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See this I COOKED a Brisket for a MONTH and this happened! and Can Viewers SAVE a 1-month BRISKET? of a brisket cooked in 55C and 60C for 1 month. It smells very bad! So they proved (twice) that the brisket goes bad, you can read all the comments and there are lots of suggested reasons especially that you must cook at 65C since it is only above 65C that you really kill salmonella and whatever. I don't think so, Modernist cuisine says that salmonella dies at temperatures above 48C.

My question is, what really happens? I.e. what is growing, is it dangerous, and how long does it take to get dangerous in 55C e.g.? Is it some anaerobic bacteria? It can't be botulism, he would be dead by now, right?

I have done brisket many times at 55C/131F for 3 days, no smell, everything very good. I don't think I will get any better result after longer time so I have not tried (and I don't have a youtube channel to sell crazy ideas :-) ). I do 2 days now and I get nicely rendered fat and a (sorry Americans) very nice texture.

Here we have more examples of 4-5 days, comments say texture was really bad, but nothing about bad smell. link I don't really see what would be bad for 30 days, but ok after 3-5?

Update Please read e.g. Douglas Baldwins Practical Guide to Sous Vide, I think he is much more qualified than you and me. He clearly states e.g.

You were probably taught that there’s a “danger zone” between 40°F and 140°F (4.4°C and 60°C). These temperatures aren’t quite right: it’s well known that food pathogens can only multiply between 29.7°F (-1.3°C) and 126.1°F (52.3°C), while spoilage bacteria begin multiplying at 23°F (-5°C)

and

So why were you taught that food pathogens stop multiplying at 40°F (4.4°C) and grow all the way up to 140°F (60°C)? Because it takes days for food pathogens to grow to a dangerous level at 40°F (4.4°C) (FDA, 2011) and it takes many hours for food to be made safe at just above 126.1°F (52.3°C) – compared with only about 12 minutes (for meat) and 35 minutes (for poultry) to be made safe when the coldest part is 140°F (60°C)

and

Indeed, the food pathogens that can multiply down to 29.7°F (-1.3°C) – Yersinia enterocolitica and Listeria monocytogenes – can only multiply about once per day at 40°F (4.4°C) and so you can hold food below 40°F (4.4°C) for five to seven days (FDA, 2011). At 126.1°F (52.3°C), when the common food pathogen Clostridium perfringens stops multiplying, it takes a very long time to reduce the food pathogens we’re worried about – namely the Salmonella species, Listeria monocytogenes, and the pathogenic strains of Escherichia coli – to a safe level; in a 130°F (54.4°C) water bath (the lowest temperature I recommend for cooking sous vide) it’ll take you about 2½ hours to reduce E. coli to a safe level in a 1 inch (25 mm) thick hamburger patty and holding a hamburger patty at 130°F (54.4°C) for 2½ hours is inconceivable with traditional cooking methods – which is why the “danger zone” conceived for traditional cooking methods doesn’t start at 130°F (54.4°C). [Note that Johnson et al. (1983) reported that Bacillus cereus could multiply at 131°F/55°C, but no one else has demonstrated growth at this temperature and so Clostridium perfringens is used instead.]

So what he calls pathogens DIE at 50C and they die even faster at 55 or 60. IF this is true, what is the problem with the 30 days brisket at 60C? That is my question. I don't want to hear about danger zone, I know what it is and that it is exaggerated to be simpler and safer to use. If you don't believe me, that's fine, but then no need to answer.

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    Having something in the fridge for 3 or 4 days is no problem, but you would certainly expect something to happen within 30 days. – Johannes_B Feb 24 at 16:47
  • @Johannes_B, at fridge (and even freezer) temperatures pathogens multiply much slower, but they don't die, at above 50C they don't multiply and they die, that is the difference. – Stefan Feb 25 at 12:38
  • I'm sure other processes still happen with the meat at such temperatures; maybe not pathogens, but components breaking down (you can see meat is basically falling apart on its own) – Luciano Feb 25 at 13:58
  • Yes of course, but what?? that's the question!! – Stefan Feb 25 at 15:25
  • You talk about the most common pathogens, but what about rare thermophile bacteria and mold? 30 days gives even rare bacteria plenty of opportunity to go forth and multiply right? – dandavis Feb 25 at 17:58
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In addition to @dlb's answer - there are a huge range of bacteria present in our food sources - many of these are capable of growing at higher temperatures than normal food safety requirements reach. The reason it is still safe to eat food at this point, is that the stomach and intestines are pretty good at breaking down most bacteria, so that they don't cause infection. Generally the problem comes when there is a high bacterial load in a food stuff.

However, there are a bunch of common bacteria that are facultative anaerobes (means can function as anaerobes or not depending on circumstances), and many are also facultative thermophiles (like high heat, but can also grow at lower temps). There's a nice chapter (paywall most likely) in this book: P.J. McClure, 21 - Spore-forming bacteria, Editor(s): Clive de W. Blackburn, In Woodhead Publishing Series in Food Science, Technology and Nutrition, Food Spoilage Microorganisms, Woodhead Publishing, 2006. It indicates that many of these bacteria are from or closely related to the genus Clostridium - a well known food spoilage organism. Other commonly found bacterial genera are Bacillus and Geobacillus, which are also commonly food-poisoning associated.

Having said that, there's one in the list of bacteria that is particularly interesting in terms of stinky smells and high temps for extended periods: Desulfotomaculum nigrificans. As you might be able to tell from the name, this one produces H2S AKA Hydrogen Sulfide - the rotten egg smell and you also get the same smell around geothermal areas. The bacterium also blackens the food - probably from reduction of the sulfur I would guess. Here's what the article had to say about growth:

Canned/hermetically sealed products held at high temperature (> 55 °C) for extended periods

This seems like the most likely culprit for stinky sous vide, but I would be willing to bet that it's not the only species present.

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  • Thanks, this is the kind answer that I wanted. I can't get that book but I'm sure I can find something else similar now that I know what to look for. After a bit of research, I see that Desulfotomaculum nigrificans multiply most at 55C and can survive way higher than any sous vide we do. Thanks @bob1 – Stefan Feb 26 at 14:25
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40-140F is the danger zone of high growth rate for bacteria. 60-120F is the extremely high zone. 55C is only 131F and not even out of the high growth rate area, 60C it at the edge right at 140.

danger zone thermometer

Outside of the high growth area bacteria growth is not zero, it is only much lower and there is not a magic switch that instantly kills all bacteria when you hit 60C. The safety rules say that at that point you have reduced risk, not zero risk. Bacterial growth certainly continues simply at a lower rate. However, a lower rate over longer time still constitutes rot and danger. The safety provided by reaching a prescribed temp is negated by then trying to stay there for an unreasonable time. No guides that say to reach that temperature for safety state that all bacteria are killed, only that many are and those that survive will not be reproducing at rates to be a likely danger if you otherwise handle the item appropriately. Waiting another 30 days is not handling it appropriately.

In addition, there is more to decay of a piece of meat than just microbial action. You have cell structure breaking down, chemicals being released, etc. I would fully expect, in fact be shocked, if the brisket in question would not effectively begin the equivalent of digesting itself. Bad smells and a texture approaching jelly would not be surprising in the least. A potentially interesting science experiment, but nothing resembling food should come from any such tests.

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    At 55C standard meat have a 1 D reduction in about 18 minutes, this means that 90% of all pathogens DIE, 60C is not correct science, it is a value that is safer than to say 55C for 1 hour, and most people don't even have a thermometer that can tell the difference between 55 and 60. Please read e.g. The Complex Origins of Food Safety Rules--Yes, You Are Overcooking Your Food from Scientific American which describes the history of the safety zone rules. – Stefan Feb 25 at 12:47
  • I personally would not dream of cooking without a thermometer that is more accurate than 5C with my least accurate kitchen meter being tested to within 2 degrees F. 90% of all, leaves 10% active. 10% active would not extend safe handling from 2 hours to 30 days. Given exponential growth of bacteria it only marginally extends it at all. The most generous estimates would be to extend it by a factor of 10, not 360 as 30 days would be. The USDA recommendations are generally overkill, but are also the lab tested accepted answers and guides below that standard are not. – dlb Feb 26 at 13:33
  • the USDA did not think about you or me when they wrote their rules. 90% of all in X time leave 10% active, but the next X time, you kill another 90% (of the remaining 10%), i.e. 99% killed, and so on. Read a bit on the USDA rules, D numbers and how it works, I think USDA uses D6 or 6.5, which means they use a times 6*X which gives 99.9999% killed, to be a safe time/temperature, but they don't want to have a long time, therefore they use a quite high temperature. – Stefan Feb 26 at 14:44
  • So they did these rules before sous vide existed, at least at home,read the Scientific American article in my first comment here, it explains things much better than I can in a comment, you might learn something! At 55C there is no exponential growth of Salmonella, but apparently Desulfotomaculum nigrificans! – Stefan Feb 26 at 14:44

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