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My Problem

I have sous-vide cooked some chicken breast, forgot about it, and kept it in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. The chicken breast was thoroughly cooked (63c for 1 hour) and kept in good vacuum.

I have re-cooked it in the sous vide at 63c for and additional 1.5 hour, and finished by frying it in the pan. I am not sure whether it is safe to eat or not.

What Have I Tried

My Question

For how long can I safely keep cooked, vacuumed and refrigerated chicken breast?

Images

Refrigerated and vacuumed

refrigerated cooked chicken breast

Recooked and fried

enter image description here

  • @Halhex for the sake of completeness and for future readers, do you have a link to a reliable source confirming that? – Adam Matan Jul 9 at 18:03
  • Wow, thanks for the effort! – Adam Matan Jul 9 at 18:10
  • I don't cook meat so I gotta keep studying those chapters somehow – Halhex Jul 9 at 18:21
  • Out of curiosity, how'd it taste? – Halhex Jul 9 at 18:22
  • Tasted a small chuck to be on the safe side. Tasted good, exactly like a fresh one. If I'm feeling well tomorrow morning, I'll have the whole of it for lunch. – Adam Matan Jul 9 at 18:30
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I originally voted this question as a duplicate. However, the OP is correct in that the proposed duplicate does not address the specific case of sous vide. Here, I attempt to help in that regard.

The definitive source for the answer to your question is Douglas Baldwin. From the information you've supplied, it is difficult to make any safety claims. However, you can compare your product, and your practice, to the points made by Baldwin.

First, sous vide (true sous vide...in a vacuum) can indeed extend shelf life...

IF certain hurdles are cleared.

FIRST, your product is cooked to the pasteurization stage. It is hard to tell how thick your chicken breasts are from the photos. Baldwin has tables that cross reference thickness, temperature, and times so that you can achieve pasteurization. You'll have to compare your practice to this chart to see if you met the threshold. So, once sealed in a vacuum, the first hurdle is to pasteurize your product.

THEN, your product must be cooled as quickly as possible for long term storage. This usually means in an ice bath, then immediately refrigerating or freezing. The method is called "cook-chill." Baldwin cautions, however that "The danger with cook-chill is that pasteurizing does not reduce pathogenic spores to a safe level. If the food is not chilled rapidly enough or is refrigerated for too long, then pathogenic spores can outgrow and multiply to dangerous levels."

Cook-chill, done correctly, greatly reduces the risk from listeria, and spore forming pathogens. However, he goes on to write:

"spores of Clostridium botulinum, C. perfringens, and B. cereus can all survive the mild heat treatment of pasteurization. Therefore, after rapid chilling, the food must either be frozen or held at

below 36.5°F (2.5°C) for up to 90 days,
below 38°F (3.3°C) for less than 31 days,
below 41°F (5°C) for less than 10 days, or
below 44.5°F (7°C) for less than 5 days

to prevent spores of non-proteolytic C. botulinum from outgrowing and producing deadly neurotoxin (Gould, 1999; Peck, 1997)."

I would recommend that you read the PDF.

  • botulism spores in canned goods cause puffing of the lid ... so I would also say that any swollen packages should be discarded. (and I'd also discard any other packages if it smells or otherwise seems strange) – Joe Jul 10 at 12:20
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    @Joe...perhaps an obvious sign, but these pathogens can certainly do damage with no visible visuals or smells. So, they shouldn't be relied on as an indicator of safety. – moscafj Jul 10 at 12:42
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    I wasn't trying to imply that. (I debated on putting up a disclaimer) ... just that if you see any of those signs, even if you think you did everything else right, you shouldn't risk it. – Joe Jul 10 at 12:48
  • @Joe ...and I wasn't suggesting that you were...just clarifying, as some people believe that smells and visual signs are reliable indicators of food safety. I think it is always important to point out that they are not. – moscafj Jul 10 at 12:59
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Normally it's recommended to keep cooked meat for less than a week in the fridge. But since this was vacuum sealed (less Fat Oxidation and Rancidity) and cooked again at 63c for over an hour (killing bacteria and molds, most of which are harmless but unpleasant, and would be noticable) I'd say it's safe to eat. It might have developed some off-flavors or texture though.

Here's some stuff about it from one of my favourite books, On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen.

As a general rule, leftover meats are safest when refrigerated or frozen within two hours of the end of cooking, and reheated quickly to at least 150oF/65oC before serving a second time.

To help keep meats safe after cooking:

The development of rancidity in cooked meats can be delayed by minimizing the use of salt, which encourages fat oxidation, and by using ingredients with antioxidant activity: for example the Mediterranean herbs, especially rosemary. Browning the meat surface in a hot pan also generates antioxidant molecules that can delay fat oxidation.

But it might not be good at all.

At the same time that cooking develops the characteristic flavors of meat, it also promotes chemical changes that lead to characteristic, stale, cardboard-like “warmed-over flavors” when the meat is stored and reheated.

  • Thanks, but it does not mention durations. The chicken breast was kept (vacuumed and cooked) in the refrigerator for two weeks. – Adam Matan Jul 9 at 18:29

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