How long is too long?

I’m obviously new to the whole Sous Vide concept (I’m sure you’ll tell by my question lol) and was wondering how long is too long to sous vide? To be specific, what would happen if I had a chicken breast cook for 8 hours, while I was at work? Also, why would a brisket be okay to cook for 24 hours, but a sirloin is only recommended up to about 4 hours (I believe that’s what the app said.) I do realize that thickness is a factor, but the way it was described in the app, the longer cooking times seem to make the brisket more tender; doesn’t that translate over to the sirloin and the chicken?

It seems like sous vide wouldn’t overcook things, per-say, but judging by some of these recommended times, I’m guessing that my thought was wrong. I’m used to slow cookers, where you can just switch it to a “warm” setting and let it sit for about 10 hours with no problem.

Thanks in advance!

There’s lots of information available - both here as well as other sources (such as Serious Eats). Lots of good books you can find on Sous Vide as well.

There’s no simple rule - you’re correct, thickness certainly plays a part - as the thicker the cut, the longer you need to cook it so that it’s your desired level of “doneness” throughout.

Cooking beef (most cuts) tends to only make them more tender - similar to Kobe beef if you leave them long enough (some people don’t like that consistency). But, you can certainly leave things on for too long. (just as, with a slow cooker, if you left your chilli on for a few days, it would basically be reduced to a paste as all of the beans would have broken down).

It’s super forgiving though. Not like grilling a steak where leaving it on an extra few minutes could turn it from medium rare into a well done hockey puck. :wink:

You really need to read up to get the most out of it. The app helps, but there’s an array of amazing recipes out there.

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Hey @Fork501! The reason brisket and sirloin are different times, is they are completely different cuts with completely different muscular and protein structures. Even if you cooked these traditional methods, in an oven or smoker, the sirloin will take 10-15 minutes and the brisket will take 10-12 hours. The same applies in sous vide. Sirloin is fairly lean and simply needs brought to temp, and not really tenderized as it cooks. Cook until internal temp is XYZ and you’re good to go. Brisket however is FULL of intramuscular fat that needs broken down over long periods of time to be edible. The long cook turns the collagen (inedible) into gelatin (edible and delicious!) and makes the cut desirable. As far as chicken, steak, etc, a long cook time will transform the proteins into stringy and spongy meat. The internal temp will be the same, it wont “overcook” in terms of temp, but it will have been cooked too long. The nice thing here is you still have hours of leeway. Chicken can be cooked 2 or 4. If you were cooking in the oven, you would have a range of minutes before it was overcooked! This is a really good jumping off point for reading about all sorts of different proteins


Tried a piece of venison, following a recipe I found on Internet: 24 hours @130ºF. A disaster! The meat had the texture of liver, tasted like it as well. A shame as it was a beautiful piece of meat. Lesson learned, you can overcook sous vide.

Was the cut of venison you used the same as the one in the recipe? Did the recipe specify a particular cut or did it just say venison?

I agree, there is the erroneous claim that you can’t overcook sous vide. But why people say it because the temperature can’t go past that of the bath. Time at temperature is a big part of cooking, no matter what method you use. Time is more flexible with sous vide, but ‘You can’t overcook’ is definitely an overstatement.

Commiserations on the ruined Venison.

Thanks, it was a piece of rump, similar to the recipe. I had marinated it in red wine & spices over night, then vacuum sealed & froze it. Maybe it was the combination of the three factors (wine, freezing & 24h cooking) that led to the disaster.

Live & learn

Could be. The freezing and thawing process can have a tenderising effect on meat. The moisture within the cells expands as it freezes and can break the membranes surrounding them. Quite possibly this made the difference.

It’s also possible that your rump was from a younger animal than the one used in the recipe. The age of an animal makes a huge difference in the texture of the meat. Even different breed can make a difference as some breeds range further afield than others or live in more mountainous areas.

There are so many variables.

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Yes, I suspect so. A friend who has a restaurant in Avila, specializes in game and always freezes it to make it “user friendly”. Breaks down the fibers, he tells me.

I have one chunk still in the freezer and will cook it up the old way and see what happens.