30 Hour Sous-Vide Eye of Round Roast

Please welcome Mr. B for his first guest post on Bunkycooks.  I asked him to write about our experiences cooking with the PolyScience Sous Vide Professional Chef Series since he has been the scientist behind all the madness preparing and cooking foods by this method in our kitchen. He is the analytic and mathematician in our family, so who better to deal with the scientific aspects of cooking sous-vide than Mr. B?!

Sous-vide (cooking foods in a vacuum sealed bag at low temperatures in water) has become all the rage.  Most restaurant chefs and now many home cooks are discovering the benefits of this slow cook method.  Chef Anthony Lamas of Seviche, A Latin Restaurant, located in Louisville, Kentucky, recently said many people are using sous-vide just because it is the cool new kitchen tool.  He said that sous-vide has its place and it should be selectively used in situations where it will improve the food.

With that in mind, I decided to experiment with sous-vide.  I am a bit of an analytic so I knew I would come up with something that would appeal to engineers our readers and provide some very useful guidance.

One of the biggest benefits of sous-vide is that it allows you to slowly cook food to a precise temperature.  Its not over-cooked or under-cooked.  Cooking times are less precise as the food is brought to the exact temperature using the water circulator and then held at that temperature for as long as you leave it in the water bath.

Beef Eye of Round Roast ready to go in the sous-vide water bath

All foods have different cooking temperatures in sous-vide.  Here are the cooking temperatures for the water bath, which is also the final core temperature of the meat:

Short ribs                        medium                    140 degrees Fahrenheit
Roast Beef                        medium                    131 degrees Fahrenheit
Tenderloin                        medium                    142 degrees Fahrenheit
Port Tenderloin                   medium rare               140 degrees Fahrenheit
Salmon                            partially cooked          115 degrees Fahrenheit
Flounder                          medium                    117 degrees Fahrenheit
Chicken                                                     165 degrees Fahrenheit

Sous-vide allows you to precisely achieve and hold the specified temperature.  It is also easier to obtain very specific temperatures even up to 1/10 of one degree.  Can you imagine trying to check the core temperature of a piece of flounder?

The other advantage is the longer you slow cook certain meats, the more tender they will become as the cooking time breaks down the collagens (also known as the connective tissue) in the meat.  After all, if 24 hour short ribs are good, 72 hour short ribs must be better, right?  Well, that is what I wanted to find out.

I decided to test various cooking times to determine if there is a point where additional cooking no longer provides a more tender meat and if so, what is that cooking time.

Three packages of short ribs that will be cooked for three different times

The verdict:  Despite cooking the ribs 24, 48 or even 72 hours, the inside of the meat had a beautiful red center because of the sous-vide method.  However, there were some differences.  There is no question that cooking short ribs 24 hours in sous-vide provided a tender and perfectly cooked meat.  At 48 hours the ribs continued to become more tender, however, we noticed that they seemed a little drier.  At 72 hours the short ribs were definitely on the dry side.  Yes, they were very tender, but we found that they required a sauce to supplement what we perceived to be a loss of moisture.  This seemed odd since the meat is cooked in a sealed bag.  Why would the meat become drier if the moisture could not escape the bag?

Okay, this really got me excited had me intrigued.  A mystery to be solved.  So, with pencil and graph paper in hand, I headed to the internet to find the clues.

Short ribs that were cooked for 48 hours were more tender but seemed less moist

Short ribs cooked for 72 hours were very tender but were on the dry side

All of the short ribs were cooked to this temperature but the longer they cooked, the drier the meat became. Shown above, 24 hour sous-vide short ribs.

Very little has been written about this observation until I came across  a scientific site called SciVerse.  There is an article entitled “Physico-chemical, textural and structural characteristics of sous-vide cooked pork cheeks as affected by vacuum, cooking temperature, and cooking time.”  I just knew it was going to be filled with charts, graphs, facts and scientific references that most of us won’t understand I find fascinating.  Here is a link to the article if you want to numb your mind as well.

What I did learn from this article was that weight loss is lower and moisture content is higher the less the protein is cooked in the water bath.  Also, meat cooked above 70-80 degrees centigrade increases the toughness of the meat as the proteins change. (scientifically it is called miofibrilar coagulation).  Cooking longer periods of time, even at lower temperatures, resulted in more moisture loss.

I put this new found knowledge to the test on a beef eye of round roast.  I knew that cooking this roast in the oven produced a somewhat dry and tough piece of meat.  This cut of beef contains little fat and a lot of connective tissue; a perfect test for sous-vide (low fat, high connective tissue).  The meat was seasoned with salt and pepper and I added a mustard and garlic rub.

I quickly seared the meat, placed it in a vacuum bag for sealing and cooled it in a ice bath (this is an important step to kill any potential bacteria on the outside of the meat prior to cryovacing). It was vacuum sealed by a FoodSaver and then cooked by sous-vide method at 131 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 hours.  I believed this would provide sufficient time to break down the connective tissue and not dry out the protein.   After removing the meat from the vacuum sealed bag I seared it off in a skillet to provide color and texture.

Quickly sear the eye of round rubbed in mustard and seasoned with salt and pepper

Cool the temperature down in an ice bath before putting it in the sous-vide bath

One final quick sear gives it a nice brown exterior

The Results:  The beef eye of round was full of flavor and as tender as a tenderloin steak.  Clearly, the long and slow, low temperature sous-vide cooking method produced a very high quality result.  If I had continued to allow the eye of round to cook in the sous-vide water bath for another 24 to 48 hours it would result in loss of weight and a drier final product.

What you can learn from our experiments and research:

  1. Cooking sous-vide can make a dramatic difference in the quality of the final protein but choose wisely.  The biggest difference is in cuts of red meat that are typically low in fat and high in connective tissue.  We have also cooked fish with outstanding results which you can read about here.
  2. While you don’t have to be precise in the cooking time, you should be very precise in the cooking temperature.
  3. More is not always better.  If 24 hours is good, 72 hours is not necessarily better.  The longer you cook the protein the more it will dry out the meat, despite the juices being sealed in that vacuum bag.

* I undertook an additional experiment with lamb chops.  The recommended cooking time for 1-inch lamb chops is 2 hours at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.  Once again, 24 hours seemed to provide the best time to produce a more tender and moist chop.

Note:  Please be advised that you should exercise caution when cooking sous-vide.  Here are some food preparation tips.

DisclosurePolyScience has provided us with the Sous Vide Professional Chef Series for our review.

30 Hour Sous-Vide Eye of Round Roast

Yield: 6 servings

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 hours

Total Time: 30 hours, 15 minutes

Ingredients:

3 lb. beef eye of round roast
yellow mustard
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons black pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons sea salt
3 cloves garlic, chopped

Directions:

1. Liberally apply yellow mustard, half of the salt and half of the pepper to the eye of round. In a hot skillet, quickly sear the outside of the roast in a little olive oil. Do not try to cook the roast. A quick searing will kill any bacteria that is on the outside.

2. Reapply a generous coating of yellow mustard and the remaining salt and pepper. Add chopped garlic to the outside of the roast and place the roast in a bag that will be used for vacuum sealing.

3. Place the unsealed bag in ice water for about 10 minutes. This is a required step in sous-vide to bring the temperature of the meat back down.

4. Seal the bag using a vacuum seal system. If there are juices in the bag, you might want to freeze the bag for 5 minutes prior to sealing. This process will help prevent the juices from being sucked up and out of the bag which could prevent a good, tight seal. Place the bag in a circulating bath of 131 degrees (medium). Allow to process for 24-30 hours.

5. Remove the roast from the bag. Again, sear the roast in a hot skillet to provide a pleasing finish. Slice and serve.

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31 Responses to “30 Hour Sous-Vide Eye of Round Roast”

  1. 1

    Susan in the Boonies — January 26, 2012 @ 1:54 pm

    I WONDERED what Mr. B. was going to post about!

    Great job, Mr. B.! I love me some good science with my food. Truly, I do! It’s why I love to read Cooks Illustrated: I want to know why and how!

    I wish I had a sous vide!

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

      Hi Susan,

      I also enjoy the science behind the Cooks Illustrated recipes. Mr. B is really into this stuff, so I am sure that’s why he is fascinated with the sous-vide.

      While he has made it quite scientific, you can also prepare foods quite simply by sous-vide method. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a fairly common kitchen item for home cooks.

      Gwen

  2. 2

    Jen at The Three Little Piglets — January 26, 2012 @ 4:44 pm

    What a great experiment! I was hoping when I started culinary school I’d get to play around with it a little, but they don’t have the equipment to do it. Maybe one day…

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:18 pm

      Hi Jen,

      This would be a perfect tool for a cooking school, depending on what you are learning. I do hope that you have the chance to use one someday to see the difference in the way it can prepare foods.

      Gwen

  3. 3

    Maureen — January 27, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    I want one !! This is a way cool piece of equipment.

  4. 4

    Marie — January 28, 2012 @ 3:04 pm

    First, I have to say, “What Susan in the Boonies said”!
    Loved this article, the photos and descriptions made me drool and crave meat (though I am vegan!). Really liked the descriptions. Great article. Hope Mr. B comes back for another guest spot.
    And, one more: Is there a way that I can get on your list for your leftovers? :-)

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:20 pm

      Hi Marie,

      We are happy to share leftovers! We always seem to have way too much food since there are just two of us and all of this cooking.

      I am sure Mr. B will be back for another guest post. A girl needs a break sometimes, so I am happy to let him fill in. :-)

      Gwen

  5. 5

    Christine @ Fresh Local and Best — January 29, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    Boy you have a taken a cutting edge cooking technique to new levels. I had no idea that you sous vide required so much time. Even more surprising is that it bodes well for those looking to consume leaner meats. Maybe sous vide will make leaner cuts more trendy. The results must be amazing.

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

      Hi Christine,

      Yes, cooking meats takes a bit of time, but as you can see, the results are pretty spectacular. Other foods, like fish, can be prepared much quicker. See this post about Sous-Vide Salmon http://www.bunkycooks.com/2011/09/sous-vide-salmon-polyscience-sous-vide-professional/.

      We have tried some veggies and a few other dishes. I am sure Mr. B will be back with another post and some additional recipes.

      Gwen

  6. 6

    Jamie — January 30, 2012 @ 8:15 am

    Actually, this is all quite fascinating… your experiments taught me things I never would have thought of. I would have imagined that sous-vide would keep the moisture in but I never thought of the changing chemical reactions. Cool! I love Mr. B as guest poster: he’s funny and informative and the food looks delicious! Come back again soon, Mr. B!

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:26 pm

      Hi Jamie,

      I am sure that Mr. B will be back soon and I am glad that you enjoyed his post. :-)

      It is fun to learn about the chemical reasons why the meats turn out the way they do. We never knew preparing food in a hot water bath could be so technical, huh?!

      Gwen

  7. 7

    Lisa — January 30, 2012 @ 8:36 am

    You’ve gone molecular! Well..Mr. B has. I love it! I’ve been dying to try the sous vide method, but the equipment is just too expensive. However, I think that’s the best looking roast and short ribs I’ve ever seen! Perfectly pink and juicy! Well done, Mr. Bunky!

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:28 pm

      Hi Lisa,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes, Mr. B has gone mad scientist. It’s been very interesting getting to try all foods prepared sous-vide.

      We have more experiments planned, so stay tuned!

      Gwen

  8. 8

    Devaki @ weavethousandflavors — January 31, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

    What an excellent post by Mr. B. Watch out Gwen Mr. B’s gonna give you a run for your money in the kitchen :)

    I have no experience with sous vide but see that it has become all the rage on blogs, restaurants, everywhere.

    chow :) Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:30 pm

      Hi Devaki,

      Yes, sous-vide has become very popular. Not everything is made better by cooking this method, but I know that chefs and home cooks are trying all sorts of things out in the circulator.

      As you can see, it definitely has the ability to improve certain cuts of beef and we are definitely sold on that along with a few other meats and seafood.

      Mr. B will be back for sure!

      Gwen

  9. 9

    sippitysup — February 3, 2012 @ 10:47 am

    We have been playing with sous vide on our desert weekends as friends got a machine. The results are great, but I am not completely sold. It lacks a little heart and soul for my tastes! After all I love cooking. GREG

    • Gwen replied: — February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

      Hi Greg,

      Mr. B has done much of the cooking with the sous-vide (as you can tell). I do enjoy the results, particularly with meats, but I also like the old fashioned way of cooking, too. It is nice when having company to be able to keep things at a steady temp without overcooking. I do like that feature.

      Gwen

  10. 10

    Baker Street — February 13, 2012 @ 6:49 am

    Super experiment I say! Looks absolutely divine.

  11. 11

    Jill Mant~a SaucyCook — February 23, 2012 @ 7:47 pm

    I have been wanting one of these for a while now, mostly because the photos of everything I see cooked with the sous-vide look so incredible. And Mr. B did a great job explaining the science behind the methodology. He gets an A in my book. You both get an A for presentation as your roast looks soooooo good!

  12. 12

    Lane — July 7, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    Just received my Poly Science early this past week. Over the years I have had some really terrible Eye Round Roast. This was my first use of the PS and must say the results were absolutely outstanding. Perfect medium through and through, cut with a fork tender (almost like a filet) and amazing flavor. Four thumbs up. Looking forward to further adventures. Significant kitchen investment that will truly pay off!

    • Gwen replied: — July 7th, 2012 @ 1:23 pm

      Hi Lane,

      Thank you for leaving a comment and I am so glad to hear of your success! It is pretty remarkable how a cheaper and less fatty cut of meat can turn into something really delicious by using the sous-vide. I totally agree about having terrible round roasts when cooked by other methods. The meat is chewy and tough. This changes the way we now look at certain cuts of meats and grass-fed beef.

      I know you will enjoy experimenting. We did one other post so far on some of our experiences with sous-vide
      http://www.bunkycooks.com/2011/09/sous-vide-salmon-polyscience-sous-vide-professional/. We will be doing more in the future.

      Gwen

  13. 13

    Lane — July 9, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    I am planning to purchase one of the poly-carbonate food bins (9″ deep) that PS mentions on their site along with a lid from a local restaurant supply house and will notch it to fit the PS Professional – $13 vs. $31 for the lid is a much better deal. I have also been looking toying with making fresh cheese and am thinking that the sous-vide would provide very helpful precision temp controls needed for some cheese along with more “gentle” heating. Also purchased “Beginning Sous Vide” by Jason Logsdon as an eBook – seems to be a great resource for the newbie.

    • Gwen replied: — July 10th, 2012 @ 9:18 am

      Hi Lane,

      We use a large stockpot and cover it with plastic wrap. While it is not fancy, it seems to work well and maintain temperature. We will have to take a look at that book you suggested. We have not purchased one yet.

      If you do start making some cheeses, I would love to hear how it all turns out.

      Gwen

  14. 14

    Leigh Jones — November 18, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    I have been cooking with my sous vide set-up that uses a 7-qt Rival Crockpot for many months now and have learned some things. Most important: expelling air is useful, but vacuum seal bags are for preservation after preparation and do little to aid in producing healthy and flavorful foods if the food is not being stored. This applies to a maximum temp of about 145-150 degrees; ziplock freezer bags soften at temperatures above this.

    Next, as for drying: fats slowly render and dispel, leaving behind a powdery textured void. You can prove this by failing to trim fat from beef and cooking for long times. The changes to fats influence the dryness more than the changes to proteins (in my opinion) when trying for tenderness with normally tough cuts. Heavily marbled and tender cuts suffer most from this problem, so don’t cook ribeye for the 24+ hour tenderizing treatment. Reserve the long cooking times for very lean and tough cuts where you would prefer dryness to toughness, like London Broil and eye of round.

    Finally, if you are looking for the most tender medium rare steak, allow the meat to cool several minutes before searing. The object is to avoid temperatures above 131 degrees F. Even after cooking sous vide you can easily overheat the meat if your core temperature is already at 131 F when you begin the sear. This applies to all meat textures.

    And finally, there are some sous vide do’s and don’ts: don’t use fresh garlic, fresh herbs, or normal quantities of other aromatics in a sous vide bag for long cooking times. If you want fresh aromatics, use a reseda label bag and add them for only the last hour or two of cooking time. Whole or crushed garlic can seem rancid, and herbs can get overpowering in the bag for long times. The same applies for storage.

    I haven’t tried this, but it is rumored that one can begin the tenderizing process on round steak, then after 18 to 24 hours at 131 F, if you ice bath and refrigerate the meat it will continue to tenderize without the heat during storage without further drying. Then back into the water bath to warm before searing. But I have pretty much decided that I’d rather go with a 24 hour 131 F supermarket tri-tip than any other cut of meat. Some prefer more fat, and insist on a ribeye, but I prefer lean beef over fatty cuts, and the tri-tip always pleases me.

  15. 15

    Leigh Jones — November 18, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

    I apologize for what my spell checker did to some of this text on submission. Re-sealable became “reseda label”, whatever that means.

  16. 16

    Tom the Newbie Foodie — December 1, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    Hi.

    Thank you for the helpful and mouth-watering post! (I especially keep returning to that first picture…) I’m about to SV my first eye of round, and am seeing all sorts of times mentioned, from 8 to 30 hours or more, all with reportedly great results. So I’ll try 18 hours, somewhere in the middle; the hours are convenient. Good to be assured that SV is so tolerant of cooking times.

    I have to question your chilling the roast before putting in the hot-water bath, however. I believe that would just prolong the time the meat spends in the danger zone, first while cooling down (and the bacteria won’t die during the chill), then again as the meat has to warm up all the way to cooking temperature, where it’ll finally pasteurize about 90 minutes later. No?

    If I was searing first, I’d go straight from sear to hot water bath.

    Thanks again,
    Tom

  17. 17

    Roger — December 2, 2012 @ 2:18 pm

    Tom
    Searing the meat prior to vacuum seal provides a lot of flavor during the cooking process, far more than you can achieve by taking raw meet with spices and cooking sous-vide. However, the meat needs to be below 38 degrees before you vacuum seal to prevent bacteria from developing during the cooking process. Therefore, it is recommended that the meat be placed in a bag, not sealed, and allowed to cool in a ice bath until below 38 degrees. Then seal the meat.

    I too have seen a lot of confusing articles on sous-vide. I worked with Polyscience to get this right.

    Concerning the temperature. The longer you sous-vide the more tender the meat becomes as it breaks down the tissue, however, what we have learned is that the longer you cook the more dried out the meat becomes. The great chefs that we work with claim that for this cut of meat and Tenderloin, 36 hours is the best.

    Another thing we learned is cooking the meat at 120 degrees for 8 hours breaks down tissue differently that a straight 131 degrees. What I now do is cook the meat at 120 degrees for 8 hours then 129 degrees for medium rare. Most sous-vide sites claim 132 for medium rare but I have found 129 is better. Everyone has their own preference so you will have to try it out.

    I hope you find this helpful.

  18. 18

    Tom the Newbie Foodie — December 2, 2012 @ 6:48 pm

    Hi Roger. Thanks for the feedback.

    That’s an interesting twist on the “standard” way of doing SV that the introductory articles, eg Baldwin, suggest. If you’re cooking at 120 to start, I agree you’d want to be as bacteria-free as possible before sealing. And I assume that if you’re doing it that way, there must be a good reason, eg a better result. Ditto searing the meat before you cook. Once I get a little more experience under my belt, I’ll have to try it again your way; I’m intrigued.

    BTW, my eye of round cooked at 134/56.5 for 16 hours came out wonderful – tender but not excessively so, in my opinion. (That’s using the cook-then-sear approach.) But I’m sure there are different grades of wonderful…

    Thanks again,
    Tom

  19. 19

    Roger — December 3, 2012 @ 10:55 am

    Here is a video that uses a similar technique of chilling after searing. The only difference that I have added was longer cooking time to break down the protein and make it more tender and we tend to like our cooked more rare than they recommend. The chefs that we work with recommend 132F degrees. I still prefer 129F degrees but it is up to your taste.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKdDfunjYio

  20. 20

    Steve — December 23, 2013 @ 12:37 pm

    Roger, I believe that Tom’s concern about the chill after searing is spot on. You might recheck. Warming up (with the sear), then cooling down (with the ice bath), then warming up again in the water bath is extending the amount of time the meat is in the danger zone. I frankly can’t imagine why you would cool something down (which, as Tom points out, does not kill bacteria), when you’re about to heat it up.

  21. 21

    Roger — December 24, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

    Steve
    Here’s Polyscience’s take on this.

    Meat that is seared will boil if it is cryovacked and cooked in a hot water bath. The boiling will steam the meat and create a very different texture and taste. Therefore, to make the meat cook at an even temperature after it has been seared it is important to bring the temperature down.

    Concerning the time it takes. Meat can remain at room temperature for 2 hours without growing bacteria. As long as you sear the meat, chill it and cryovack and begin to water bath cook the meat within this allotted time bacteria will not grow. the searing and sealing process usually only takes an extra 15 to 20 minutes. Botulism, which is the greatest concern with cryovacked meat will not present in this period of time unless you sear the meat and then cryovack and refrigerate for later sous vide.

    Concerning the taste. I have used sous vide on meat by first searing and also by just cooking in the water bath without searing. I have found that the searing flavor penetrates deep in the meat when cyrovacked and sous vide is used and adds lots of flavor that is missing if I just “cook” raw meat that has been seasoned and seared after cryovacking.

    I also know that most recipes and directions call for cryovacing seasoned meat but personally , I think the added flavor is worth the extra step of the water bath.

    I hope you find this helpful and if you try the seared versus unseated please let me know your thoughts. We appreciate your comments.

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