This article is a part of my free Exploring Sous Vide email course. If you want to discover how to consistently create amazing food using sous vide then my course is exactly what you're looking for.
As more and more WiFi sous vide machines come out, many people are curious how to safely delay their sous vide cooks. There's a few ways to accomplish this and this article covers my suggestion, as well as the reasons for delaying a start.
Many people are confused when you talk about delaying a sous vide cook. There's a few reasons to delay a cook, but the main reason is you are out of the house all day and want to cook something that only takes a few hours. Waiting until you get home to start the cooking is often very inconvenient.
For instance, if you want to cook a chicken breast, it takes about 2 to 4 hours, which is longer than you usually want to wait once you get home after a long day. If you started the sous vide machine in the morning, the chicken would cook for 8 to 10 hours and the quality of the chicken breast would be less than ideal. If you can wait to start your sous vide cook until a few hours before you are planning on getting home, then the chicken will be ready as you step through the door.
There's many options for delaying a cook, but the main concern is keeping the food safe until you start to cook it. Letting a chicken breast sit on your counter in luke-warm water is just going to get people sick. So the trick is keeping your food as cold as possible until you are ready to start cooking.
The way this is usually done is by filling your sous vide container with a mixture of ice and water. This keeps the food out of the danger zone until you remotely turn on your sous vide machine, at which point it melts the remaining ice, heats the water, and cooks the food.
We ran extensive tests on how long a sous vide ice bath keeps food safe and I highly recommend you read them over to get a better feel for how different variables effect it.
The main variable to keep in mind is how insulated your container is. If you are using a cooler, or a towel wrapped container, then you have a lot more leeway (and can use a lot less ice) than a container that is not insulated.
Note: This is our recommended process for safely delaying a sous vide cook. but as I mentioned above, I strongly suggest you read about our ice bath experiments so you understand how your specific situation might be different. I also recommend you first test out this method with your own setup on a day you are around and can monitor the temperature yourself, just to make sure it will work for you and your specific setup.
The first step is to get an insulated sous vide water bath container. This can be as simple as wrapping a standard container in towels, or using a cooler with a hole cut in it. Using an insulted container will help it stay cold almost indefinitely and allow you to use a lot less ice. If you can't insulate your container, I recommend doubling the amount of ice suggested.
Fill your container about a third of the way full with ice then fill it with the coldest water you can get out of your tap. Another option is to refrigerate your water overnight if you have room in your fridge. This will add several hours to the amount of time the water will stay cold.
Add your food to the container. The higher the food is, the longer it will stay cold. While this sounds counter intuitive because heat rises, the ice floats so the remaining ice is always at the top, chilling that water more. In our tests, at one point the top of the water bath was 7.5°F cooler than the bottom.
Place your circulator in the water and make sure it's all set up, has power, and you can access it from your smartphone.
You are now good to go and this setup will generally keep food out of the danger zone for 10 to 15 hours.
When you want to start your cook later in the day, access your sous vide machine from your smartphone and turn it on to the temperature you want.
You will need to add some additional time to your cook to melt the remaining ice. The specific amount of time will depend on how much ice you used, how insulated your container is, how powerful your circulator is, and how long you waited before starting your cook. Generally speaking though, adding about an hour is a safe estimate.
Once you get home you can pull out your food, sear it and enjoy!
In this lesson we discussed the ideal way to delay a sous vide cook by using an ice bath and a WiFi-enabled sous vide machine.
Thanks again and happy cooking!
Jason Logsdon, Amazing Food Made Easy