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As I understand it, you can cook meat directly from frozen in a sous-vide bath by increasing the cooking time by 30-60 minutes depending on the size and cut of meat.

Another method that can be used to serve frozen food is to place the food in a colander or bowl, submerge in cold water and have a constant stream of cold water running over it. This method is recommended for defrosting small portions (generally fish), and once defrosted, the fish is then served or cooked as required.

This technique is normally accompanied with a warning not to use hot water as this places the food in the temperature danger zone for too long and risks food poisoning.

If that is the case, why is it safe to cook meat sous-vide from frozen?

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Mitigating the risk of bacteria is about both temperature and time. Pathogens die instantly when the temperature is high enough...but, also when a lower temperature is maintained for a longer period of time. (There are USDA tables that illustrate this). In a sous vide situation you are increasing the heat to the desired and safe internal temperature, but you are also holding the product at a temperature outside the danger zone for a considerable (in terms of food safety) amount of time. This is a cooking procedure and it is safe.

The water bath method you also describe is a defrosting method, not a cooking method. The product is kept in running water just until it is defrosted, keeping the danger zone in mind. The risk of using hot water is that some of your product gets and remains in the danger zone while the rest is defrosting. Since you are not maintaining a consistent temperature that will eventually destroy pathogens (like in sous vide), there is a risk with this process if the danger zone is not taken into account.

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  • Even with sous vide you might not always be in the safe zone though. For a 125F steak that would still be in what most sources would cite as the danger zone or maybe borderline. If I feel the meat is too thick to hit the desired temp within 2 hours I'd still fridge thaw first to be safe. Jan 19 at 14:23

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