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I'm part of an international rescue team and one of the things we need to do is to be self sufficient. At the minute we take ready made boil in the bag food which is not particularly great and is quite expensive.

I recently saw Heston Blumthall proposing the use of Sous Vide food for preservation of food on a submarine and wondered if the same approach could be used by my rescue team. So the question is if the food is cooked by can it be kept on a store cupboard shelf and if it can, what would the shelf life be? I'm assuming that the quality of the packaging could have an effect. If it can how could this be taken into account?

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You'll want to read What is the sous vide botulism risk if storing meat post-cooking at home? Make sure you store it properly. –  Aaronut Oct 9 '11 at 22:27

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There's a misunderstanding possibly of what Heston suggested for the British Navy. He suggested to sous vide it and then store it in the freezer. They couldn't just toss it in the cupboard. Sous vide food is not typically shelf stable. It has been pasteurized - not sterilized.

Pasteurization reduces pathogens to a safe level, not to a 0 level. It doesn't typically reduce botulism spores to 0. Once the food is exposed to normal temperatures, any anaerobic pathogens will start to reproduce again.

To sterilize you'll need to pressure cook meat through to 121 C for 2.4 minutes - at which point its rather not tasty. You might be able to sous vide at a lower temp for much longer, but I suspect it'll still be past the point of being tasty. Sterilized meat tastes like your typical potted meat.

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