Sous Vide Roast Beef: Everything You Need to Know

If you love meat and want to practice healthier ways of eating it, sous vide is a great method you can use to cook your food. Other conventional methods of cooking meat can cause the meat to lose its vital nutrients and taste, making it less healthy and delicious. 

Studies on the effects of heat on meat proteins have shown that collagen fibers and connective tissues in meat get broken down under direct heat, causing structural changes that make the meat much less healthy.

The sous vide method of cooking eliminates these problems and is a much better alternative to roasted or barbecued meat. In this article, we talk about sous vide roast beef and the best ways to cook it for an excellent culinary experience. 

sous vide roast beef

Sous Vide

Sous vide is a French phrase that translates to “under vacuum.” As the name suggests, the sous vide method of cooking involves sealing your food in an airtight, vacuum-sealed container. This container is then immersed in warm water. The heat from the warm water cooks the meat. 

Sous vide comes with a number of benefits, especially when it comes to cooking meat. Compared to traditional methods of roasting, grilling, or barbecuing your meat, sous vide gives you better results both in terms of health and taste. 

Less waste: In the sous vide method of cooking, the vacuum-sealed container does not allow your food to dry out. The volume of your meat will not be reduced when you use the sous vide method to cook, which reduces food waste. 

Taste: When food is cooked in a vacuum-sealed container, it gets cooked in its own juices. This preserves the original taste of the meat and gives you a juicier meal. 

Results: The sous vide method of cooking comes with consistent temperatures and cooking times. The fact that the meat is cooked in a vacuum means that you will get similar results every time you cook it. 

You can learn more about this by checking out this article about sous vide vs. grill cooking.

These reasons make sous vide cooking a popular choice for meats, fish, and even soft-boiled eggs. You can expect consistent results every time you use this method. Traditional methods of cooking use the heat and surrounding oxygen to break down the connective tissue present in the meat. This is what causes the food to fall apart and lose volume and nutrients. 

Sous Vide Roasts

Can a roast be cooked sous vide? The short answer is yes. Whether you’re cooking a brisket, a rib roast, or a tenderloin, the sous vide method can come in handy. Some roasts, like rump or top round, will be much tougher in texture than, for example, a sirloin. No matter what kind of roast you’re cooking, sous vide will give you delicious results. 

The only problem with sous vide roast beef is the amount of time it takes to cook it. Since you’re not applying heat directly to the surface of the meat and instead using warm water to cook it, you should expect it to take a lot longer than cooking it on a grill. 

There are also some other factors that you need to consider while cooking sous vide roast beef. 

Temperature: The temperature of the water bath should ideally be around 135 degrees Fahrenheit. You can increase or decrease this temperature by 5 degrees to make your meat more well done or rarer. However, if you’re cooking using this technique for the first time, we would advise you to go with 135. 

Time: Sous vide roast beef can take anywhere between 12 hours and 48 hours to be completely cooked, depending on the style you want your finished meal to be. You might want to experiment with the temperature and time period to see what works best for you, but a general rule is to start with the water bath at 135 degrees and cook the roast beef for 24 hours. Based on how long you’re going to be cooking, you will also have to figure out the correct time to start the process. We will discuss this more later on.

Seasoning: Seasoning should be done before you start cooking. Before putting your roast beef in the vacuum-sealed container, add salt, pepper, and other kinds of seasoning. Examples of other spices that you can experiment with include chilis, curry powder, cumin, and mustard powder. 

Bags: The bags that you use to seal and cook your meat should be airtight. You might ruin your meat and defeat the purpose of the process if any water from the water bath gets into the bag. The moisture from the warm water will mess up your recipe. While using ziplock refrigerator bags can work well, you might get better results from vacuum-sealed bags. 

Other packaging: While most plastic bags cannot be reused after cooking, there are other options. You can buy reusable silicone bags if you’re planning on using this method on a semi-regular basis. 

Water levels: Some evaporation is bound to happen when you’re cooking your meat in a water bath for an entire day. Keep checking on the water levels and add more when the level goes down to ensure uniform cooking of your roast beef from all sides. 

Layers: The seasoning that you add seeps into the meat and gives it the signature taste when it’s done. Make sure that your meat is in a single layer when you add it to the water bath. Folding it might cause uneven taste in different places because of the lack of uniform seasoning. 

sous vide roast beef

Finishing a Sous Vide Roast

You are now aware of all the health and taste benefits of using the sous vide method. What you might not be aware of is that you cannot just take the meat out of the water bath and serve it immediately. So, how do you finish a sous vide roast?

There are multiple ways in which you can get a sear on the roast when it is done cooking. Finishing a sous vide roast is an easy task, especially since the inside has been cooked in its own juices for a long time. 

One way is to use some olive oil and pan-sear the roast. You can use other oils or butter for this process, but olive oil is a healthy alternative that will also give your roast a great taste. Use a broiler pan to sear your roast. Turn it upside down after 15 minutes to ensure that you get an even sear on both sides. 

The cooking liquid can then be garnished or seasoned and turned into a gravy that can be poured over the roast.

If you’re looking for sauces and similar options to go with sous vide roast beef, we suggest options like a mustard-cream sauce, a Vidalia onion and vinegar sauce, or a burgundy mushroom sauce. You can also try an experimental option like a stout beer gravy for that delicious bitter and creamy experience. 

Sides

The great thing about having a juicy slice of meat on your plate is the sheer number of options you have when it comes to sides. Once you’re done cooking your sous vide roast beef, the next step is to figure out what you want to serve it with.

Potatoes are a great and versatile choice for a side dish. You can serve roasted potatoes, crispy potato wedges, scalloped potatoes, sweet potato casserole, and much more. You can expand this spread with other veggies like sauteed mushrooms, glazed carrots, green beans, brussel sprouts, and asparagus. Adding greens to your sides will not only make your meal delicious but also much healthier. 

Cooking It Right

If you’re new to sous vide cooking, there will be times when you will not get the expected results even after following all the steps and taking into consideration the factors mentioned above. You might spend several hours vacuum-sealing and cooking your meat and still be left with the question — “why is my sous vide beef tough?”

If your sous vide roast beef is not tender and juicy even after several hours of cooking, one or more of the following factors might have gone wrong.

Fat

Not all cuts of your roast will have the same consistency of fat. When you cook a roast beef using the sous vide method, the temperature and the time spent in the water bath should render the fat and give you a juicy result. 

However, the different chemical compositions of fat and muscle tissues might not always work in your favor. If fat is present but isn’t cooked properly, you might get rubbery fat that will make the overall roast beef tough. 

The best way to get over this is to remove the fat before you cook the meat. Cutting off the fat will make your meat leaner, and it will taste better once it’s cooked. 

Another option is to sear the meat before you cook it. Cuts like ribeyes can be seared on a pan for a few minutes on medium heat and then placed in the water bath to avoid this issue. 

Bags

As mentioned earlier, sous vide requires that your bag is completely vacuum-sealed or airtight. Whether you’re using a vacuum sealer, ziplock bags, or silicone bags, any water that gets into the packaging will completely ruin your roast. 

To avoid this issue, make sure that you stir the water bath if you have multiple pieces of meat in the same package. Otherwise, the meat might fuse together and you will end up with a single piece instead of different strips. 

Another thing you should avoid is using sharp objects for stirring or picking up your packages. You not only run the danger of ruining the consistency of your meat, but you can also puncture your plastic bags. This will cause water to enter them, ruining your dining experience. 

Water Levels

One reason your sous vide beef might be tough is that it hasn’t been cooked completely and uniformly. The most common reason for this is that the water levels have come down due to evaporation, causing the meat to only get cooked on one side. 

To get the delightful texture and taste achieved during sous vide cooking, you must have water on all sides. To avoid water levels dropping due to evaporation, make sure that you top off the water if you see that your meat is not completely submerged. 

However, there will be times when you cannot keep checking on the water all the time. As sous vide can take over 24 hours of cooking, a lot of people choose to leave the water bath on and go about their business. If this is the case for you, you can cover the water bath with a lid or a plastic layer on top. This will cause all the evaporated water to fall back into the bath, keeping water levels intact. 

You should also never leave a water bath unattended for long periods of time. Check the instructions on your model before you leave the house with your water bath switched on. 

Seasoning

Sous vide is a different type of cooking method than what you get on your grill. When you season your roast beef on conventional heating devices, a lot of the seasoning is lost in the gravy or on the pan. Some of it might even go up in the air. 

However, this is not the case with sous vide cooking. Since your seasoning is completely locked in with your meat, you should consider using less than what you would normally use. Adding more seasoning than your meat needs might make its texture and taste much worse. 

Comparative Results

Sous vide cooking is a completely different style of cooking than traditional methods. You should not expect the same kind of results from it as you would from, say, cooking in an oven. Applying direct heat to meat causes it to lose a lot of volume, which is not something you will experience with sous vide roast beef. 

This might also mean that the toughness of the meat will not be quite what you expect. This is not to say that the meat will definitely be harder or softer. However, its texture will differ. You should keep this in mind before you undercook or overcook your roast. 

Cooking Times

Cooking times for sous vide roast beef vary dramatically. Some people cook their meat for 12 hours, while some cook it for as long as 48 hours. So, how do these timings affect the final taste and toughness of the meat? Does chuck roast get more tender the longer it cooks?

Like any other type of meat, the longer you cook a chuck roast, the more tender it will get. Your end results should depend on how you plan to serve it. If you want the meat to be falling apart so that it can easily be eaten with a fork, you might need to leave it in for a longer period of time.

Chuck roast is a type of cut that contains a lot of fat and connective tissue. If you cook this cut for just 12 hours, you might find that the fat will not break down completely, giving you a dish that will be tough and difficult to cut. 

Even though sous vide recipes can take anywhere between 12 to 48 hours, we would suggest that you leave chuck roast in for 24-30 hours to get a juicy, tender result. 

Keep in mind that overcooking a chuck roast will also make it tough. When you apply that much heat to a vacuum-sealed packet of what is essentially just fat and protein, you are removing all the fat from the meat. For this reason, overcooking your chuck roast or leaving it in the water bath for too long can cause it to turn out tough and dry with all the fat and liquid rendered out.

The Bottom Line

Sous vide is a healthy way of cooking your roast beef that retains the volume of the meat and makes it taste delicious. It also makes the meat more tender because it cooks in its own juices.  Additionally, you need much less seasoning for sous vide roast beef compared to traditional methods of cooking.

Although you can expect consistent results from cooking sous vide roast beef, there will be some factors that you need to consider. These include keeping your bags sealed and airtight, properly tuning your cooking temperature and times, keeping your water level stable, and removing extra fat. 

We hope that this article has helped you to learn how to make the best possible sous vide roast beef! You can learn more about sous vide by reading about the top 5 best vacuum sealers for sous vide.

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