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Beef is one of my favorite things to cook sous vide. Whether it is a steak, a roast, or short ribs, there are a lot of benefits to using sous vide to prepare it.
Note: You can jump directly to the sous vide beef time and temperatures.
Below I've given the times and temperatures I recommend for the majority of cuts of beef. I hope you can use them as a jumping off point to come up with your favorite sous vide times and temperatures. The recommendations also work with most kinds of red meat.
Most of the confusion around what temperature to sous vide steaks or roasts comes down to not understand how temperature affects meat. I like to break it up into two types of temperatures, "Steak-Like" and "Braise-Like".
Most of the cuts below can have a few different options including "Steak-Like", "Tender Steak" (or "Chop-Like" and "Tender Chop" for pork) and up to four "Braise-Like" braising entries.
Steak-like is about the same as what you get when you heat it through traditionally, and there is no tenderization. It works best for traditional steaks and tender cuts like filet mignon, ribeye and strip steak. The temperatures used are usually between 120°F for rare up through 149°F for well done (49°C to 65°F).
Tender-steak uses the same temperatures as Steak-Like but uses long sous vide times to tenderize the meat, resulting in a very tender version of that meat. The end result tastes much like a traditional steak would: tender, moist, and flavorful.
This works best for tougher cuts like chuck and short ribs that aren't usually just grilled or pan fried. However, there are also many cuts that are often heated through traditionally, such as flank steak or sirloin, that can benefit from some extended cooking time and these will have Tender-Steak entries as well as Steak-Like.
Braise-like entries result in what you would think of for a traditional braised or smoked meat. It's starting to fall apart and shred, but it is losing its moisture. There are 4 main temperatures I recommend, starting at 150°F (65°C) and increasing up until 176°F (80°C), with the meat becoming progressively more "fall apart".
These temperatures can be used on anything with a high fat or connective tissue content, basically anything that would be traditionally braised will work well.
Following the "Steak-Like" entry will result in a final dish that has the texture and doneness as if the cut of meat was heated through traditionally. It is usually displayed next to tender cuts of meat, or ones that are traditionally grilled or pan fried. I recommend starting with 125°F (51.6°C) for rare, 131°F (55°C) for medium rare and 140°F (60°C) for medium. You can then adjust the temperature up or down in future cooks to better match your preference.
Warning: If you drop the temperature much below 130°F (54.4°C) you are in the danger zone, not killing any pathogens, and shouldn't cook the food for more than a few hours. For wild game, you should make sure to use a high enough temperature to kill any parasites present in it.
For the timing, you usually will be given a specific range like "1 to 3 hours". However, these are just estimates based on how thick that type of meat usually is.
And that's because when determining how long to sous vide tender cuts, it all comes down to the thickness. That's why I prefer to use "Time By Thickness" or or "Pasteurize by Thickness", which gives you an accurate minimum time to cook or pasteurize your specific piece of meat.
They both indicate that this cut doesn't need tenderization, it only needs to be heated through and/or pasteurized. You can follow the charts on the Sous Vide Cooking Times by Thickness for the specific times. I've used "Pasteurize by Thickness" for entries that are almost always pasteurized, but many people also pasteurize the majority of their meat to be on the safe side.
In addition to the "Steak-Like" entry, some cuts will have a "Tender Steak" entry which will use the same temperature range but use longer cooking times to tenderize the meat.
Tender-Steak includes very tough cuts like chuck roast or brisket than usually can't be eaten as "steak". Following the the range given for the entry will result in a tender, moist dish that tastes similar to a traditional steak.
Note: For more information about the range, you should read my article Sous Vide Time Range Explained
There are also cuts that often traditionally eaten grilled or pan fried, such as flank, sirloin, or flat iron steaks but that can benefit from some tenderization over time. If you follow the "Steak-Like" entry, they will turn out very similar to the traditionally cooked version, while following the "Tender Steak" entry will result in a much more tender version of that steak.
For Tender Steak entries I give the minimum and maximum times I usually find it to be perfectly cooked in. The longer the cook it the more tender it will be, so you can judge how tender you would like it and adjust it accordingly. Different quality and types of beef (like grass-fed or Wagyu) will also vary in toughness, and may need shorter or longer times, but usually sticking to the range will be a great place to start.
People often think of sous vide being used for steaks, but it also excels at making dishes with the texture of traditional braises, called "Braise-Like". Sous vide can't replicate the flavor of the sauce reducing in the oven for hours, but it can cook the meat exactly how you want.
There are 4 main temperatures I recommend for braising with sous vide to create "Braise-Like" beef.
Most sous vide braising temperatures range from around 150°F up to 185°F (65.6°C up to 85°C), with the meat becoming progressively more "fall apart" as the temperature increases. The temperatures I recommend trying first are:
At 150°F the meat just barely starts to pull apart, and I think of it as the ideal temperature for moist braised or smoked meats. It's almost a cross between a steak and a traditional braise. At 150°F the meat doesn't lose nearly as much moisture as at 156°F (69°C), but it also doesn't break down quite as much either.
It's my favorite braising temperature for brisket and chuck, and I also use it for pork shoulder steaks and ribs. It's a great temperature to try when you aren't looking for a steak, but you want it to still be really moist.
Using this for BBQ is amazing, since most BBQ is smoked to 180°F (82°C), so you are 30° lower than that, and the moisture retention is incredible. I like to sous vide and smoke it - tenderize it in the sous vide, chill it, and then finish it on the smoker.
It's amazing how much difference 6° can make! At 156°F (68.8°C) the meat starts to lose a lot of moisture and it starts breaking down more quickly. The result is what I think of as a more moist version of a traditional braise.
You can pull the meat apart with effort, but it's not easy, and it's still too firm for "fall off the bone" preparations or shreddable dishes. It used to be my favorite temperature until I started experimenting with 150°F (65°C).
The next step up I recommend is 165°F (73.9°C). At this temperature the meat is definitely starting to fall apart some, and you'll need to be careful if you are going to sear it to finish.
I think this is great for fall apart meats, especially pulled pork, and it results in a very similar texture to a lot of traditional braises, but it does retain more moisture than they do.
If you want meat that slides right off the bone, then 176°F (80.0°C) is what you are looking for. Pulled pork shreds at the the touch of a fork, and ribs almost don't require chewing.
At this temperature all of the connective tissues breaks down, leaving the meat tender and flaky. It loses a lot more moisture than the above temperatures, but it is by far the most tender.
From a timing standpoint, going from 150°F to 156°F (55°C to 68.8°C) seems to cut the cook time in half. Going above 176°F (80.0°C) seems to cut it in half again.
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Beef Spareribs, Beef Ribs
Top Blade, Butlers' Steak, Oyster Blade Steak, Chuck Clod
Butcher's Steak, Onglet, Lombatello, Bistro Steak
Not a true cut but normally flank, chuck, or round
Standing Rib Roast, Rib Roast
Rib Steak, Delmonico Steak, Scotch Filet, Entrecote, tomahawk steak
Back Ribs, Flanken Ribs
Top Loin Strip, New York Strip, Kansas City Strip, Top Sirloin, Top Loin, Shell Steak
Filet mignon, Chateaubriand, Tournedo