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Challenging Convention: 203F is pointless, and only coincidental

dsc106

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Correct me if I am wrong…

Collagen breakdown can begin as low as the 130s given enough time, due to enzymes, but accelerates heavily from 160F-180F. Nothing happens structurally to muscles or meat beyond 180-203F that I am aware of, other than overcooking.

My theory is that 203F is only correlated to the fact that all of the meat has been held at a temperature in this range (ie 170F or 180F) for sufficient duration so as to thoroughly melt the collagen (which masks overcooking), but not so long as to begin getting too much dried out meat and too much actin denaturatuon.

Maybe this is obvious, but the temperature seems to have no meaning in and of itself outside of a coincidental reference point as to when enough collagen breakdown has occurred, but not too much overcooking. A sweet spot by happenstance.

The point is, what if there is a better way? What if, once the meat reaches 170-180 where collagen is melting aggressively, we turn down the heat and do our best to hold meat as close to 180F not for 3 hours, but for another 6 hours+? We need the extra time because collagen breakdown would be slowed, but the meat wouldn’t go as high and dry and actin denaturation would be slower.

There are problems with this as well, though. Too much moisture loss? Too much bark? Or perhaps paramount, 180F is still higher than ideal for actin.

At the end of the day, doesn’t this make Sous vide que (Sous vide + smoke) - *if* done properly - theoretically a superior method?

I’ve perused many threads. Some say it’s the best they’ve had, others say smoking was better. But for those that have said smoking is better it seems they haven’t really deep dived experimentation and tuning.

I see no scientific reason why meat held at a consistent lower temperature to achieve collagen breakdown while minimizing actin denaturizarion and overcooking, and then finished with a smoke, should not produce superior results. For those who have said it wasn’t smoky enough with a reverse smoke, they seem to have only tried it once or twice. But you could smoke lower and longer than 2 hours for the reverse smoke. You could inject liquid smoke into the meat or just put it into the bag prior to SV and also finish with a smoke. Etc.

Full circle - am I missing something here? 203F is happenstance. A coincidental marker of sufficient duration of collagen breakdown that occurs at a much lower temp.. it’s basically the sweet spot of “over cooked… but not TOO overcooked”. So why not take our modern understandings and improve the way we think of traditional time and temp targets?
 

drunkenmeatfist

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Most people that seem to know what they are talking about never say that the meat has to hit 203 to be perfect. That number is given as a guide, but usually followed with the advice of "it's done when it's done" as well as advice on what probe tender feels like. As far as sous vide being superior goes I think there are plenty of people out there cooking excellent food that couldn't really be beat with a water bath.
 

SmokinEdge

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Correct me if I am wrong…

Collagen breakdown can begin as low as the 130s given enough time, due to enzymes, but accelerates heavily from 160F-180F. Nothing happens structurally to muscles or meat beyond 180-203F that I am aware of, other than overcooking.

My theory is that 203F is only correlated to the fact that all of the meat has been held at a temperature in this range (ie 170F or 180F) for sufficient duration so as to thoroughly melt the collagen (which masks overcooking), but not so long as to begin getting too much dried out meat and too much actin denaturatuon.

Maybe this is obvious, but the temperature seems to have no meaning in and of itself outside of a coincidental reference point as to when enough collagen breakdown has occurred, but not too much overcooking. A sweet spot by happenstance.

The point is, what if there is a better way? What if, once the meat reaches 170-180 where collagen is melting aggressively, we turn down the heat and do our best to hold meat as close to 180F not for 3 hours, but for another 6 hours+? We need the extra time because collagen breakdown would be slowed, but the meat wouldn’t go as high and dry and actin denaturation would be slower.

There are problems with this as well, though. Too much moisture loss? Too much bark? Or perhaps paramount, 180F is still higher than ideal for actin.

At the end of the day, doesn’t this make Sous vide que (Sous vide + smoke) - *if* done properly - theoretically a superior method?

I’ve perused many threads. Some say it’s the best they’ve had, others say smoking was better. But for those that have said smoking is better it seems they haven’t really deep dived experimentation and tuning.

I see no scientific reason why meat held at a consistent lower temperature to achieve collagen breakdown while minimizing actin denaturizarion and overcooking, and then finished with a smoke, should not produce superior results. For those who have said it wasn’t smoky enough with a reverse smoke, they seem to have only tried it once or twice. But you could smoke lower and longer than 2 hours for the reverse smoke. You could inject liquid smoke into the meat or just put it into the bag prior to SV and also finish with a smoke. Etc.

Full circle - am I missing something here? 203F is happenstance. A coincidental marker of sufficient duration of collagen breakdown that occurs at a much lower temp.. it’s basically the sweet spot of “over cooked… but not TOO overcooked”. So why not take our modern understandings and improve the way we think of traditional time and temp targets?
SV is a fine tool in cooking for sure. No magic in final IT. Sometimes 195* sometimes 215* for pull apart or slicing. The texture of the meat in SV LOW at say a beef chuck going 40 hours at 135* is maximum for me. The meat gets mushy.
That said, I appreciate lower slow bbq because of the depth of flavor developed over that time in heat and smoke. That’s something SV cannot provide. Slapping a little smoke on a piece of meat at the start or finish is hardly quality bbq. At least not for me. You are over thinking the the whole thing. Bbq is bbq. Souse vida is it’s own thing. Combining them is mildly interesting, but doesn’t move the ground under my feet.
 

JckDanls 07

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And there ya go... let us know the results/opinion of your first test ...

As for reaching 203` (or so) to be done... this is true for the texture one is trying to achieve...
140` for pork... 125` (or so, rare) for beef... 165 for chicken is considered DONE ...
 
Last edited:

SmokinAl

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Well all I can say is the way I make pastrami, is I smoke it to 150 IT, then bag it & put in black pepper, & pickling spices, also butter & slices of lemon In the bag. Then let it go at 155 in the SV for 24 hours. Best pastrami you ever had!!!
Al
 

Bearcarver

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My 2 Piasters:

On the 203° being a "Sweet Spot"----My Smoked Pulled Pork Butts finish in a range of from 200° to 208°, but enough of them are happy at 203°, so that's my favorite spot.

As for a maximum SV on meats like a Chuck Roast:
I SV'd @ 132° a few for 21 hours, 24 hours, and 30 hours, and I stuck around down there for a few, because they came out like a Prime Rib when I sliced them.
I even put one or 2 on my Step by Step Index, as the way to do it.
Then I ran into a tough one @ 24 hours, and another tough one @ 30 hours.
So I changed my attack to 48 hours, and I've been doing them at that number ever since & have had Prime Rib-Like Chuckies ever since. This number of hours seems to take care of the occasional Tough Chuck Roast, and I have never had any get Mushy on me.

If I want to SV a Chucky for Pulled Beef, I make that 165° for 30 hours for perfection.

Bear
 

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