Chuck / Top Blade Steaks 28h @ 132F - dry AND chewy!?

After having a vegetarian visitor for 3 weeks, I was finally able to use my new Precision Cooker with meat.

So I bought some "Choice Top Blade Steaks" from my local Kroger. I guess they took some Chuck, divided it into small pieces/stripes (three pieces glued together could form a thin cut Filet Tenderloin) cutting out the big tendon.

I figured this as a lean yet tough cut of meat and my plan was to transform this to somehow tender steaks.

So I divided the six pieces of meat (a little more than 1lb in total) into 2 portions and bagged it (with a tiny little bit of salt, which might have been my first mistake?) with my foodsaver.

I set the Precision Cooker to 132F / 55.5C dropped the first bag and 12h later the second one (I wanted to compare the results). 
I took both out at the same time after 34h and 22h. I saved the liquid. 

Not being at home this week I cannot measure it, but it should be about 3 tablespoons. 

Both parts looked similar. Color wise, some sides of the meat were brown, and some (where you saw the "fibres" - like when you cut into a prepared steak) looked actually more like medium or even medium well. 

Slightly scared, I finished it on my preheated Gas Grill giving some additional heat to the sides with my Propane Torch. It's highly unlikely that I overcooked it during that part. 

The result was dry AND chewy. And btw... pretty flavorless, too.

How could this happen? Any thoughts or ideas?



Hi Michael. I think we begin on a quest when we first start cooking with a water bath… to lay hands on the cheapest toughest meat we can find and turn it into filet mignon gold. Lol.
If you are concerned that your Anova is not calibrated properly then get
yourself a good quick read thermometer and verify the temperatures.
Don’t take this as any kind of definitive answer, but I would guess your cut of meat would have been perfect at 48 hours or even a bit longer. 132 degrees (F) is about as low as you can safely cook beef and it will take the maximum time to make it tender, etc. 
I would also say don’t be afraid to use salt- I tend to go heavier than I would normally season with and always get good results.
Understand that cooking at 132 degrees (F), assuming the temperature is correct, you will need to be extremely careful to make sure that your protein is on a rack fully immersed in the water (no air pockets, not clipped to the side or sitting on the bottom, don’t pull it out to open it or check on it, etc.). If anything comes out smelling bad don’t eat it.
Try again and in the meantime get a good 2-3 pound roast or something
that you can cook flawlessly and get a few successful cooks under your
belt. Once you drink the kool aid the quest to make a meal out of old
tennis shoes and rubber tires can continue. =)

First I think it was a baddish cut of meat. Happens.

Second it may have been cooked too long for it's thickness.

My first experiences with steak/beef were wonderful. Seemed I couldn't go wrong.

Recently I bought a chuck roast, sliced it into chuck steaks, and had nothing but trouble.

Cooked one for 8 hours and was tough as an old boot. Cooked for 8 hours more and still chewy. 8 hours more and it was reasonable, but not by any means wonderful. It was still rarish, but dry. Not mushy but not juicy.

So I tried again and no better results.

The next one I pounded it mightily with a meat mallet and fried it in a pan. Was actually much better. Made a giant pot of stew with the rest which was excellent. Go figure.

Not saying buy expensive meat, because I don't and mostly it is superb. But it sounds like you got a less than optimal piece.  

I have always preferred my steak blue rare when cooked conventionally, but for sous vide I find that 138 degrees is better. Taste and texture and juiciness. It is a different animal in a way.

Just last weekend I made a special trip to a gourmet butcher and got some grass fed chuck roast steaks. Vacced them with salt only (cos I wanted lots of bag juice) and put them in at 55c at 1pm on Saturday. Monday evening I fished it out, patted it thoroughly dry (important!) and put it in a searing hot cast iron pan with just a small splash of vegetable oil (high smoke point, don’t use olive oil for this). The smoke alarm literally went off, it was that hot. I wish I had taken some photos. Best steak I had ever eaten in my 45+ years on this planet. I gave up buying meat from our local supermarket because I was consistently getting bad results to the point where I nearly gave up on steak altogether. 

My point is, you can get lucky with supermarket meat but sometimes it’s bad luck and not good. Go to a meat specialist with a reputation for ethically raised, local quality produce and you are guaranteed good results every time, no luck required. That’s the beauty of sous vide, it’s repeatability. The only variable is the quality of what you put in the bag. As old programmers say, “garbage in, garbage out”.

The added bonus is that you’re supporting local producers instead of the shareholders of international corporations who are always putting the squeeze on those same producers. 

FWIW after decanting the steak from the hot pan. I tipped in the bag juices and half a glass of dry white wine (that I happened to have in my hand at the time) and reduced it to half, and then dropped in a large knob of butter. Best pan sauce ever too :stuck_out_tongue:

I have always avoided salt when doing long cooks. I want the finished
meat to be juicy and salt I thought draws moisture from the meat. When I
have some time I will try and do some research to see what the
prevailing wisdom is for sous vide. I do know that when doing smoked
meats for hours on end that it is recommended that you leave the salt
out of the rub. I assumed that that would transfer over to sous vide
long cooks.

Thanks for all the answers.:slight_smile:

Some of you indicated concern about the usage of pre-cut steaks instead of a roast. This would make a huge difference for traditionally cooked meat. But after my understanding and everything what I’ve read, this shouldn’t make a difference for sous-vide.

I guess that was exactly what I was trying to do. lol
I do have several cooking Thermometers, but it just didn’t cross my mind to question the Anova… until it was to late (for this cook). I will double-check the temperature next time, though.
I was really unsure about the temperature and time combination. I know that 132F is not only the lowest really save temperature and I think it is also the one where collagen actually starts to dissolve. To dissolve very slowly. So it really might have been too short.
But I wonder if the meat wouldn’t have gotten even drier… and the color looked strange (overdone), too. 

I don’t think that the thickness matters when we talk about cooking tough meats. There should be an even temperature in the piece of meat after a couple of hours - even for a roast. After that… the added energy should be mostly “used” to dissolve collagen.  
I appears that also dries out the meat, what I did not expect for medium rare sous vide cooked meat.
138F sounds pretty high. You really liked that?

Usually we get Grass Fed / Free Range (for Chicken) / Wild Caught (for Fish). This time, there simply was no time to go looking for it.
One idea of me adapting sous-vide was to make cheaper cuts of quality meat enjoy-able without braising it (all the time).
About the sauce… it was long day and there wasn’t really a sauce needed for the dish, I saved the bag-juice and froze it for future use. :slight_smile:
I think this is a kind of reversible process. Due to the salt concentration osmosis draws water out of the meat and salt into it. Since the concentrations have now changed, (at least some of) the water is drawn back into the meat.
My greater fear was that the Salt altered the texture of the meat. Next time, I won’t salt. Just to be sure…

My first steaks were cooked in an electric pressure cooker at around 140 degrees as that was what I had and that was the closest reasonable temperature I could find. They were great and I did several more including a T-Bone and all were juicy and on the rare side of medium rare. More red than pink.

But I have since learned that the digital thermometer I used was off by a few degrees so they may have been cooked 136 degrees.

I have an Anova now and I cooked steaks cut from the same roast at 126 degrees. IMO they were not as good as steaks done conventionally. The texture was almost flaky or shreddy? Hard to describe. And they weren't hot. Cold steak is fine with me generally and with a blue rare steak I like that small raw bit in the middle, but these were disappointing.

I plan to try a few more temperatures plus different steaks as I am sure I will like many okay and may find the perfect time/temp.

As to time, too long will turn a steak mushy I have read. I had sous vide short ribs in a highly rated restaurant an they were dreadful. Mushy and chewy. Not sure how that can be done to short ribs but they did it. They overcooked the eggs as well. Side dishes were very good though.

As to salt I did the kosher salt sitting on top of the steak for an hour before wiping and bagging, and the 3 day fake dry aging with soy and fish sauce and both were excellent and juicy and rare. Mostly I salt before searing but I doubt it will ruin a steak.

As I am far from an expert and don't get too upset at failure except when I am being a show off for guests. Overconfidence can be ugly:(

I am sure you will make that perfect steak the next time.

I have settled on 132° F for my steaks and it has worked well for me. Honestly the data says that is medium rare but it looks more like what I would expect a rare steak to look like. Maybe all the medium rares I had before were overcooked.

Top blade steak is a fairly tender cut of steak ( excluding the center tendon). The steak should be cooked maybe 1 - 2 hours at preferred temperature for doneness. Top blade shouldn’t be treated like a chuck steak. I have cooked both with my Anova 1. You over cooked your top blade. Eight hours is way too long.

I came to strongly defend what kyleIam said.

Two and half hours ago I googled “sous vide top blade” and came across this post. I was prepared to bath the meat for 8 hrs or more. Thankfully I read kyleIam’s comment and decided to give it a try on one of the pieces. Boy am I glad I did. I just enjoyed a tender, juicey, flavorful piece of top blade.

135F for 2 hrs. Took out of bath and ran under cold water for 30 seconds on each side. Took out ziploc and pat dry. Seared the meat one minute on each side on a cast iron.

Oh my god it was amazing. Even the center connective tissue melted in my mouth. Can’t stress it enough…TWO HOURS IS ALL YOU NEED.

Next time I’ll probably try it at 140F just for kicks.

Many thanks to kyleIam for his 2 cents.

Reinforcing this last advice, because there’s so many contradictory advice for the blade steak.

I bought a large 5lb roast and cut them up into 5, roughly 1lb pieces. The inner most tip had beautiful marbling, and it came out amazingly tender after 2 hours at 134f. Even the connective tissue in the middle just melted in my mouth. Was better than the tenderloin I had last night.