cooking bag immediately prior to sealing and plunging. Joint did not look like above, but rolled flaps of meat.

    The fat did not render but became soft and unctuous and the juices from bag reduced in a pan and slightly thickened with a beurre manié, worked well with the accompanying roasted winter vegetables.

  3. Nicki D says:

    Die Homepage von Nicki D
    I just got a bit of brisket & have been reading through your comments. We did brisket a while ago for 2 days & at a lower temperature (55 I think) & it was so chewy it was almost unpalatable. We had invited the whole family round to sample our fabulous sous vide cooking so it was embarrassing & made me wary of cooking it again… But I got seduced at the meat counter…. I am keen to hear how the brisket worked out at both a higher temperature around 80 & lower temperature around 60 over 3 days. I have a pork shoulder cooking (with fresh rosemary & some soft brown sugar) at 60 just now (the most heavenly thing I have sous vided when I did it before), so I was going to put the beef in for Sunday dinner (it’s Thursday now) at the same time. If it is better cooked at a higher temp to get rid of the sinew I was going to increase the temperature once the pork is done. Any comments, suggestions would be most welcome!

  4. chris says:

    Die Homepage von chris
    There are 2 types of brisket — the “point” and the “flat”.
    Sometimes you can buy both together and separate them yourself.
    Other times, you can buy them separately. Sometimes they are
    labeled correctly — other times they aren’t. The picture you show
    is the “point”. It has totally different cooking characteristics
    then the “flat”. I bet that Laundry was talking about cooking a
    “flat” at 62 and Baldwin was talking about cooking a “point” at 80.
    It would explain the wildly differing temperature.

  5. AnttiP says:

    Die Homepage von AnttiP
    The Curious Cook, More Kitchen Science and Lore, Harold
    McGee, 1990, page 47: “Strands of beef collagen don’t begin to
    unravel until the temperature exceeds 140 F (60 C), and they don’t
    dissolve into gelatin in any appreciable quantity below 180 F (82
    C)

  6. Mark says:

    Die Homepage von Mark
    I have my brisket on at 80C for 24 hours. Will report back.

    • Jaunty says:

      Die Homepage von Jaunty
      Mark (& Tim from 20th August post) how did that brisket come out? I am about to salt beef cure 2 x 1.2kg pieces of brisket and when they come out of the brine in a week or so I will be putting them in my shiny new Sous Vide Supreme. I need to decide what temp and for how long…Thanks, Jaunty London UK.

  7. Peter says:

    Die Homepage von Peter
    Late to the party here, but that, in my opinion, is not brisket.

    Brisket is never more than 3″ or so tall, it slopes from that down to maybe 1.5″, depending on where the butcher cuts it.

    I would describe the texture as ‘ropy’; you have to cut it across the grain, even if it’s been slow-cooked. Your beef doesn’t have the ‘ropy’ look to it — I think you got the wrong cut.

    Best,

    Peter

    • brian says:

      Die Homepage von brian
      I agree with Peter. This doesn’t look like the brisket cuts
      I’m used to getting. I’m about to take a stab at this tomorrow.
      Game plan…. Brine for 2-3 hours, dry, season, then smoke over
      hickory at a low temp roughly 150 for 1 hour, vacuum seal and sous
      vide at 150 for 48-60 hours. I will make 2 pouches to test which
      one is better and reply with results. I have sous vide a lot of
      pork recently (both smoked and unsmoked) 90% successful. Crossing
      my fingers we get some delicious results.

  8. Tim says:

    Die Homepage von Tim
    I did brisket (MB Farms, Stockbury in Kent), brined for 3 hours in 3.5% maldon salt and 3.5% sugar brine then 80C and 24 hrs a la Dr Baldwin but with loads of herbs and a little soy rather than salt and it was really lovely. Wonderful with a sweet chilli sauce and asian salad. I’m going to do a lamb shoulder, brisket and pork belly all at 80 this weekend… wish me luck!

    • casquette says:

      Die Homepage von casquette
      I need to have a go. I never cooked brisket to such a high temperature, always did it at 66C for 72 hours. Has a tendency to dry out if not basted enough with fat.

      N.

  9. KCbbq says:

    Die Homepage von KCbbq
    I don’t know that this is fits with sous vide recipes that exist, or if this will yield the result you expect, but in traditional American BBQ brisket is often treated a bit differently than other cuts of beef. Because it’s such a tough cut of meat, it is generally cooked in a smoker over a heat ranging between 85-105 degrees C, for about 8-16 hours until it reaches an internal temperature of 85 degrees, which as you know is definitely well done.

    The reason this is done is that connective tissue won’t break down into gelatin until the meat is approaching 85 degrees. The longer the meat is held at this temperature, the more that tissue breaks down and the more tender it becomes. Some briskets end up so tender you have to cut it in slices that are 3/4cm+ thick. And even with this, flavor isn’t sacrificed, as it’s often eaten without and sort of sauce.

    That said, I would love to give it a shot sous vide (But first I’m going to have to DIY a system…). My thought would be to go two days at 85 degrees (with about a 1cm fat cap facing up), or until the fat has almost completely melted. Then, let it rest (and cool), finally throwing it on a grill with some wood chips and letting it absorb the smoke flavor and get crusty on the outside while it finishes and reheats.

    • casquette says:

      Die Homepage von casquette
      I will try the 85 degrees for 48hours and let you know the result even though if you believe Douglas Baldwin and Bruno Goussault (Which I do), the optimum temperature for the denaturation of Collagen by heat is between 62 et 63 °C (143.6 and 145.4 °F).

      Cheers

      Nicolas

      • Jonah says:

        Die Homepage von Jonah
        I think those temps are a little high. Connective tissue (collagen/elastin converted to gelatin) breakdown happens at any temp above 70c, at that point is becomes a function of time (longer time needed at lower temps).
        Rendering fat happens about 80c, adn again is a function of temp and time.

        I prefer to get nice, fatty brisket, cook it SV at 58.5 for 48h, cool it down completely(around 5c), and then finish it on my weber grill on indirect heat (this is probably around 285c) for 45 minutes, until the internal temp is back to around 58.5.

        At that point a lot of the fat will have rendered off, but the meat will still be medium rare.

  10. Die Homepage von Home Cooked: Sous Vide Brisket 55C 48h « Food In Singapore and the Rest of the World
    [...] had the same brisket-flop last Xmas (Frank Hsu quoted me in this blog ), and I also suspect I had a cut of “brisket” that was not beef breast but some other [...]

  11. Lennardy says:

    Die Homepage von Lennardy
    I just want to say that I tried cooking a brisket over the last few days, 55C for 48 Hours. Procedure was:
    - Brine meat for 2.5 hours in 4% salt, 3% sugar, teaspoon of liquid smoke soln
    -Pat dry and sear fatcap
    -Season with salt, pepper and a little garlic powder, Vacuum Seal
    -Place in water bath
    -Quick sear after cooking

    I had similar results to yours, meat itself was fairly okay, A nice Medium rare-ish colour, but the elastin had not dissolved which made the meat very tough, also, looking at the cross sectional cut of your meat, mine seems to have even less marbling than yours, which probably explains why my meat was incredibly dry as well. If you’ve tried a higher temp (80C for 24-36 hours), do let me know if you get better results

    • casquette says:

      Die Homepage von casquette
      Hi, I’m cooking one at the moment in the sous vide supreme at 66°C for 72 hours, it will come out of the water bath tomorrow evening. I’ll let you know how it
      went. This time it was a fatter piece and I rolled it, so I had fat at the center. Hopefully it shouldn’t be as dry.
      .

      • ianinfrance says:

        Die Homepage von ianinfrance
        Hi Casquette,

        On the 17th May you said
        “Hi, I’m cooking one at the moment in the sous vide supreme at 66°C for 72 hours, it will come out of the water bath tomorrow evening. I’ll let you know how it”.

        But since then…… So how was it?

        I’m dying to try it, but don’t want another débâcle.

        • casquette says:

          Die Homepage von casquette
          Sorry I just got back to my blog. I was swamped at work. I did cook a brisket in the SVS at 66°C for 72 hours and it came out perfect. Tender and moist. I would recommend buying a piece of meat with a good fat content overwise it has a tendency to dry out even sous vide.
          N.

  12. Die Homepage von Polyscience 7306 Immersion circulator review. | Fifty four degrees
    [...] brisket (a real one, this time) is in a brine ready for a 48 hours slow cooking and duck legs are being salted to get confit-ed [...]

  13. Robert Jueneman says:

    Die Homepage von Robert Jueneman
    I routinely cook brisket from 48 to 72 hours at 55.5C, with delectable results. The last one I cooked (yesterday) was labelled Select, so it wasn’t the cream of the crop in terms of native tenderness, yet it was very flavorful and quite tender when served.

    It is by far my favorite sous vide recipe.

  14. Frank Hsu says:

    Die Homepage von Frank Hsu
    “honeycomb-shaped pockets of rubbery collagen”
    I think it is the elastin not collagen. Elastin is difficult to get gelatinized like collagen. May be the meat is not really a brisket cut. It looks a bit too thick to me. Douglas is right: cooking at higher temperature for shorter period of time may solve this problem.

    • casquette says:

      Die Homepage von casquette
      I’m going back to Selfridges on Saturday and will make the butcher eat that meat. The label said Beef brisket. The way it came out didn’t make any sense at all.
      Thanks for the info. Now I’ll be more careful.

      • Frank Hsu says:

        Die Homepage von Frank Hsu
        My friend Dr. Peter Gruber in Switzerland had the same problem.
        The real brisket cuts are just flaps about 1 to 1.5 inches thick and with fat layers in between. They are different grades (cow, steer and veal). Cow cuts are very tough all round. Veal briskets may be good for your blog Temperature setting (54C!) but shorter time may be required (24 to 36 hrs). Don’t trim the fat before sousviding!

    • Chef Ricardo says:

      Die Homepage von Chef Ricardo
      167F 18hrs… Period.
      I cook all the time, I Just took 1st Place at the South Sound BBQ Festival. Over 8000 People were there. Ribs, Pulled Pork & Brisket
      Same Temp & Time. Ice Chill & Then Finish on the Wood Fired Grill.

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