Tough meat - How long to cook to make tender.

Hi folks

Forgive me if this has already been covered, but I can’t find a thread on it.

I’ve had a few spectacular failures cooking tough cuts of meat. They cooked perfectly with the temperature and timings I had looked up, except they were still tough.

Are there any guidelines for additional cooking time for dissolving the connective tissue etc in tough cuts?



It would help if you told us which cuts of meat you’re talking about as well as the times and temps you used.

Some is wrong with your technique Kevin.
As my daughter often says, using my Anova i could make flip-flops tender and delicious if i had to.

I have difficulty understanding how you can reach out for guidance without providing any useful details on what you have been doing. If i could read minds over a distance i wouldn’t be posting here but using those powers at a casino blackjack table. But i don’t, so please help.

We need details.

Too much information would be better.

Want to try again?

( And people wonder why cooks have a reputation for being temperamental cranks. )

Specifics are required for trouble shooting, but there are still some basics that we can talk about.

Its a really great idea to have some basic understanding of animal anatomy. Knowing where your cut of meat comes from on a beastie will help you know how much work it’s done. Working muscles taste terrific, but they are strong muscle groups containing a lot of connective tissue. To get tenderness out of these muscle groups we need to convert the collagen of those connective tissues into luscious gelatin. This is a process that takes time at temperature. (Notice how often this phrase comes in to play with sous vide?)

The higher the temperature you cook at, the faster the conversion of collagen. Conversely, the lower the temperature you use (always outside the danger zone for long cooks) the longer you will need for the conversion to take place.

Here’s a good article on what happens to meat during the cooking process. It’s taken from a ‘slow cook’ perspective rather than sous vide but the denaturing process is the same.

With sous vide cooking, due to the accuracy of temperature control, we can select the desired ‘doneness’ of the meat and hold it there for long enough for the collagen to denature. There will always be a little trial and error involved to work out how to achieve the texture you desire, because everyone likes something different.


Nice response.

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Thanks for coming back.

I am looking for rules of thumb, should something like that exist. I can always dig around and get the answer for this cut and thickness or that.

Thanks again


Nope. No rule of thumb that I’ve come across, because the time that it takes depends upon the temperature that you use as well as the cut of meat. Too many variables to make a rule.

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I did not give specifics because I was asking if there were guidelines. I can always find specifics… Just need to hunt them down.

I have been following a mixture of the Poly Science app which allows for added tenderness time, but does not give advice and Douglas Baldwin’s ‘Sous Vide for the home cook’ along with the Web of course.

My error on a couple of occasions was not to add time for toughness.

I am hoping to find a reference which I can use as a ‘one place look-up.’

Thanks for coming back.

Be well.

Thanks Ember.

I’ve found huge variations in recommended times even for simple vegetables.

So I’m back to building up experience along with Baldwin’s work and this site amongst others.

I guess I will just have to get more experience.


Thanks again Ember - Very good link… A little more digestible that Bladwin’s, “Sous Vide Cooking: A Review”!

Your posts have been very helpful.


I have often run into conflicting time and temperatures for a given recipe from different websites. For example I was looking at a Turkey thigh roast and I got temperatures from 62C, 64.5C, 65C, 66C, and 75C (5 different websites) and times varies from 3 hours to 24 hours.
So my solution is to keep an accurate log book (small paper pad) and write as much details as possible for every cook I do (including the results ie. tough, wrong texture, etc…) After a couple of tries for each cut of meat I have a good estimate of what work for me.

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Hey On, there no better way. Keep on.

I’ve been doing some research on this and here are the guidelines I was looking for. Just in case someone else comes across this thread with the same question. Having said that the advice I got here,“make notes of what you do and learn from experience” is the next step from this starting point, I am sure.

These are my notes from “Sous Vide Cooking a Review” By Douglas Baldwin.

Available here:

Red meat:
At sous vide cooking temperatures between 55C and 60 C, many of the enzymes have been denatured but some of the collagens are active and can significantly increase tenderness after about 6 hours (Tornberg, 2005)

Collagen fibres start shrinking around 60 C but contract more intensely 65C Shrinking mostly destroys this triple-stranded helix structure, transforming it into random coils that are soluble in water and are called gelatin.

Muscles used for pulling the legs backwards have a higher level of elastin which does not break down with temperature. So toughness will not reduce with cooking.

In general, the tenderness of meat increases from 50C to 65C/ but then decreases up to 80C (Powell et al., 2000; Tornberg, 2005).

At 80C/176F, Davey et al. (1976) found that these effects occur within about 12–24 hours with tenderness increasing only slightly when cooked for 50 to 100 hours.
At lower temperatures (50C/120F to 65C/150F), Bouton and Harris (1981) found that tough cuts of beef (from animals 0–4 years old) were the most tender when cooked to between 55C/131F and 60C/140F. Cooking the beef for 24 hours at these temperatures significantly increased its tenderness (with shear forces decreasing 26%–72% compared to 1 hour of cooking). This tenderizing is caused by weakening of connective tissue and proteolytic enzymes decreasing myofibrillar tensile strength. Indeed, collagen begins to dissolve into gelatin above about 55F/131F. Moreover, the sarcoplasmic protein enzyme collagenase remains active below 60C/ 140F and can significantly tenderize the meat if held for more than 6 hours (Tornberg, 2005)

For example, tough cuts of meat, like beef chuck and pork shoulder, take 10–12 hours at 80C/175F or 1–2 days at 55–60C/130–140F to become fork-tender.

Intermediate cuts of meat, like beef sirloin, only needs 6–8 hours at 55–60C/130–
140F to become fork-tender because the tenderization from the enzyme collagenase
is sufficient.

I also found to be helpful.

I hope it is of use to someone.



Thank you for sharing what you found, that is a good concise explanation of how much extra time is needed for tenderising connective tissue. Very helpful.