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Sous vide and re-cooling: here's why they are a golden duo

Sous vide is a cooking technique which can help every (home) chef to always achieve the perfect end result. By using sous vide, you can make sure that the core of that beautiful piece of meat can reach the right temperature, without letting the outside cook through too much. The result of sous vide: always a perfectly cooked, tender piece of meat.

Did you know that by cooling the meat back down after cooking in the sous vide, you can often get an even better result? It might sound illogical to cool the dish down immediately after sous vide cooking. In this blog, we explain why cooling down your sous vide preparation is a good idea and we also explain the best way to cool down the dish.

Re-cooling of your sous vide dish

Why would you cook meat sous vide first, cool the product back down and then reheat it. You may know that in professional kitchens it is very common to prepare all dishes as much as possible. There is even a term for it: mise-en-place. There are also several good reasons why it can be useful for you as a home cook to cool down your sous vide cooked products.

Some types of meat need to be cooked in the sous vide longer than strictly necessary to reach the right core temperature. Oxtail, bavette, sukade. Each of them beautiful, but "difficult" meat. Cooking them too quickly does not exactly benefit the taste and that is where sous vide comes in and can offer the solution. With the right amount of time in the sous vide, even this difficult meat will eventually become buttery tender.

You can read how long the meat has to be cooked sous vide in our other blog about how to make the perfect steak, but certain pieces of meat, like lamb shoulder or pulled pork, you can only get the best results after a few days in the sous vide bath. Only then the meat has the structure and tenderness you want to achieve with sous vide.

Although sous vide is very convenient, because you don't have to do much as a cook, it is obviously not very practical and economical to turn on the sous vide for a long time for just one or two servings.

If you cool the meat down immediately after cooking - and possibly freeze it afterwards - you only have to reheat it sous vide before use. If you cook several portions at once, you save a lot of time and energy the next time.

There is another important reason to cool your dish immediately. Thin meat, about two centimeters thick, that has not been cooked sous vide, normally reaches the required temperature after just a few minutes in the pan. Would you put the meat directly from the sous vide into the pan, meat of which the core is already at temperature, then the outside will be overcooked during the baking of the meat, but also the inside can turn quickly. A shame of course of your efforts to get the inside of your steak perfect.

By cooling the thinner meat before frying, you can give the outside of the meat a nice crust, while the inside can come to serving temperature during frying.

The advantages of sous vide re-cooling

Cooling down your sous vide dishes has several advantages for you as a home chef, we will summarize them briefly:

  • Time saving: You save yourself time by making several portions in advance. You can keep these portions in the refrigerator or freeze them whenever you like.
  • Cheaper: You use less energy because the portions already prepared only have to be heated sous vide and not fully cooked. The dishes therefore do not have to stay in the sous-vide as long, so you use less energy and this way of working saves you money.
  • Better result: With thin meat, re-cooling gives you better control over the core temperature of the meat and therefore better control over the end result. After it has cooled back down, you can put the meat in the pan for a little while to get a nice crispy crust on it, or use the kitchen torch. This also brings the core of the meat back to serving temperature.

How are you supposed to cool down?

Proper re-cooling is very important. By cooling the product back in the right way, you prevent harmful bacteria from developing. This allows the product to be stored for longer and, more importantly, prevents food poisoning.

Most importantly, the re-cooling must be done quickly. Bring the core temperature down to 5 degrees Celsius or even lower in less than two hours.

In the professional kitchen, a special blast chiller is used to reduce the temperature of a preparation as quickly as possible. As a home chef, such a device will generally not be part of the kitchen equipment. We will therefore have to cool your dish down quickly in a different way. Since your sous vide dish is already vacuum packed, you can use cold water to re-cool it.

  • Re-cooling thin meat: re-cooling of thinner pieces of meat can be done perfectly in cold tap water. Place the vacuum bag from the sous vide directly into a sink filled with cold water until the product has cooled down sufficiently.
  • Re-cooling thicker pieces of meat: for thicker pieces of meat you will need, besides the cold water, a large quantity of ice cubes to keep the temperature of the water low. The large piece of sous-vide cooked meat is still warm and will heat up the water very quickly. The ice water helps to bring the (core) temperature of the product down as quickly as possible.

Chilling in the fridge: don't do it

Chilling a dish or preparation in the refrigerator is certainly not recommended. Placing the hot dish in the fridge heats up the fridge and that certainly doesn't help the shelf life of the other products in the fridge. Always cool the dish in the way described above and as quickly as possible back to 5 degrees Celsius.

The added value

Even though it might go against your nature, in many cases cooling your dishes back down definitely has added value. By cooling them back quickly, you can eat or freeze them later, which saves you preparation time in the kitchen and also sous vide time. The energy savings that come with that are a nice bonus, of course.

By cooling back you can also prevent thinner meat from burning through too quickly during baking. Overcooked meat is of course a waste of effort and is not why you have chosen sous vide cooking.

Re-cooling is not something you will only find in the professional kitchen. By cooling down in the right way, you too, as a home chef, can benefit even more from all the advantages that sous vide cooking has to offer.