Tuesday, August 26, 2008

plastic bags and "sous vide" cooking

I recently posted a method for cooking beets in what might best be described as a faux sous-vide technique. A reader asked me about the safety of this. You can read the comments yourself in the comments section (where else?) of that post. Scroll down to the July 17th post, Beat-the-Heat Cool Summer Dinner. Fortunately I was able to put that question directly to food science guru Harold McGee through a NY Times question and answer session. His answer was short and affirmative. Here is the text of my question and his reply:

Q: Are conventional zip-loc bags safe for sous-vide cooking? If so, up to what temperature? There seems to be a lot of guess work and misinformation (?) about this one on the Internet. Love your books! Thank you.— Posted by Ben Fambrough

Harold McGee replies: Heavy-duty Ziplock bags are made from polyethylene and are approved for contact with hot foods. True sous-vide cooking involves vacuum-packing the food, which zipping a bag won’t do for you. But you can certainly use the bag to immerse food in a water bath whose temperature you control carefully. It can be hard to squeeze out all the air, so the bags tend to float and heat unevenly unless you weigh them down. Sous-vide cooking generally involves water temperatures between 120 and 180 degrees, which the heavy-duty bags can take.

here to read the reply and related questions and answers in their original context.