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Health Department and cooking technique safety

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I am a small restaurant and wanted to try something new to my town, specifically cooking a steak sous vide, freezing it in liquid nitrogen, then deep frying it. However, my health department won't allow me to to keep the steak in at 131 degrees for more than 4 hours. My local inspector wrote the following:

unless scientifically proven to be effective in preventing the growth of foodborne pathogens (lab testing). Those test results would have to be provided to our office for review and written approval. Thanks.

I have not yet purchased the book....saving up for it, can someone send me in the correct direction for this, if it is contained in the book then please let me know, but I can't afford lab testing myself.

Thanks a million


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I want to slow cook the meats for 24 hours in a water bath at 131 degrees. The health department considers this hot-holding and it must be done at 155 for red meats. But this will defeat the purpose of slow cooking it and keeping it medium rare. So I need scientific proof that it will kill pathogens, and not promote pathogen growth.

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In California an approved HACCP is required for any facility using vacume pack/sous vide methods. There is only one person in the state authorized to approve these HACCP plans. From our Health Department I have only heard of 1 restaurant that had an approved plan and it is closed. Our Health Department deducts 6 points from the score of any facilityhaving vacume pack equipment on site. Then they ignore it because they feel they have done their job and know that it is impossible to comply because the only person in the state that can approve plans doesn't. There are restaurants in our county that use sous vide to cook almost everything they serve. This is an example of government applying the ScientificMethod.

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mattia13 said:

I am a small restaurant and wanted to try something new to my town, specifically cooking a steak sous vide, ...

I own the books, but I just started to read them. MC is definitely an excellent resource.

Although I don't know if this is contained in MC, I do know that in Thomas Keller's Under Pressure this exact topic is discussed. In fact, he discusses how one of his employees got the NY Dept. of Health to approve his techniques at Per Se.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Have you read through the eGullet thread on sous vide cooking? Nathan (nathanm on eGullet) has responded on there many, many times.

If you do get a copy of the book, it is covered extensively in the Food Safety Rules chapter. The charts on p. 1-187 and the table on page 193 show that in order to reduce Salmonella bacteria by 6.5 orders of magnitude (the typical FDA standard) in meat roasts at 131 F, food must be held at that temperature for 91 minutes.

You could also try using Google Scholar to look up academic articles.

Judy Wilson

Editorial Assistant

Modernist Cuisine

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know if this will help, but the USDA publishes guidelines for beef cooking which specify that the meat must be held for "at least" the minimum time for a given temperature, but have no upper bound.


You might also consider the Pathogen Modeling Program, which will allow you to simulate bacteria growth/decay for your specific plans. Then you'd just need to put a probe thermometer in the center of you meat to measure the internal temperature.


Hopefully some of this will help you work out a solution with the health department.

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  • 1 month later...
  • 3 months later...

I cook steaks sous vide every day, and my local EHO (environmental health in UK) have adopted my HACCP as a blue print for their own). Problem is most EHO dont know enough about sous vide to deal with it, and therefore respond badly. My question would be, why cook steaks for 24 hrs? I serve a pave steak ( centre eye cut of rump) cooked to 54 Celsius, takes approx 25 mins although we hold 30+ steaks for service ready to go and they are delicious when seared for the Maillard reaction. What are you hoping to gain by 24hr cooking?

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