Sous vide is a cooking method where food is cooked in sealed pouches or air tight plastic bags at exact – sometimes low – temperatures.
Cooking via sous vide is often done in a water bath to control the temperature. The low cooking temperatures are sometimes maintained for a long time.
The name sous vide is French, meaning ‘under vacuum’.
The sous vide method is now used for many retail foods including ready meals for sale, some catered foods, and some items at restaurants.
Sous vide products are exposed to the same risks as other foods during preparation, cooking, cooling and reheating.
Risks that could lead to food poisoning include:
- food held in the temperature danger zone (5°C–60°C) for long periods could allow harmful bacteria to grow
- food stored in the fridge for long periods could be a risk for food poisoning bacteria able to grow at low temperatures such as listeria
- food cooked at low temperatures for short periods could be undercooked or raw and food poisoning bacteria and parasites are not killed.
People using sous vide must know how to manage the food safety risks.
To keep food safe:
- prepare thinner portions of food so that heating and cooling are rapid
- keep water bath temperatures at 55°C or hotter
- limit the time food is cooked at cooler than 55°C to no more than 6 hours
- use quality equipment with adequate heating capacity and excellent temperature control
- check water and/or food temperatures with an accurate, tip-sensitive digital thermometer accurate to 0.1°C
- store prepared foods for no more than 5 days
- do not compound multiple risks, for example, if meat has been mechanically tenderised do not cook large portions for a long time at low temperatures.
Home cooks new to sous vide must be aware of the food safety risks.
Avoid experimental use of the sous vide method.
Today’s leading chefs in sous vide cooking produce quality food while maintaining food safety.