Another 54C gem... Beef cheeks

When I was researching sous vide beef cheeks for Mothers’ Day luncheon I noticed that everyone seemed to cook them at traditional slow braise temperatures, between 75C and 90C, that seemed to defeat the purpose of sous vide to me. So when I cooked beef cheeks for that luncheon I did them at 60C (I think) for 3 days. But this week I was wondering what my favourite 54C would do to beef cheeks.

The answer? See for yourself.

Looks good from the outside. 3 days at 54C and then pan seared. But what is it really like?

Abso-freaking-lutely amazing!!! Luscious and buttery. Yup. 54C is where it’s at!

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They look really good. Another cut of meat to try!

I didn’t even know you could buy beef cheeks!! Awesome!! That looks phenomenal!! (going to have to hit up my butcher for some!!)

That sauce looks marvellous - was it gravy or what was it? :slight_smile:

The sauce is a red wine and purge reduction. About 2 cups of red win reduced with caramelized mirepoix before introducing the cooking juice and reducing more. Then strain and reduce a bit more before adjusting and finishing with butter. It’s über rich.

Oh and the mash is a puree of celeriac and spud.

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Everything on that plate is GLORIOUS! Nice work!

Thought you might like a comparison between the 72 hour beef cheeks above and the most recent 60 hour edition.

The 60 hour version, also done at the magical 54C has the texture of a mega expensive, melt in the mouth steak. It definitely requires a knife to cut it with although the knife (though definitely not a serrated steak knife). This one is served on cauliflower puree with a quick mushroom and red wine sauce.

By comparison the cheek cooked for 72 hours at the magical 54C is able to be eaten with a fork. (Photo repeated for your convenience)

You can clearly see where the fibres are starting to fall apart. At this stage the cheek could be “pulled” apart with a pair of forks if so desired.

The classic “point a finger and it magically collapses under the weight of it all” texture of an old fashioned braise would take a little longer. Possibly another 6 hour bracket. I don’t really intend to push it this far as I’m quite happy with the two outcomes achieved so far. However, we all know interruptions and forgetfulness can blow cook times out beyond those intended. Who knows what will happen in the future.

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I’m intrigued.

Ember, could you describe the flavour (see what i did there?) of the beef cheek?

Is it just average, a bit more (chuck, flat iron) or intense beefy (brisket, plate, or navel) or more liver-y (liver, hanger / diaphragm steak) ?

Funny, pork cabeza is super easy to find here. Beef cheek, not so much…

Thanks.

Kinda hard, because of the way naming traditions vary greatly. I’m not at all sure what you call Flat Iron. I know what you call Hanger is the muscle strip attached to the diaphragm. I have seen references to flap here, but I have seen explanations that suggest flap is the diaphragm muscle itself. Though I have doubts. You can understand the problem. :slight_smile:

But cheek is a rich and intense hit of beefiness. It doesn’t have the fatiness of tail, but does have a similar rich flavour to the upper tail. I’m wondering if tri-tip might be close, but once again haven’t had the opportunity to try it.

Now brisket seems to only ever be offered here for sale corned. I will be talking to my friendly butcher about a point of brisket for pastrami.

Thanks @Ember.

According to the google (which is never wrong), flat iron steaks may be called “oyster blade steak” in Australia & New Zealand, or “butler’s steak” in the UK. It’s a cut from the forward shoulder.

Oxtail is more intense than tri-tip, although the long cooking process needed might have some part in this.

That’s right, now I remember we had the discussion on brisket and it’s lack of availability in an uncured form in your country. Shame. If you have the right smoker for it and 14 hours or so, a Texas style BBQ brisket is hard to beat.

Oyster blade i know. We use it as stewing steak. It is a two part muscle with a strip of ‘gristle’ through its middle.

I will be working on aquiring brisket soon. Even if I have to but a whole piece. I dobit often with a whole rump/round and set it to age for steaks.

In this area, when you get a flat iron, it’s been split and that layer has been removed. So it’s like half the steak or something…

From past conversations with some butchers that I know, I guess it’s not easy to split the muscle, a lot of forearm strength is necessary to peel it back so you can cut with the other hand. Prior to flat iron becoming popular, they said the whole cut would just go into the grinder for hamburgers.

You might ask for a Hanging Tender. This is what a US Hanger Steak may be called there. It is easy to recognize by the inedible strip down the middle. In many places these never make it to market as they are snatched up by restaurants and in the past the butchers themselves. If you can get one oyu will be rewarded as it is very flavorful and tender.

Seems to be more likely ‘skirt’ around here. I’ll have to have a chat to Jamie, my butcher. I see the remnants of it often on pork bellies that I’m prepping for bacon.

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In the US, skirt is the diaphragm.

Seems that Hanger is Hanger there. Yes, it is the muscle attached to the diaphragm.

Hi Ember,
Did you rub the meat in with dry herbs and spices before vacuum sealing or used liquid marinate to cook in? Do you mind sharing the recipe?
Also, are you not worried about the bacteria growth? From what I saw the 55C is the minimum you should cook the meat in to prevent the bacteria growth.
Thanks!

Nope. The cheeks were cooked naked. Didn’t even salt them until just before the sear. So there’s really no recipe to share other than perhaps the sauce, and that too was just a standard red wine beef sauce using the purge from cooking the cheeks.

Sautee diced onion in butter and EVOO until well caramelised. Add other mirepoix vegetables and sweat down. Add bouquet garni and 2 cups of red wine. Simmer to reduce to half volume or less. Add purge from beef cheeks. Simmer to allow myoglobin and albumin to clump. Strain through muslin to remove herbs, veg and protein clumps. Return to clean saucepan and keep reducing until desired richness is achieved. Adjust seasoning as required. If you want you can finish with some butter.

There’s many takes on the lowest safe long term mark. I’ve seen up to 60C quoted and down as low as 48C.

From Baldwin:

While there are many ways to kill food pathogens, cooking is the easiest. Every food pathogen has a temperature that it can’t grow above and a temperature it can’t grow below. They start to die above the temperature that they stop growing at and the higher above this temperature you go, the faster they die. Most food pathogens grow fastest a few degrees below the temperature that they start to die. Most food pathogens stop growing by 122°F (50°C), but the common food pathogen Clostridium perfringens can grow at up to 126.1°F (52.3°C). So in sous vide cooking, you usually cook at 130°F (54.4°C) or higher. (You could cook your food at slightly lower temperatures, but it would take you a lot longer to kill the food pathogens.)

54C (129F) is fine, although a smidge lower than his recommendation but well within the safe zone.

Great, thanks!
Did you consider rubbing it with some dry garlic, smoked paprica and herbs that are compatible with the wine sauce? Maybe the taste wold penetrate it more?
It looks really good from the photo though!
I will definitely try it next week.

Nope. Anything other than salt is only a topical application. Nothing but salt penetrates. And with something like this I didn’t want salt in the purge when it was going to be seriously reduced in the sauce. I quite frequently don’t salt meat before it goes for a swim.

hmm, that is not what I experienced from using sous-vide. I find that rubbing meats such as chicken thighs with dry spices before sous-viding them, gives the meat a nice flavor that you won’t achieve just by searing or sauce. Are talking about cheeks specifically or any type of meat?

You may think that such flavour rubs are flavouring the meat, but they are really only a surface treatment. Nothing but salt is going to actually penetrate the cellular structure of the meat. Any meat.

There is nothing at all wrong with topical application. In instances where you’re going to eat the outside and inside of the meat together in the once mouthful, like a steak, the external flavouring will seem to flavour the whole mouthful. In larger pieces of meat, for instance a roast, where the surface and interior of the meat are likely to be consumed separately there is less benefit in the application of surface flavourings.