Sous vide Freeze: Cook-Freeze-Eat or Freeze-Cook-Eat?

Freezing sous vide

OK so are you getting kinda lost on the whole freezing situation with sous vide cooking? Some people cook the meat sous vide first and then freeze it. Others seem to freeze the raw meat straight away and then cook sous vide when they plan to eat it. What’s best? We outline the options here so you can make your own call.

Take full advantage of bulk buy meat cost savings

We all know that one of the brilliant benefits of sous vide cooking is that you can use some fairly cheap meats and make miracles happen in your kitchen. We are talking about juicy, succulent culinary masterpieces with lower quality meats. Don’t believe us? Just head to any sous vide focused Instagram account and see for yourself what people are cooking in their own homes. It’s meal changing goodness with cost savings attached. Anyway, we digress.

Many people buy meat in bulk. Making the most of that meat is where true cost savings lie. Many sous viders are loving their bank accounts because they are producing gorgeous, healthy home cooked meals very inexpensively. But what if you need to buy a lot of meat at once to take advantage of cheap meat deals? You cannot cook all of the meat at once. This is where freezing meat comes into the equation. There are two choices available to you when it comes to WHEN to freeze your meat. Should you freeze the meat BEFORE you cook it sous vide. Or should you freeze the meat AFTER you cook it sous vide?

If you don’t plan to freeze your meat at all (that is, you will cook it and eat it straight away) then head back to the kitchen right now to make another sous vide masterpiece for family and friends. The information below ONLY relates to freezing meats before or after a sous vide cook.

Sous vide freezing options

Here are the two options available:

  1. Cook the meat sous vide and then freeze it to eat at another time OR
  2. Freeze the meat in its raw form and then cook it sous vide at a later date when you need it

A simple diagram to show sous vide freezing options

Don’t freak out but a diagram is kinda helpful when it comes to the whole freeze straight away/freeze after sous vide cook debate. Here it is:

Cook Freeze Eat or Freeze Cook Eat

If all of this information seems a tad too hard to understand, head to the “When in doubt” title below.

When in doubt

If all of this talk of freezing, chilling, defrosting and re-sous viding at a slightly reduced temperature makes your head hurt, then stick with the simplest sous vide cooking method. Buy your meat, refrigerate it, heat your sous vide water bath, cook the meat, sear it (if you want to) and EAT IT!

There are some serious health related implications of not nailing the whole freezing process. Food contamination issues are very real. So if you are not completely sure about this process, we encourage you to stick to the straight forward method which doesn’t involve a range of cooking and freezing cycles before you consume the food.

Freezing vegetables and other non meat food you’ve cooked sous vide

The sous vide community has plentiful conversation threads around cooking meats. Unfortunately there is less chat about the impact of freezing vegetables and other non-meat foods. Many sous viders give the big thumbs up for freezing sauces and re-heating them when required. The freezing results are more variable for vegetables and desserts.

Additional freezing hints and tips

Tip 1. When you buy meat in bulk and you plan to freeze it, take the time to put portions into separate vacuum sealed bags. This will allow you to take smaller portions out of the freezer to be cooked as needed. You cannot defrost the meat in bulk, take just the amount you need to cook and then re-freeze that meat again.

Tip 2. If you are going to freeze your meat raw in a vacuum sealed bag, add a little salt and pepper as seasoning ready for your future sous vide cook.

Tip 3. A vacuum sealer is super helpful when you plan to freeze your meat. This is because you can achieve 100% vacuum sealing with reputable vacuum sealing products. Vacuum sealing food pouches mean your food won’t experience freezer burn.

Tip 4. Reach out to other sous viders on social media platforms. People are super willing to share their experiences. Always consider reaching out to ask specific questions if you are not too sure about something sous vide related.

Tip 5. When you are cooking your meat sous vide and then freezing it, note the temperature you cooked the meat at in your sous vide water bath. Using a freezer proof and food friendly marker, write the meat type and temperature on the bag. That way, when you pull the bag out to use the meat for a meal at a later date, you know to set your sous vide water bath a few degrees lower than that temperature to re-heat it.

Tip 6. Make sure that any bags you use to freeze your food in are “freezer friendly”. You want them to be BPA free and food grade certified as well. You don’t want any nasty toxins leaching into your food from the bags you use for your sous vide cook.

Resources and further reading

ChefSteps is all over the sous vide freezing concept so we’ve added a link here for you to read their thoughts. Amongst other things, they have some very detailed tables with specific timings for re-warming meats after freezing based on meat weight:

Sous Vide – a simple and stress free way to reheat almost anything

Here’s an informative current sous vide reddit thread that provides some first hand experience from sous viders in relation to freezing meat:

Impact of freezing meats before sous vide 

What have your experiences been with freezing meats before or after a sous vide cook? Have you had any experience with freezing other foods such as vegetables, sauces or desserts? We would love to hear your feedback in the comments section below.

Want more hints and tips about sous vide cooking? Join the Sous Vide Hub community to hear more about the latest products, news, reviews recipes, hints and tips plus exclusive offers by clicking here.

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