Adjusting Portions

How does one adjust recipes for portions? If I cut the portions down, do I adjust time and/or temperature?

Soue Vide is recipes are different than most you are probably familiar with. For most items thickness is the key parameter. What are you reducing the recipe on?

Bartski, i don’t clearly understand your questions. Its not clear if you are referring to a number of portions or portion sizes.

Generally speaking, smaller and/or fewer portions do not require adjustments in SV cooking time and temperature as is required in conventional cooking, - but like most things in life, it all depends.

Your questions appear to be based on conventional cooking experience. That demonstrates why i encourage people to free themselves from strictly following recipes except when they are first learning to cook. I know, that’s culinary heresy to most folks who think they need a recipe to boil an egg.

I recommend people learn correct cooking techniques and then cook as they please. If you plan and think about what’s happening as you cook you will soon be very competent. Unconscious cooks seldom improve.

Please understand that SV cooking time and temperature depends on what you are cooking, your desired degree of doneness, and its thickness. The number of portions you cook and your portion size should always be your decision. There’s no such thing as recipe police so you can decide for yourself. Please read this paragraph’s first sentence again and do well.

I’m talking about the number of portions, not thickness or size. In other words, if a recipe calls for two pork chops, and I only want to cook one, do I adjust the time and/or temperature?

Maybe I’m just getting ahead of myself. I haven’t even gotten my equipment yet. I should probably explain that I am 75 and only cook for myself. I just want to cook tasty meals.

Sous vide cooking relies on the thickness of the product, not how many you’re cooking. You could be cooking 1, 2, or 10, the time will remain the same, so long as they are all relatively the same thickness

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Bartski, i don’t think chronology has anything to do with your cooking. You might consider that you are missing out on one of Anova’s significant benefits for people like us. That’s the ability to safely batch cook and hold individual portions well in advance of consumption.

If you buy multiple portions of you favourite centre of the plate items at reduced prices the pay back on your Anova will be significantly quicker. As long as you thoroughly cook meat above 131F it is said to be Pasteurized and can be safely held in your refrigerator for weeks and frozen for up to 6 months.

This summer i’m enjoying tender and delicious Angus rib-eye steaks i bought and cooked in March. I paid less than half the current market price for them. Doing that makes for a quick pay back on the Anova.

For some self encouragement and to get a better understanding of sous vide cooking techniques take advantage of that section on the Serious Eats internet site. To gain a more technical understanding you can’t beat Doug Baldwin’s site.

By the way, i’m older than you and also live alone.
Make everyday a culinary gift to yourself.

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Cooking 2 pork chops of the same thickness takes the same amount of time as one with sous vide methods.

The key when cooking multiples is to package them individually or if in the same bag make sure you do not let the meat overlap. Once you get your cooker give pork tenderloin a try as well. It is one cut that really shines when cooked this way.


Thanks, Black Cat, much appreciate your note and this was all helpful. Please forgive these “dumb” questions, but being new to sous vide, there are a ton of them.

Your comment in the second paragraph about buying in bulk and cooking it all and either refrigerating or freezing the unused portions was extremely helpful, but how does one finish off or “reheat” meat that has been either refrigerated or frozen after initial cooking? I can’t imagine that searing refrigerated or frozen meat or using a torch, will raise the internal temperature of the meat high enough to make it palatable.

I hope I’m explaining myself clearly enough as I don’t know or understand a lot of the cooking jargon. In my younger years, I thought I was a pretty good cook, but the older I get the more I realize that I stunk.

Feel free to ask any question here - sous vide is still not widely known and there is a lot we can learn from each other. Remember, we all gotta start from somewhere.

When you’re ready to eat what you’ve cooked in bulk, you can reheat with the Anova, using the same temperature you used to cook the food at. Then sear as you normally would.

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Bartski, i’m glad to see Alyssa got back to you first with the answer to your question.

Vacuum pack and cook in single portion units if that’s what you mostly consume. Reheating takes about an hour per inch of thickness from frozen, only a little less from refrigerated. I recommend thawing raw or cooked meat slowly on a wire rack in your refrigerator for a day. When you finally get into production plan on reheating for an hour per inch so its easy to remember. When your product is warm, decant (= remove packaging, - you might as well learn the jargon now), pat the meat dry with a few thicknesses of paper towel, season, and sear.

Most beginners have difficulty with searing, mostly because they don’t preheat their pan long enough and hot enough so they sear too long which becomes a second cooking and then they get all despondent over SV cooking. You can prevent a lot of wasted meat by getting yourself a little contact thermometer that you can set in your pan as it heats. I’ve seen them selling between $6 and $11 recently. Save one steak and it has pretty well paid for itself.

A heavy cast iron pan does best for searing. You’ll ruin an aluminum pan at the heat you need.

To close your knowledge gap get to Kenji and Doug’s sites so you can really annoy your friends with all your new knowledge.

One more thing, i am positively evangelical on the quick leaning value of keeping a record of your SV cooking. Get a decent hard covered journal if you can and keep it in your kitchen so you’ll be sure to use it for every cook.
And be sure you do.

I record the following:

  • the date
  • a description of the items being cooked. Like, " four 3/4-inch boneless loin pork chops"
  • the item’s thickness
  • cooking temperature used
  • length of time cooked
  • comments on the result, be precise. “OK”, is not very helpful.
  • record any recommendations for change, if any, for the next time you cook the item. That will mostly be time and temperature adjustments at the beginning.

By now you’ve probably realized i am trying to get you to write your own cookbook.
I am.

Now order your Anova and get reading on those sites.
I have not told you everything you need to know.
Do the work and you will be delighted with your results.


If you are talking about meat it’s not safe for weeks in the refrigerator… Even milk is pasteurized but if the bottle is open the milk will go bad in a few days. And it’s the same with meat, unless it’s under vacuum.

You’re precisely correct M.
Thank you for clarifying my statement,

SV meat cooked to the point of Pasteurization and refrigerated can be safe for weeks. There are many variables in storage conditions so i can’t give absolute “Best Before” lengths of time. It’s also why i recommended Bartski cook individually packaged portions to preserve the integrity of the vacuum packaging.

Of course, Bartski should keep his unopened SV cooked meat in the coldest part of his refrigerator, usually at the bottom. I keep my refrigerator thermostat set just above the point where my greens freeze to maximize the length of storage time. I always date and label each package and use FIFO, - first in, first out. Standing the packages of meat on their side makes FIFO easier than stacking them.

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Personally I had already assumed you meant stored in the refrigerator while still sealed in the vacuum bags it was cooked in, but it is true that clarification never hurts!

Thanks so very much for the help I’ve received. I particularly like your comment about keeping notes, so much so that I created a database to keep track of all the information you recommend. OK, so I’m a little anal, but at 75 what else do I have to do.

Final question (yeah right), the importance of thickness is mentioned all over, but nothing is mentioned about what that thickness should be. If cooking a pork chop at 140F for 2 hours, is that for a .5" chop or 1" or 1.5"? If it is for a 1" chop, do I raise time for a 1.5" chop and lower the time for a .5" chop. Alternatively do I just follow the temp and time guidelines for chops regardless of thickness. I note that none of the recipes I’ve seen mention thickness.

Take a look on this page.

If you scroll down to paragraph 6 he gives advice on cooking a pork chop. I have found brining greatly improves the final product. He also references a table further up the page that gives the relationship between time and thickness. Pork takes a little getting use to as it is moist and tender not like the overcooked pork you normally get. I like to make pork tenderloins and I really enjoy them added warm atop a salad.

Bartski, i’m happy to know you are finding all this helpful, although i do wish you would go back up here and read that last paragraph of my first response to you again.

First, you decide how thick a pork chop you want, not some stranger.
Then, as John carefully re-aimed you, you set the time depending on the thickness and the tenderness you desire.

You have noticed one of my major gripes about recipes, no thicknesses, as if it doesn’t make any difference. I would rather have you learn to think about cooking in terms of techniques. Once you learn a few techniques you can alter the ingredients to suit you and be assured the result will be just the way you like.

John’s recommendation of brining makes a lot of sense for pork and poultry. Doug Baldwin gives a formula for brine. It’s stronger than the 4% solution i employ. If you used brines before, go ahead. If not, your learning should progress one step at a time so you can understand and record the outcome of each change you make in your database. There should be a reason for everything you do, including your changes.

When are you going to buy your Anova?

Then, after your first few cooks i want you to invite a neighbour or two for dinner to show them what a clever cook you are.
Sharing a satisfying meal will give you a particularly pleasant feeling of enjoyment that you deserve.
And them.

I fully understand what everyone is talking about when the say thickness is important, but everyone speaks of thickness in general terms and I get no specifics.

You say that I should decide how thick I want my chops, not some stranger. In my long life of cooking, I’ve never done that. Having said that, I find if a recipe calls for 1" chops, I use that as a guideline and adjust according to what I want or can get. I just wish recipes I find on the site or elsewhere tell what the thickness of the meat is when testing the recipe so I can at least use that as a guideline. No self-respecting amateur cook would ever use those as written in stone. Then again, given a specific recipe, does one adjust time up for thicker and down for thinner? Very confusing.

My Anova came in on Monday. I got one of those 12 quart plastic tubs to go with it and a few other gizmos. I understand about searing on a cast iron skillet, but as I have difficulty lifting heavy objects, I opted for a torch. A bit tricky, but I’m sure I’ll get used to it. As with everything, a matter of trial and error.

I cooked my first meal last night. A small filet of halibut. Edible, but a bit disappointing. I used the heat and time guidelines from Anova. Next time I’ll use higher temp. Tonight I try the pork chops. Wish me luck.

As per your suggestion, I’m keeping notes.

What disappointed you with the Halibut? I find myself cooking most fish 2 different ways. For myself I like it when the center is just cooked or with salmon even a little less. My wife insists on hers being well done. She calls mine gelatinous but I don’t think it is. Halibut is an extremely delicate fish and it can go from perfect to overdone very quickly. That is one of the real benefits of cooking proteins using sous vide. Things don’t happen all that fast and there is a margin for error on the cooked too long side. Pan seared or on the grill you need to pay close attention or your fish can be easily ruined. I will be interested to hear how your pork chop turns out.

Bartski, for SV recipes that specify thickness I recall that many at Serious Eats do. Elsewhere is usually a disappointment. Your cooking records will soon be an effective guide for you. Be sure to record thickness, not weight.

Please excuse me, i usually buy a half pork loin and cut my own chops to about 1 1/2-inches thick, the way i like them. Of course most folks use what was cut at the store. I cut my own steaks too. I’m probably just too accustom to batch cooking and then finishing single portions.

And yes, you should adjust the cooking time with respect to thickness. Isn’t it reasonable that it will take longer for the energy, or heat, to penetrate to the centre of a thicker piece of meat than a similar but thinner one? Of course it is. You can plan on heat taking an hour per inch for the food’s temperature to completely equate to your water temperature. Then you add time to reach desired tenderness which is product dependant. A tender filet mignon will be done at that point while a piece of brisket will need a day or two more. However, that will be a wonderful piece of brisket.

Fish can be challenging to cook. A small haddock filet might have been better sautéed. That’s what i do, but it does take practice to get it just right… You should be just fine with your SV pork chops as long as you have a plan and follow it. They are very forgiving.

Next time you are in a kitchenwares store see if they have the new lighter line of Lodge cast iron pans. The larger ones have a helper handle opposite the regular one. You might find it manageable. Torches can take a long time to cover all surfaces.