New Australian guidelines for cooking sous vide style

NSW Minister for Primary Industries Katrina Hodgkinson today released new guidelines for the increasingly popular cooking style sous vide.

Ms Hodgkinson said sous vide involves cooking food at low temperatures for long periods of time and chefs need to be aware of the potential food safety risks.

Sous vide, which means ‘under vacuum’ in French, refers to a technique where foods are vacuum-sealed in plastic for slow cooking which in some cases results in food remaining raw or undercooked.

The new sous vide guidelines recommend that chefs:

• prepare thin portions of food so food cooks quickly;

• set water bath temperature above 55 degrees Celsius;

• cook food below 54.5 degrees Celsius for a maximum of six hours;

• cool food quickly in slush ice or specialized equipment; and,

use equipment that has accurate temperature control and heating capacity.

“It is pleasing to have Quay Restaurant’s head Chef Peter Gilmore promoting the sous vide guidelines which have been designed for chefs, from apprentices to world-renowned, to follow,” Ms Hodgkinson said.

“The handy fact sheet will make it easy for chefs to know how to avoid the possibility of food poisoning,” Mr Gilmore said.

Quay Restaurant has also been given five stars in the NSW Government’s Scores on Doors program for excellent compliance of food safety and hygiene standards.

People get sick; there’s a reason for HACCP plans

This person sounds like a bad food safety manager.

New York City’s Village Voice ran a piece about the paperwork being required by health types in the form of HACCP plans (Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point).

“… the plans require chefs to map out a convoluted strategy for avoiding foodborne pathogens in potentially dangerous cooking techniques…. Sous vide came under scrutiny and was even banned temporarily in 2006 while the health department decided how to regulate the newfangled method. … Now restaurants desiring to use the sous vide method must have an approved HACCP plan to do so.”

Elizabeth Meltz, director of food safety and sustainability for the Batali Bastianich group, which includes Babbo, Del Posto, and food emporium Eataly, was quoted as saying,

"There was one E. coli outburst from apple cider, and now there’s a HACCP plan required to make it for mass consumption, too."

Maybe the E. coli outburst Meltz was referring to was in Oct. 1996, when 16-month-old Anna Gimmestad of Denver drank Smoothie juice manufactured by Odwalla Inc. of Half Moon Bay, Calif. She died several weeks later; 64 others became ill in several western U.S. states and British Columbia after drinking the same juices, which contained unpasteurized apple cider –and E. coli O157:H7. Investigators believe that some of the apples used to make the cider may have been insufficiently washed after falling to the ground and coming into contact with deer feces.

Or maybe the outburst was in Maryland last year when seven people got sick drinking unpasteurized cider; three were hospitalized.

Maybe the outburst was in Iowa, when eight were stricken with E. coli o157:H7 after drinking unpasteurized cider.

Maybe it was one of the 31 other outbreaks of illness we’ve document linked to unpasteurized juices – primarily apple cider. The complete table with body count is available at

Sous vide is not for amateurs; NYC shuts Fatty ‘Cue after it gets 115 violation points

Fatty ‘Cue, an apparently popular Asian barbecue restaurant in Brooklyn, has been shut down by the city health department after it rang up 115 violation points in an inspection on Monday. (You need less than 14 points to get an A, less than 28 to get a B.)

According to The New York Times, some of the violations were due to improper sous vide and home canning procedures. But the restaurant was also cited for having evidence of rats and mice. The report also cited “hand washing facility not provided in or near food preparation area and toilet room. Hot and cold running water at adequate pressure to enable cleanliness of employees not provided at facility. Soap and an acceptable hand-drying device not provided.”

Also, food was “not protected from potential source of contamination during storage, preparation, transportation, display or service” during the inspection.

Note: Fatty ‘Cue reopened after passing inspection Thursday afternoon.

Sus vide cooking is safe if you follow a plan

The New York Times reported last week that in 2006,

“the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene inspected restaurants using the sous vide method, in which food is vacuum-sealed in plastic for slow cooking at low temperatures. Because of concerns about bacteria growth in the sealed pouches, restaurants were told to stop using vacuum-sealing machines until they filed plans detailing their processes. … Afterward, restaurants like Blue Hill, Per Se and WD-50 filed sous vide plans that were approved by the city as officials developed formal regulations.

“In March the Board of Health approved those regulations. They require restaurants that cook sous vide to have an approved Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan. …

“Some chefs say the health department is overzealous in its regulation of sous vide, which is safe when properly practiced. But others agreed with officials who said it was important that correct procedures were clearly followed, because anaerobic bacteria can thrive in the airless environment of a vacuum bag if techniques are not done properly.

“Sous vide, which means ‘under vacuum’ in French, refers to a technique where foods are vacuum-sealed to carefully calibrated degrees of pressure so they can be suffused with flavors in a marinade or submerged in temperature-controlled water baths. …

“Bruno Goussault, the chief scientist at Cuisine Solutions, an industrial sous vide company, was one of the developers of sous vide and has trained many famous chefs in the technique. He said that he understood the need for health department oversight and that he consulted with the city to help draft the regulations. …

“It’s very easy to work with the top chefs, but when you are making regulations you need to take care of all the chefs, not just the top chefs,” Mr. Goussault said. “Perhaps sometimes it’s excessive, too much regulation for the top chefs, but I think it’s necessary.”