Can You Sous Vide Frozen Food? Is it Safe?

Sous Vide Frozen Food

I believe we have all been in a situation where we have planned to sous vide something for dinner. You know you have a nice steak (or something else, we do not discriminate) in the freezer. You were meant to pull it out of the freezer to defrost and thaw it, however reality hit and you either forgot or did not get to actually pull out the meat. The obvious question arises, can I sous vide frozen food?

Read on to see our findings on whether or not you can sous vide frozen food. Because multiple questions came to my mind when researching this topic, as I stood there with my forgotten meat left in the freezer. Not that meat, the eatable one, the other one I imagine would be quite painful to leave in the freezer, at least for a little while – at some point I suppose it would become numb. Oh well..

Before we run anymore off track, let us get back to the topic of whether or not you can put frozen meat in your sous vide. Some of the questions we will be covering during this article includes:

Can You Sous Vide Frozen Food?

So can you put frozen food in sous vide? Well from an obvious point of view, we should have no issues to sous vide frozen food. The only difference between frozen food and non-frozen food is that the frozen food is frozen and thereby have a colder starting temperature than ingredients that is taken directly from the fridge.

With that in mind, I think it would be safe to assume that if we want to sous vide frozen food compared to non-frozen food, the only difference to keep in mind would be to account for a longer cooking period for the frozen food, as it essentially will have to defrost in the water bath before it starts cooking.

But one thing is of course whether or not you will be able to cook your frozen food sous vide, another is whether or not you should. We would need to address whether there are there any benefits to sous vide frozen food. Also an important question to ask is of course whether or not it is safe to sous vide frozen food?

Let’s take a little deep dive in to what the experts tells us.

Is It Safe To Sous Vide Frozen Food?

Yes you better believe it. In fact you may actually encounter a smaller risk of cross contaminating your food if you sous vide it directly from the freezer. However this mostly comes down to proper kitchen hygiene. If you make sure to work in a clean kitchen, clean hands and with clean tools using separate cutting boards and knives for different ingredients you should be OK in most circumstances.

In order to keep track of your frozen food a great advice is to thoroughly label the products you have in the freezer. Make sure to state when it was frozen, when it should be used before, whether it is raw or cooked and so on. Another good advice is to state weight and/or portion size on the bag.

Another benefit of freezing your food is that it will ensure that bacteria will be put in to a dormant stage by slowing the movement of molecules. The USDA states that freezing food to at least 0 °F (-18 °C) will inactivate microbes such as molds, bacteria and yeasts. This should happen in your household freezer (mine is set to -4 °F / -20 °C). However you need to be aware that once the food is thawed all of the microbes will become alive again, and thereby you will need to treat the meat as you would with any fresh product.

The good thing is that by throwing the frozen food directly into your sous vide water bath you ensure that it gets handled correctly from the beginning and thereby you minimize the room for human error.

It is important to keep in mind that the USDA and other authorities states do you can not rely on your household freezer to kill bacteria and parasites such as Trichina. Reason for this is that it requires sub-zero freezing temperatures, which is not guaranteed to be meet by your household freezer. In fact it is under very strict government-supervised conditions that has to be met. So if you want to be sure parasites and the like are killed you should thoroughly cook your meat as this will kill them.

Are Some Ingredients Better Suited To Be Sous Vide Frozen?

In general we would often hear that fresh ingredients at better than frozen ingredients. This is probably right if your frozen ingredients where close to expiring or turning bad once it was frozen. However if you work with really fresh ingredients that gets frozen very early on / as soon as it is brought home, then it still keeps plenty of its freshness.

Sous Vide Frozen Meat

In our household we have done several, very informal I must stress, taste tests and our overall conclusion is that we see no loss of taste or flavor when cooking food sous vide from frozen. This is obviously not a scientific test, so you will have to take it at face value.

One of the big benefits from sous vide frozen food is that it makes it super easy to accommodate in a busy schedule where you may forget to take out dinner from the freezer the day before. Here you just take it directly from the freezer and drop it into your water bath. Easy peasy.

In terms of seasoning, our suggestion is that you season your food prior to you freezing and vacuum bagging the meat. This way it is ready for whenever you need it, and you still ensure that it gets cook with the seasoning and has plenty of time to absorb it while it gets cooked in the water bath.

Also a word of advice is to bag pieces of meat individually as this makes it much easier to portion and ensures a thorough cook once in the water bath. So as an example, one chicken breast in one vacuum or Ziploc bag.

Can I Sous Vide Frozen Chicken?

Yes! Sous vide frozen chicken works great. As you can often find larger packs of chicken on sale in your supermarket freezing it ready for sous vide makes for a great choice and cost saver.

Can I Sous Vide Frozen Fish?

Sure yes, why not. Fish, I must stress, is one of those items that I myself prefer to work with completely fresh. But that is simply a personal preferences, you should be able to achieve a perfect result if you sous vide frozen fish.

Can I Sous Vide Frozen Meat?

Yes you can sous vide frozen meat! This is the game changer for me. Being able to buy a whole roast of ribeye and then cutting it into steaks myself, placing it in vacuum bags and freezing the steaks until I need them is such a nice convenience. By doing this I just take the steaks out when I need them and in no time I have the most delicious steaks at my disposal. Yum!

How Should I Sous Vide Frozen Food?

A rule of thumb when you sous vide frozen food is to multiple the cooking time by 1.5. This means that if you follow our recipe for cooking the best sous vide ribeye steak, you should take the cooking time of 2 hours and multiple with 1.5.

Sous Vide Frozen Food Cooking time = Normal Cooking Time + (Normal Cooking time/2)

or easier to remember

Sous Vide Frozen Food Cooking time = Normal Cooking Time * 1.5

Remember this is really only a rule of thumb and will not apply to all use cases. There is an exception. If you plan to sous vide a really tough cut of meat, which requires a long cooking period, there is usually no reason to add additional time to the normal cooking time.

As the meat will spend such a long time in the water bath, it will have plenty of time to defrost while at the same time cook fully as you expect.

Let us know in the comments; do you sous vide frozen food or do you thaw the meat first before you sous vide?

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