Sous Vide – from Botulism to those new Glad Bags to Katrina

July 23 2007 - 8:15 PM

Grant_vide_3I was in the grocery store this past week and was staring at the new Glad steaming microwave bags. I immediately wondered if they would melt in a pot – they would, if I could vacuum seal them – you can’t and if I should retry my attempts at sous vide – I probably should. It’s the new foam.

It’s one of the mainstays of the molecular gastro thing and then some, the picture is from a Grant Achatz sous vide demo. This is somewhat funny since it makes the most sense and was invented for simple cooking. If you were at a 4 star hotel and someone ordered room service salmon you could have the bell-hop grab a bag from the pot and it would theoretically be cooked perfectly.
While it might burn, if the bag was in water at the temperature you desired for your product it would never get any hotter and would never dry out as it was sealed.

The Glad bags are vented so they’re out… but they answer the safety of plastic bags in the microwave question.

This is why when cooking for 400 Hurricane Katrina evacuees D.C. chefs used sous vide. It sounds like a great meal. From the Washington Post:

This was a nine-course menu served for three nights recently at the
D.C. Armory that included such elegant entrees as braised beef in
balsamic and black pepper sauce, blanquette of monkfish, roast poussin
stuffed with wild rice, grilled salmon with Cajun cream sauce and
vegetarian ratatouille raviolini.

The evacuees and crisis workers
who lined up for the sumptuous meal gave it an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
"I’ve never had five-star meal in my life," said Clarence Robinson, one
of the evacuees.

So how did the chefs pull it off so quickly?

The answer: sous vide .

The big problem is the lack of oxygen and the increased time it takes to get to your optimal temp is the perfect recipe for BOTULISM!!!!

EEW! what a word. It’s scary. But rest assured, according to Grant
Achatz, here giving a sous vide demo, that worrying about botulism is
nothing more than making sure your product is clean and good. According
to the 2005 USDA Food Code:

Cook-Chill or
Sous Vide  (D) Except as specified under ¶ (C) of this section, a
ESTABLISHMENT may package FOOD using a cook-chill or sous vide
process without obtaining a VARIANCE if:   

  (1) The FOOD ESTABLISHMENT implements a HACCP PLAN that contains the information as specified under ¶ 8-201.14(D);

  (2) The FOOD is:

  (a) Prepared and consumed on the PREMISES, or prepared
and consumed off the PREMISES but within the same
business entity with no distribution or sale of the bagged
product to another business entity or the CONSUMER,

  (b) Cooked to heat all parts of the FOOD to a temperature
and for a time as specified under § 3-401.11,

  (c) Protected from contamination after cooking as specified
under Part 3-3,

  (d) Placed in a package or bag with an oxygen barrier
before cooking, or placed in a PACKAGE or bag immediately
after cooking and before reaching a temperature below
57°C (135°F),

  (e) Except for frozen FOOD that is not shelf life restricted,
cooled to 5°C (41°F) in the PACKAGE or bag as specified
under § 3-501.14 and then cooled to 1°C (34°F) or less
within 48 hours of reaching 5°C (41°F), and:   

    (i) Held at 1°C (34°F) and consumed or discarded within
30 days after the date of preparation, or

    (ii) If removed from a storage unit that maintains a 1°C
(34°F) FOOD temperature, held at 5°C (41°F) or less for
no more than 72 hours before consumption.   

  (f) Held in a refrigeration unit that is equipped with an
electronic system that continuously monitors time and
temperature and is visually examined for proper operation
twice daily,

  (g) If transported off-site to a satellite location of the same
business entity, equipped with verifiable electronic
monitoring devices to ensure that times and temperatures
are monitored during transportation, and

  (h) Labeled with the product name and the date PACKAGED;

  (3) The records required to confirm that cooling and cold holding refrigeration time/temperature parameters are required
as part of the HACCP PLAN, are maintained and are:   

  (a) Made available to the REGULATORY AUTHORITY upon
request, and

  (b) Held for 6 months; and

  (4) Written operational procedures as specified under
Subparagraph (B)(5) of this section and a training program as
specified under Subparagraph (B)(6) of this section are

Download the whole code: Download fc05-3.pdf