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I am hoping to replicate the commercial "Frozen boil in the bag" meals for consumption at home. These seem to be mainly fish in sauce these days, but I vaguely remember meat dishes of this genre from my childhood (e.g. beef curry).

I was intending on following this process:

  • Cook a stew/casserole/pasta dish etc. as normal with fresh produce
  • Cool quickly using a water bath if necessary
  • Portion and place in an open Sous Vide bag
  • Freeze, once solid, vacumn seal extracting as much air as possible
  • Store for up to 6 months in a domestic freezer
  • Reheat by adding to a pan of boiling water and boil, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes

My questions are threefold:

  1. Is there any hidden food safety risks here?
  2. What (if any) dishes would not benefit from this process?
  3. Are standard Sous Vide bags capable of being boiled?
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    Commenting as I'm no expert, but my guess is that the sous vide bags and boiling are red herrings here; from a food safety perspective I think this is exactly equivalent to 'freeze for six months and then reheat'.
    – dbmag9
    Jun 10 at 7:58
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    I guess the reason for their decline is the microwave. Boil in a bag is a pretty long-winded reheat method in comparison, with no real gain in flavour or texture.
    – unlisted
    Jun 10 at 8:00
  • @unlisted I can get a good range of vegetarian Indian dishes to boil in the bag - the ones I've linked are imported into the UK, but there's another brand that's locally made.
    – Chris H
    Jun 10 at 10:39
  • One benefit of this method is you can pack more into your freezer in comparison with ready meals that waste a lot of space with excess packaging.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 10 at 14:00
  • @Greybeard not much more compared to this sort of thing in an appropriate size (I reuse them from occasional takeaway meals, which tend to come in 2 sizes so I can select containers for the meal). I can get 3 weeks' worth of dinners for one on just the top shelf of my freezer in those, with another 2 weeks in the bottom drawer if I wanted. The big middle drawer, probably 50%m is full of ingredients, ice cream. It's not a big freezer.
    – Chris H
    Jun 10 at 14:16

2 Answers 2

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There aren't any food safety concerns I'm aware of; the effect is likely to be fairly similar to carefully reheating frozen food in a closed container in a microwave (pasta in particular would be iffy); vacuum seal bags will not open at boiling water temperature.

I would worry a bit about your idea for freezing before sealing. The resultant frozen food would have a rough surface and potentially sharp edges. Depending on your sealer and the bags, there might still be significant trapped air, and/or the sharp edges could perforate the bag.

I would suggest, instead, that you thoroughly refrigerate the bags before sealing them, to increase the viscosity and give the contents time to settle. Depending on the foodstuff, sealing the bags may involve split second timing (though less so than with warm food, thanks to the higher viscosity), but overall it should be more effective at getting as much air out as possible than freezing would be.

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  • Excellent point about the sharp edges etc. Your suggestion sounds like a better approach, especially if I stored the dish in the refrigerator overnight to thicken up.
    – Greybeard
    Jun 10 at 23:52
  • I'd just like to add that the food absolutely needs to be stored at freezing temperatures. Merely refridgerating the bags for prolonged time poses the risk of C. botulinum growth, which can cause botulism.
    – Elmy
    Jun 16 at 18:47
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There are no food safety considerations, as long as the food is cooled quickly enough it will be safe whether the food is in bags, plastic containers or whatever else you want to put it in. Sous vide plastic is designed to be in hot water for long periods of time and be safe, so there shouldn't be considerations if it's boiled for a relatively short period of time. The packaging should tell you whether it has a maximum rated temperature.

As for what dishes would not benefit, it's the same as any other frozen food, you are just taking a long-winded approach to cooling it down, freezing it and then re-heating it. Boiling it in a bag for 30 minutes will be a great way to turn whatever it is to mush, you'd be better off gently heating reheating it.

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  • The ones I've linked in my comment under the Q are the sort of things that can take fairly long cooking anyway - but the instructions say to reheat for 3-5 minutes (300g serving) from room temp. They're also the ones I referred to under the camping meals question.
    – Chris H
    Jun 10 at 10:42
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    I'd defrost in the fridge overnight then reheat in boiling water for about 6 minutes, 10 max. But what I really do is freeze in takeaway boxes, defrost in the fridge, then microwave.
    – Chris H
    Jun 10 at 10:42
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    If the OP is using sous vide bags, maybe @Greybeard can clarify if they also have an immersion circulator, as that would be the safest (from a food safety and a food quality standpoint) way to reheat. In that case, defrosting would not be necessary, but for some delicate proteins defrosting might help retain texture.
    – moscafj
    Jun 10 at 10:45
  • Yes, I have an immersion circulator. What would be a workable timing/temperature combination? The 20 mins boiling water guide time was from a frozen cod in sauce. Haven't a clue how this would translate to sous vide !!
    – Greybeard
    Jun 10 at 13:58
  • There are too many factors to say for sure, how big the bag of food is, how powerful your immersion circulator is, etc. I'd figure at least an hour, probably more. Why not just use a microwave?
    – GdD
    Jun 10 at 14:01

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