Does Sous Vide Tenderize Meat? (Learn How to Do So Here)

Sous vide is a popular cooking method not only because of its precise and consistent temperature. It’s popular because it’s known to produce tender and succulent meat. Now, as someone who recently encountered sous vide, that claim might seem too good to be true. So, you may ask:

Does sous vide tenderize meat? Yes, sous vide does tenderize meat. This cooking method uses precise temperatures until the meat’s composition, like collagen and muscles, breaks down. As a result, you end up with tender meat that’s hard to pull off with traditional cooking.

Generally, sous vide cooking allows us to deal with tough, collagen-heavy cuts of meat at lower cooking temperatures. Thus, if cooked for extended periods, we enjoy the same tenderizing effect as braising.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the process of tenderizing meat through sous vide. This way, you can know the composition of meat and what sous vide does to make it tender.

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Does Sous Vide Tenderize MeatPin

Will sous vide make tough meat tender?

Sous vide will make the tough meat tender. When you cook sous vide, you can control the cooking temperature with ease. Thus, you can set the temperature to a level that is enough to break the enzymes of meat that make them tough.

Now, such a thing is achievable with traditional cooking. However, since this method uses a high temperature, you end up with dry meat, which also means tough.

When you cook sous vide, the protein strands will be broken without undergoing a high temperature that will dry them out. 

In short, sous vide allows you to break the enzymes to tenderize meat without using a high temperature. Thus, you can come up with a meat that is incredibly tender but also retains its juiciness.

How to tenderize meat with sous vide?

If you want to tenderize meat with sous vide, you can follow this step-by-step process as your guide and instructions.

Set the temperature on your sous vide depending on your meat.

The temperature of the sous vide water bath should depend on the type of meat you are using. For instance, red meat like beef and poultry like chicken have lengthy protein molecules. Such protein compresses between 104 and 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

When heated to such a point, a single muscle fiber might shrink to half its original length. Thus, you should set the temperature according to your meat’s ideal cooking temperature. 

Let the meat rest after cooking. 

Resting is an essential step in keeping the moisture on the meat and preventing it from getting dry. When proteins compress, the liquid contained inside their structure is squeezed out. However, this water loss can cause a piece of meat to become tough; rest the meat after cooking to pull moisture back in.

The major protein, collagen, has three protein strands and is unchewable when raw. As a result, it settles with the heat of around 122 degrees Fahrenheit, or somewhat faster at 160 degrees Fahrenheit and 180 degrees Fahrenheit. 

The strands eventually transform into gelatin, a protein that tenderizes the flesh and retains up to ten times its weight in moisture. Tougher proteins are kept at higher temperatures for extended periods to create jelly faster.

Will sous vide make steak tender?

Yes, sous vide will make steak tender. As mentioned earlier, sous vide cooks the steak in a consistent yet low temperature. Thus, you can cook longer, allowing the enzymes and muscles to soften up.

The result of sous vide steak forms gelatinous meat. Thus, once you finish searing the steak, you end up with a tender yet still juicy steak.

How do you tenderize steak sous vide?

In general, you can tenderize steak by simply putting it in the water bath and cooking it sous vide according to the temperature and cooking time it needs. However, if you have no idea about the cooking temperatures of the steak, you can follow this guide.

  • Set the sous vide to 120 degrees Fahrenheit for a rare steak
  • Set the sous vide to 129 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium-rare steak 
  • Set the sous vide to 135 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium steak
  • Set the sous vide to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for a medium-well steak
  • Set the sous vide to 156 degrees Fahrenheit for a well-done steak

These temperatures can cook for a range of 1 to 48 hours. However, the best cooking time should be around several hours. An extended time would alter the taste and quality, while a shorter time would alter the texture.

The best way to find out the best is to experiment and try which cooking time would give you the steak you prefer.

Frequently asked questions

Should you tenderize steak before sous vide?

It’s not necessary to tenderize your steak if you’re cooking it sous vide. The reason is that the sous vide in itself will do that task for you. 

The sous vide procedure should tenderize the meat to the point where the marinade is no longer necessary. Changing the cooking time should provide the desired tenderness without the need for the marinade. When placed in the sous vide bath, it immediately reaches temperature and is thoroughly cooked.

What temperature does the collagen break down sous vide?

In most cases, the collagen of meat starts breaking down at 130 degrees Fahrenheit. Depending on your preferred doneness, that temperature can be lower or higher.

One more aspect to consider when discussing sous vide cooking is collagen, the connective fibers that hold the muscle fibers in meat in place. When collagen is heated over 130°F, it compresses and denatures, transforming it into a gelatinous material.


So, does sous vide tenderize meat? Yes, sous vide does tenderize meat. In a nutshell, sous vide gives us the capability to tenderize challenging, collagen-heavy pieces of meat at lower temperatures. 

As a result, if cooked for an extended time, we get the same tenderizing effect as braising. You can do this task by simply placing the steak in a water bath and cooking it sous vide according to the temperature and cooking time required.



Image credits – Canva

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