Horse Sirloin and Sous-Vide: a (not so) Rare Combination

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Horse sirloin: notice the marbling

Due to the increased popularity of horse meat that I already wrote about in my post on Braciole di Cavallo alla Barese, my butcher now displays his horse meat more prominently. This is why I noticed this fine piece of horse sirloin at only half the price of beef sirloin and with better marbling. I decided that it would be a nice idea to try and cook it sous-vide.

I expected that I would be on my own with this, because most of the home cooks that can afford sous-vide equipment sneer at horse meat (or live in a country where it is not very sale for human consumption such as the USA) and so I was not expecting to find much guidance online. Google confirmed that horse sirloin and sous-vide are a rare combination: I only found one post and that was for horse tenderloin and most importantly wasn’t real sous-vide but more of a poorly executed poor-man’s version of it (not even a thermometer was used).

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This horse sirloin cooked sous-vide looks great, doesn’t it?!

The butcher told me that the meat is not as tender as beef sirloin. I wanted to cook it medium rare, so I decided to try 24 hours at 55C/131F. The result was quite strange: on the one hand it had the ‘powdery’ texture of meat that has been cooked sous-vide for too long, but on the other hand there was a lot of connective tissue that was still tough. With other types of meat such as beef and lamb I have only experienced the overcooked/powdery texture after the connective tissue had become tender. So for my next experiment I decided that I would need a higher cooking temperature (to tenderize the connective tissue) with a shorter cooking time (to prevent the overcooked texture).

I tried 62C/144F for 8 hours and that did the trick: tender meat with a good texture. The only problem of course is that now the horse sirloin ended up medium rather than medium rare. Which explains the part in parentheses  in the title of this post: it appears to be impossible to cook horse sirloin (medium) rare and end up with tender meat. This may be due to the fact that horses get a lot more exercise than cows do, so the muscles are used more and thus even a usually tender cut like sirloin stays tough when cooked medium rare.

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I served the horse sirloin sous-vide with a red wine sauce, roasted potatoes, and roasted green asparagus with pecorino. Here is the recipe for those of you who’d like to try this at home 🙂

Ingredients

300 grams (.67 lbs) horse sirloin

salt and freshly ground black pepper

clarified butter

250 ml (1 cup) full bodied red wine (choose a good wine and drink the rest with the dish)

3 fresh thyme sprigs

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, minced

1 shallot, chopped

cold butter

To serve

roasted potatoes

roasted asparagus with pecorino shavings

Preparation

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I pre-seared the horse sirloin before vacuum sealing it, but you could also vacuum seal it raw. Just rub it with salt and pepper before you do. If you do pre-sear it, make sure to let it cool to refrigerator temperature before you try to vacuum seal it, otherwise a lot of juices will be sucked out of the meat.

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Cook sous-vide at 62C/144F for 8 hours.

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Sauté the shallot, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme for a few minutes in butter or oil. Add the red wine as soon as the shallot is golden. Do not let the garlic burn.

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Simmer until reduced by half. Strain the concentrated aromatized wine into a container.

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When the horse is cooked, there will be some liquid in the bag.

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Catch the liquid in a saucepan and cook it briefly to let the solids coagulate.

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Pat the horse meat dry with a paper towel.

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Use the same paper towel to filter the juices from the saucepan into the same container as the concentrated wine.

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Quickly brown the horse meat in clarified butter over very high heat.

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Turn off the heat and take the meat out of the pan and wrap it in aluminum foil to keep it warm while you finish the sauce. Pour any excess butter out of the pan. Deglaze the hot pan with the wine mixture.

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Allow to concentrate for a bit.

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Beat some small pieces of cold butter into the sauce to bind it a little and make it shine. This is called mounting with butter.

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Slice the meat against the grain and season the slices lightly with salt. Serve with roasted potatoes and roasted asparagus with pecorino on warm plates. Drizzle the meat with the sauce. Drink the rest of the red wine with the dish.

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20 thoughts on “Horse Sirloin and Sous-Vide: a (not so) Rare Combination

  1. Vey nice, Stefan. Once again, very solid technique and very nice presentation. Sadly, this is one of those dishes I have to imagine because, as you noticed, horse meat isn’t commercially sold in the US for human consumption.

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  2. I like the way you describe over cooking meat – it does indeed go a bit powdery I hadn;t thought of decribing it like that and god knows i;ve over cooked meat enough times

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    1. I have never overcooked meat that way without using sous-vide. But perhaps that’s because I’m much more likely to undercook than to overcook meat — always trying to serve it as barely cooked as possible 🙂

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  3. This looks delicious, Stefan, and beautifully presented. Like Richard, though,I doubt that I’ll “knowingly” have horse meat over here. I don’t object to it but it’s just not available.

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    1. When you do get horse meat to barbecue, I would recommend tenderloin rather than sirloin. It may depend on the age of the horse and the kind of life it had, but the sirloin I had clearly would not have become edible on a BBQ.

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  4. This look delicious! I tried a bit of raw horse in Japan – they serve it thinly sliced – and I couldn’t really distinguish it much from beef. And from your Nothing Wrong With Horsemeat post, I take it you found the same?

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  5. hello. im from sounth korea and i have some question. Im trying horse meat steak for sale now, but never found the way to cook it better than sasimi. ah, horse meat usually is eaten as sasimi in japan and some province of korea.

    however, as finding recipe, i catch that theres 2 way to sous vide it.
    1. cook it just an hour and sear it.
    2. cook it more than 4 hours and do more things.

    for me frankly to say, cooking it more than a hour sound weird cause as you know overcooking fatless meat make it very tough.

    as a cook what do you think about this timing difference and which one is better?

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    1. Hi Jun,
      Sous vide cooking is done at a very low temperature, so 4 hours is not overcooking and very suitable for lean meat to make it tender without making it tough or drying it out.
      Do you have sous vide equipment?

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  6. Hi Stefan,

    I’d like to say thank you for this recipe as this was the only one I found for horse meat sous-vide since the meat is not available everywhere. I am lucky as where I live (Malta) horse meat is quite common and cheap (~10$ per kg) and therefore can be considered as a cheaper alternative to other cuts of beef. I’ll try this once my anova arrives!

    Liked by 1 person

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