Sous vide is the perfect method for cooking tough meats and making them succulent and tender, but it is also a great method for cooking more tender cuts too. They each require different methods of cooking, but due to the precise nature of sous vide, this is easy to achieve for great results.
Tender meat does not need the same slow cooking that tough meat does, but that doesn’t mean to say it can’t be made better by cooking it sous vide. It is very easy to overcook tender meats accidentally and end up with dry meat, so being able to precisely control the level of doneness using sous vide cooking avoids this issue and results in a delicious and succulent meal.
How to identify tender meats
Tender meats come from the parts of an animal that have had to do less work during its life, so that includes things like chicken breasts, pork chops, tenderloin, and most seafood.
These parts of the animal don’t need to work so hard, so they contain less collagen, which makes them much less chewy than things like a shoulder of lamb that has plenty of hardworking muscle and connecting tissue.
The stronger a muscle needs to be, the more coarse the texture of the meat becomes. If you inspect the meat, you will see that it is made up of bundles of muscle fibres, which are called fascicles. Butchers often refer to this as the grain of the meat, and it is an easy way to tell whether a cut of meat is tough or tender.
In tough meats, the grain will look very coarse, but in more tender cuts it may actually be very difficult to see it at all.
Why cook tender meats sous vide?
While tough cuts of meat need to be cooked at low temperatures for a long time in order to break down the collagen and make them easy for our teeth to chew, tender cuts are already easy enough for us to chew so they do not need to be cooked for nearly as long.
Cooking changes the structure of the muscle fibres, and as they are heated the protein molecules begin to contract, causing them to shrink in both diameter and length. When this happens, they squeeze out some of the moisture that they contain, which can mean that the meat ends up quite tough if cooked for too long or at too high a temperature. This is something that often happens using traditional methods such as grilling.
Cooking sous vide means that you can avoid this overcooking and drying out taking place, by precisely controlling the time and temperature, and tailoring it to the exact cut of meat or fish you are cooking.
It also allows you to cook the meat evenly throughout, and hold it at the required temperature for long periods of time without resulting in overcooking – perfect for those occasions where you are cooking a complex meal with many components and don’t want to risk accidentally compromising the texture or quality of your meat if you get distracted for a moment too long.
The exact time or temperature you need to cook at will depend on the cut of meat, its weight, and a few other factors. If you’ve never cooked sous vide before or you just need a little guidance in this area, we have a handy calculator that can help you work out exactly what your time and temperature should be.
Our iVide Cooker also works with a smart app that can help you get the perfect temperature and cook time, as well as keeping track of your meat while it cooks.
We hope this has inspired you to try cooking different cuts of meat sous vide, and experience for yourself how perfectly this method retains moisture for juicy and delicious tender meats.
If you need any recipe inspiration, be sure to head over to our recipe section, where we have plenty of different recipes to get your tastebuds going.