Saturday, September 13, 2014

Vacuumed Food and Food Safe Temperatures


Vacuumed food and food safe temperatures

Vacuuming food is THE way to prolong shelf life, maintain freshness and to increase the overall quality of food, either by chilling, freezing or dry storage.  Vacuuming raw, cooked or dry food alone does not guarantee success, there is a little more to it.

Find your vacuum sealer here:  for USA and for Canada.

Every type of food, whether vacuumed or not vacuumed, need to comply with a set of temperature measures to make them safe for consumption when they need storing for a period of time.

Enforcement at home

These temperature measures apply to all foods, raw, cooked, marinated and also dry foods. Guidelines have been set by various departments of public health, but often apply, or seem to apply to catering businesses and related food retailing businesses like supermarkets, restaurants and caf├ęs, seldom have they referred to households. 

We all know that caterers need compliance with food safety measures, but how do these measure translate when we store and cook food at home. 
Caterers and food retailers basically do the same thing as what homemakers do at home. Food is ordered, received, stored and prepared, quantities may vary, but the principal remains the same.  
Main difference is that caterers and other food handling businesses are checked at intervals by enforcement officers where homemakers are not. Does this mean that we can rely on the integrity of caterers and supermarkets? 
The answer is NO! Homemakers have their own part to play.

When foods are vacuumed and left unchecked on a kitchen counter they are as much subject to spoilage in a caterer’s kitchen as they are in a domestic kitchen.

Safe temperatures

The danger zone lies between 41 F and 135 F. This is the temperature range bacteria love and multiply at rapid speed. Bacteria multiply individually, meaning one becomes two, two become four and four become eight. If you would start with one bacterium, (which is highly unlikely) you will have 4000 bacteria after 4 hours considering that particular bacteria multiplies every 30 minutes.
This proves the importance of food storage under refrigerated or frozen conditions.

Vacuuming food, slows the process of bacterial growth considerably, but does not stop it, in fact nothing does, shelf life of vacuumed food becomes however interesting prolonged as the chart below will show.   

Vacuum for prolonged shelf life


Stored in
Normal shelf life
Vacuum shelf life
Large cuts of meat, beef, poultry, lamb and pork
6 months
2-3 years
Ground meat: beef, lamb, poultry, pork
4 months
1 year
6 months
2 years
1-3 days
1 week
Cheeses, hard, semi, soft and pasteurized. Soft cheeses should not be vacuumed
1-2 weeks
4-8 months
Cookies, crackers
Room temperature
1-2 weeks
3-6 weeks
Coffee beans
6-9 months
2-3 years
Coffee beans
Room temperature
4 weeks
16 months
6-9 months
2-3 years
Room temperature
4 weeks
16 months
 Source: Dr. G.K.York, Dept. of Food Science & Tech, U of California, Davis

It is important to note that laboratorial test are usually performed under perfect conditions, conditions homemakers cannot comply with, even if they want to.

Food Safety Guide Lines

We don’t walk around with thermometers when we do our grocery shopping, well at least I don’t. It is nevertheless good to keep some guide lines in mind which will help improve food safety standards.

·         Ensure to buy fresh meat and fish that has been stored in a chilled environment.
·         Avoid buying food in damaged packaging, for example: dented cans, damaged caps on jars and other sealed products.
·         Ensure that frozen food is in full frozen condition. (not half soft when handled)
·         When your travel time from store to home is longer than 30 minutes, store fresh food in a cooler box with frozen cooling elements.
·         Store food immediately in the respective storage, freezer or refrigerator, after returning home from the store.
·         Place a refrigerator thermometer in your refrigerator and check regularly if the temperature is constant.

Best temperatures for storage

Refrigerated potentially hazardous food
41 F or below
Frozen foods
0 F or below
Dry storage
50 – 70 F
When cooking food before vacuuming and storage, ensure to cool rapidly!

·         Do not cool at room temperature
·         Use an ice water bath to hasten cooling
·         Divide food in small units or spread it out to make a thin layer and refrigerate
·         Cool the food from boiling temperature to 70 F within 2 hours and then to 41 F within 4 hours.
·         Transfer to food to new clean vacuum bags, vacuum and freeze or chill immediately.
·         Thaw frozen food overnight in the refrigerator or on the defrost mode in your microwave.
·         Reheat food for consumption to 165 F  

A few simple measures and a bit of common sense, go a long way when it comes to food safety

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sous-Vide Cooking for beginners and Other Home Chefs


Sous-vide cooking for beginners and other home chefs

If you, like me, cook regularly at home and are not too afraid to try something different, sous-vide cooking is something you must lay your hands on one day.
If you believe that sous-vide is a mysterious way of cooking, exclusively reserved for well-trained chefs in Gourmet restaurants, something you need a lot of expensive equipment for, an investment you are not willing to spend your hard earned dollars on. Read on… 

Sous vide does not change or replace traditional cooking, sous-vide complements traditional cooking.  If you are a bit innovative you do not need to spend a lot on this amazing cooking method.

What it is?

Sous-vide literally means ‘under vacuum’. To explain the method in the simplest way, it means cooking vacuum packed food in a water bath under low, very precise temperatures.

What it does?

Cooking food at low temperatures is a technique known to give great results. Braising a big roast in the oven for a couple of hours is a good example.
Cooking vacuum packed food under low temperatures in a water bath ensures an even setting of protein in the product from edge to edge without over or under cooking, this creates a super tender texture of meat and fish and results in super tender vegetables. No thermometer, no guessing if the steak is medium or rare, trust your timer and you cannot go wrong.  

How do you do it?

The idea of going through a scary process of learning how to go about sous-vide puts a lot of people off, looking for a special temperature controlled water bath sounds like a hassle also.

Well here is what you need:

A good quality vacuum sealer

You can find your vacuum sealer and vacuum bags here:  for USA and for Canada

A Rice cooker (one of those where you press a button and your rice is cooked automatic), as long as there is rice and water inside of course.  

A sous –vide magic, or a temperature control devise.
You can find SVM temperature controllers on-line under that name.

Most likely you can find your rice cooker in your cupboard  

What is the purpose?

The art of perfect cooking is mastering the dish, to have it perfectly right every time you make a particular dish. The problem is that contrary to a restaurant, you do not cook the same dish very often at home like chefs do in a restaurant with a fixed menu. To get rid of that annoyance sous-vide provides the perfect solution.

Every time you cook your in-laws favorite dish the amount varies, sometimes there are four people another time there are five and you cannot remember exactly how you did it the last time. 
Sous-vide cooking reduce complicated matters to a few simple steps, temperature and time. This gives you control and predictability. All your cooking stress is eliminated when you are assured of the outcome.

Why should I cook sous-vide

For one it takes away a big part of intense cooking, you can marinate and vacuum your meat or fish in advance, then just place it in your temperature controlled rice cooker with water and spend time on other important issues.

Linked to that is the idea of neatness and storage. Your marinated meat or fish is clean, safe for cross contamination and if made in advance easy to store in your refrigerator.
You can even prepare your whole meal and pan-sear or stir fry just before serving a magical dish.

The illustration

Teriyaki chicken breast

I use the example of chicken breast because chicken breast seems like an easy to cook piece of meat. You can buy it de-boned almost everywhere and most people like it.
Problem is that it tends to be dry and all your effort to produce something magic!! Well you know what I mean.  

Use this recipe per chicken breast and multiply by as many breast you intend to use.

For the chicken breast
1 bone-less chicken breast
½ tsp ginger juice
1 tsp evaporated cane sugar (you can use another liquid sugar as well, like maple syrup)
½ tsp salt
Season the chicken breast with salt, sugar and ginger juice.
Place the seasoned chicken breast in individual vacuum bags, vacuum and marinate overnight.

For the sauce
2 tbsp light soya sauce
2 tbsp evaporated cane sugar (you can use another liquid sugar as well, like maple syrup)
2 tbsp sake

Set your temperature controller at 140 F, attach your rice cooker filled with water
When the water has reached 140 F, drop the bagged, marinated chicken breast in the water and cook for 1 ½ hour.

Place the sauce ingredients in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Remove the chicken breast from the bag, you will notice that there is very little juice released.

Place the chicken breast on an oven tray and brush with some of the sauce,

If you have a blow torch brown the chicken breast, if you do not have a blow torch you can place the chicken breast for one or two minutes under the heating element of your oven broiler.

Slice the chicken breast at a 45 degree angle, and place on a plate, drizzle the remaining sauce around and serve.

It is nice to serve this dish with grilled asparagus that have been sous vide cooked at 190 F for 4 minutes, prepare the asparagus earlier and grill them for 2 minutes just before serving.

Best chicken breast you have ever served and eaten.

Let me know how you fared.

By: Marinus Hoogendoorn