I have an 8-pound Ribeye roast - how long will it take to sous vide?
Weight doesn’t matter…at least for sous vide.
My Sous Vide Boneless Ribeye Roast recipe is getting a lot of traffic in the run-up to Christmas. And...I made a mistake. Not that anything is wrong with the recipe - it works fine.1
My mistake was saying “6-pound boneless ribeye roast” in the ingredients list. That’s not good recipe writing. I left out the most important piece of information, and I'm getting a lot of questions because of it:
“What if my ribeye roast is 8 pounds? What if I’m cooking three 6 pound roasts at once? What if it weighs 2.2kg?” In other words, how does changing the weight change the cooking time?
How long do I sous vide a boneless ribeye roast?
6 to 10 hours at 133°F/55°C. The thickness of the roast determines the cooking time, not the weight. A normal ribeye roast is 4 to 5 inches thick, and it takes at least 6 hours for heat to reach all the way into the middle of the roast.
After that, we have a window of about 4 hours where the roast is cooked and ready to serve, for a total cooking time between 6 and 10 hours of cooking. After 10 hours, the beef will start to overcook and get too tender. (It doesn’t happen immediately - you can cook the roast for 11 hours, and it will still be OK - but 10 hours is where it starts to get a little too tender.)
Recipe here: Sous Vide Boneless Ribeye Roast
What? Why doesn’t weight matter?
Because science! (Specifically, the physics of heat transfer.) The hot water bath surrounds the roast, and heat transfers into the roast at the same rate from all directions. A ribeye roast is roughly box-shaped, longer and wider than it is high, so cooking time is determined by how long it takes the heat to diffuse through the high side at its thickest point - no matter how long it gets. (To use butcher terms, once you get past a 2-bone ribeye roast, the cooking time stays the same. And, smaller than that I would call a cowboy steak, not a roast.)
So, the answer to those questions: 2.2kg, 8 pounds, three roasts at once, or 6 pounds, like my roast? As long as the roasts are 4 to 5 inches thick, cook them for 6 hours. And...4 to 5 inches is the normal range for a ribeye roast. My friends at Certified Angus Beef® Brand use the width of the ribeye in their grading standards. If it's too big or too small, it doesn't qualify as Certified Angus Beef®.
(FCC note: Certified Angus Beef® Brand is a regular sponsor of mine, but they are not sponsoring this post. I’m on my own for this one. They do have a lot of useful information about beef that I read while working on this post and the original recipe.)
But…what if I got a really thin ribeye? Or a really thick one?
- 2 inches thick…is a thick steak - 3 hours sous vide
- 3 inches thick - 4 hours sous vide
- 4 to 5 inches thick - 6 hours sous vide
- 6 inches thick - 8 hours sous vide
(Yes, the time increases - a lot - as you get thicker.)
What about cooking a frozen ribeye roast?
This is a big advantage to sous vide - you do not have to thaw before you start cooking. I add 2 hours to the cooking time for a 4 to 5-inch thick roast, for a total cooking time of 8 to 12 hours.
Can I sous vide a Ribeye roast the day before, chill it, and reheat it for serving?
Another question was about cooking ahead of time and reheating. Yes, you can cook it ahead of time and reheat. But I don’t think you should. This big of a roast is going to take a long time to reheat - 6 hours for the heat to reach the middle of the roast. (Sound familiar?) My opinion is: sous vide it the day you're cooking - it won't take much more time than reheating.
What do you think?
Questions? Comments? References to scientific literature about heat transfer in food? Leave them in the comments below.
Almost everything I know about the science of Sous Vide comes from Douglas Baldwin:
- A Practical Guide to Sous Vide [DouglasBaldwin.com]
Sous Vide Cooking: A Review [International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science via ScienceDirect.com]
Sous Vide Boneless Ribeye Roast
My other Sous Vide Recipes
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- More than fine, if medium-rare beef is your goal. I’d go so far as to say “great”, especially since I’m thinking of using it on Christmas Day, to make my Christmas Morning less hectic. ↩
Dave Forestell says
I'm glad I found your sous vide site. I am doing a rib eye roast now. Hopefully it will come out like yours. I won't be serving it till tomorrow. Will it be OK to leave it in the pot with the power off?
Mike Vrobel says
No, don't do that! That's not food safe. Any bacteria on the roast are going to start growing.
I don't have a good option for you, but I would try chilling and reheating (as I mention in the post), or, as long as the cooking temperature is over 131°F, leave the roast in the sous vide set to the cooking temperature. The outside of the roast is going to over tenderize, but the heat will pasteurize any bacteria on the outside. (If the temp is below 131°F, raise it to 131°F at least.)
Does this apply to thick pork chops?
Mike Vrobel says
Have you tried putting in a high heat oven, prior to serving, to get that nice outside crust? Even if it was only for appearance sake.
Mike Vrobel says
No, I haven't. I sear afterwards.
Hi Mike - I just stumbled across your blog and you and I could be brothers from anotha mutha - at least in the kitchen!
Anyhow, definitely try the reverse sear using the oven broiler (if you haven't already. I know this post is close to 2-1/2 years old). Much easier than searing a big ol' roast in a pan, with a lot less clean up (no splattering on the stovetop)
Looking forward to reading more - I'm sous vide'g a NY Roast today and I'm gonna try your bourbon pan cream sauce.
Great post, Mike! I wrote a blog post about roasting a prime rib and I noted that the size of the roast doesn't matter, but I think you explain the why better.
I haven't tried to sous vide my prime rib yet, so I can't wait to use your technique!
Mike Vrobel says