By Marilyn Kitzes
Whether you cook sous vide or prepare food by conventional methods, understanding food safety is important for any home cook. Here are some basic sous vide safety tips everyone should know.
Cook at food-safe temperatures. To make sure vegetative forms of pathogenic bacteria will be destroyed, always sous vide food at a temperature of 132.8℉ (56℃) or higher.
Double check your circulator. To ensure your circulator’s temperature is accurate, verify your water bath with a thermometer before cooking. The chefs at Cuisine Solutions—the industry’s premier authority on sous vide cooking—suggest setting your circulator one or two degrees above your recipe’s suggested temperature to make sure your food is cooked to its core.
Use the right kind of plastic bags. Scientists and chefs believe cooking in food-safe, BPA-free plastic at low sous vide temperatures doesn’t pose any health risk. So, as a rule, only use food-grade bags that can withstand cooking and storage at cold temperatures. If you do choose Ziploc (or another brand-name slider bag) for sous vide cooking, go for the thicker variety and don’t cook at boiling temperatures.
Don’t reuse plastic bags. Experts advise against reusing Ziploc or any other plastic bags. Reusing plastic at higher temperatures and for longer cooking times isn’t safe because the plastic can be compromised. If reusing bags is a priority for you (or you don’t want to cook in plastic), consider reusable silicone bags, which are easily cleaned in the dishwasher.
Don’t vacuum pack room-temperature food. Vacuum packing at room temperature disrupts the cell wall of a food’s delicate proteins and gives food an unwelcome cottony texture. Only vacuum seal food that’s in a chilled state.
Be smart about storage. Unless you’re planning to plate right after cooking, immediately chill your food to prevent spore-generating bacteria from forming in your vacuum-sealed bag. Place your cooked, bagged food in an ice water bath to bring the food temperature below 41℉ (5℃), and after the ice bath, refrigerate your bag below 41℉. Cooked food can be refrigerated for a maximum of seven days—or up to several months in the freezer—before reheating and eating.
Dedicated to the Art & Science of Sous-Vide
The first publication devoted to the art and science of sous vide cooking, featuring innovative recipes, visual inspiration, expert techniques for cooking sous vide at home, and exclusive interviews with world-class chefs.