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National Restaurant Association - Sous vide: How to safely perform this reduced-oxygen packaging method

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Sous vide: How to safely perform this reduced-oxygen packaging method

The most common form of reduced oxygen packaging in restaurants, sous vide involves packaging cooked or partially cooked food in individual, vacuum-sealed pouches and then refrigerating or freezing it until it is needed for service. To keep food safe, food handlers must reheat the food to required temperatures and critical control points. This method has many benefits including reducing pathogens, costs, food waste and time spent preparing food.

Here are facts from ServSafe about this cooking treatment, which was the fourth most popular preparation method in the National Restaurant Association’s 2016 What’s Hot chefs’ survey:

What you need: Before you get started, implement a HACCP plan and obtain a variance from your local health department. Employees utilizing the technique must know how to properly utilize NSF-approved vacuum-pack machines, which remove oxygen while permanently sealing the product in a food-grade plastic bag.

Common uses: Restaurants can whip up large batches of soups or sauces; break them down into small, vacuum-sealed packages; place them in an ice bath to cool and finally refrigerate or freeze. As product is needed, kitchen staff can reheat the packages in boiling water and then serve to guests or place in a NSF-approved hot-holding unit. Sous vide can help achieve product consistency, especially if you have multiple restaurant locations and would like to create one big product batch to serve to customers across your stores. Sous vide may also be performed for precooked foods such as pasta dishes, proteins, baked goods and more.

How to take temperatures: For sealed food, insert the thermometer stem or probe between two packages. As an alternative, you can fold the package around the thermometer stem or probe. You can also open the package,  and insert the thermometer stem or probe into the food, making sure to fully immerse the sensing area of the thermometer into the product.

Food safety concerns: As always, be aware of your cooking processes and where products stand in the flow of food. If foods are partially cooked, know about how much time it may take to finish them off and monitor their progress. Clostridium botulinum, which grows in anaerobic conditions, and listeria monocytogenes, which grows in cold food stored in less than 41-degree temperatures, are risks to ROP food. To prevent their growth discard packaged food that is slimy, contains excess liquid or bubbles. And always check the expiration date before reheating and serving.

Food safety pros: By keeping the product clear of the temperature danger zone, pathogen growth can be reduced.

For the full set of partial-cooking procedures, reference food code. Consult your regulatory authority for additional information.

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