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Don't need to hit a temp that high to break it down, anything over 140 will do it. although I think with pork they still try to get you to 160. As long as you give it enough time it'll break down. As for smoke a lot of people will smoke before and after the sous vide. Sous vide does not rush anything, it just regulates the temp.
You should check out Guga foods and Sous vide everything on youtube
I've seen both channels. I'd still prefer reverse sear.
And it does take quite a bit of temp to break down certain connective tissues. Plus you need time to get all that smokiness from the burning wood.
The idea of sous vide pork butt is..... disturbing. It's like a boiled hot dog, you just don't do it.
The sous vide is to regulate the cook, not to dictate the flavor, you still smoke, or season, or whatever you wish to do.QuoteThis is the riddle in the alchemy of turning muscle into meat. Per all my resources, collagen shrinkage does not start below 140˚F. My BBQ/slow cooker references all claim that 160˚ is where collagen starts to break due to contraction, with a peak at 180˚. The Science of Good Cooking in particular shows through experimentation that the collagen in oxtail turns into form-holding gelatin after 3 hours at this range. Smoking recipes for pork shoulder and beef brisket almost all call for cooking to 195-203˚, which I can only surmise is because that range is where all the collagen has been above 160˚ for about 3 hours in a 250˚ smoker.As you note, shrinkage cannot be the only means of collagen to gelatin conversion. It is enzymes that degrade it at lower temperatures. Most sous vide sources claim cathepsins in particular are the primary conversion mechanism below 140˚. The Science of Good Cooking shows a beef rib roast falling apart after 24 hours at 120˚—just below cathepsin's denaturing temperature of 122˚. But sous vide recipes never hold below 130˚ due to food safety fears (and with good cause—Douglas Baldwin shows 126.1˚ to be the highest point at which bacteria can multiply). At 130˚, cathepsins are gone.The answer? Collagenases. Collagenases activate at 113˚F, peak at 130˚ and denature at 140˚. Baldwin claims collagen enzymatic degradation takes at least 6 hours, and I've found other references showing maximum benefit at 24-48 hours.Quote
The transformation of collagen into gelatin does not happen at a particular temperature. Modernist Cuisine says that it happens as low as body temperature, but when I wrote this I did not mean to imply that this is a "threshold" temperature. Actually I went out of my way in the meat chapter to explain that nearly all cookbooks, and even a few meat science books, are wrong in this regard.The underlying chemical reaction follows first-order Arrhenius behavior, which simply means that as the temperature goes lower it will take longer for this chemical reaction to occur. At some point, it doesn't even appear to be occurring. And this is where I think the misunderstanding comes from in the kitchen.At 150 °F or so, it appears to be happening quickly, taking minutes to a few hours to go from tough to tender. So people say that collagen denatures at 150 °F. Or 145 °F, or some other similar temperature.
I love some good smoke. Wanting smoke doesn't mean you cannot sous vide, and if you want to guarantee full breakdown of connective tissues its far more about time than temp. You always have the risk with high temp cooking for the finish of the meat to be inconsistent. That is what sous vide prevents. It makes it to where all the meat gets the same doneness and all the connective tissue is given the chance at full breakdown. You can still smoke, or sear, or cold smoke, or flamethrower or whatever you want to the meat.