Freezing and reheating for work lunch

Hey everyone! Moved office and discovered lunch in the area was way too expensive. Decided to sous vide!

But… food safety. I’ve poisoned myself a lot and would like to prevent that.

I’d like to bring lunch (150g) steak with quinoa to work. But I’d like to know the process to keep it safe for consumption.

  1. Sous vide 500g steak
  2. Cut into smaller portions
  3. Chill in 50% ice bath for 1 hour
  4. Put all portions in freezer
  5. On work day, reheat portion for 1 hour at 60C
  6. Sear the sides in a pan
  7. Put the hot steak in a silicone food box to take to the office (8.30am and tropical weather here 35C)
  8. Put it in the refrigerator in office immediately (9am)
  9. Microwave for ?? long at lunchtime (12.30pm)

Please help! I’m not too sure about the reheating process and would like to stop poisoning myself. Thank you.

Krystal, your process is time-intensive considering it’s for lunches, not to say potentially risky. You also might want to substitute advanced SV cooked chicken and salmon, maybe even cooked beans and lentils for a variety of protein sources to prevent lunchbox blues.

Here’s my suggestions:
Skip Step 2 til later.
New Step 3, decant cooked steak and do Step 2, - now Step 3B.
Step 3C, pan sear portions, individually pack meal sized portions, label and date, then ice bath chill.
Then do Step 4.
New Step 5, afternoon or evening before workdays remove portion from freezer and refrigerate.
New Step 6, pack lunch cold. In a hot climate (too soon we will all be there) transport food in a pre-chilled insulated container. Using a frozen gel-pack is advisable.
Do this to eliminate experiencing your second and last paragraphs above.
Step 8. Do it.
Step 9. I value my health and avoid regular use of microwave ovens for personal food consumption. However, they are great for heating water. Simply remove your meal from refrigeration an hour or more before lunchtime so it isn’t cold when you enjoy it.

You can avoid food safety issues by never allowing your cooked food to be unrefrigerated for more than a cumulative time of 4 hours, never longer. Two hours is safer in your climate.

Krystal, for the goodness of your health do you have a serious aversion to a cool or ambient temperature lunch? Consider that many people on this planet eat food that’s neither truly hot or cold.

You may want to make and bring a salad dressing-like sauce to add flavour to your meals to smooth your transition away from microwave oven heated meals. Doing this also allows you to add ample heath giving greens, raw or cooked vegetables, and fruit to your lunches.

Enjoy your new safe and healthy lunches.

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Thank you so very much for your reply, black cat.

If the freezing goes well, I should have a variety of combinations of meats and veggies to take to work. First I am figuring out how to stop poisoning myself. I think the weather here changes a lot of recipes, as I’ve been poisoned even when following them exactly (and almost always with chicken, which is why I’m starting with beef…)

I’m Asian and brought up on very hot rice / soup type of meals, so salads and cold meals are not enjoyable to me. However, ambient temperature lunch will be okay as long as it’s not cold!

I don’t typically use the microwave either, but at this new office, that’s all that they have. Usually I cook, freeze and reheat by steaming in an instant pot - and no issues with food safety. Now I won’t have access to kitchen or instant pot for lunch, so I’m trying to figure out a way to have great-tasting lunches with what’s available at hand. (I will be cooking vegetables but since I know how to handle them, didn’t want to include them here. This particular meal will be with garlicked baby cabbage and carrots.)

I will follow all your steps, and throw out the beef I’ve had cooking. The chilling didn’t happen quickly enough and ice bath did not keep or get food down to 5C.

New Steps:

  1. Sous vide 500g steak
  2. Decant the meat
  3. Cut into smaller portions
  4. Pan-sear portions
  5. Individually pack portions, label and date
  6. Chill in 50% ice bath for 1 hour
  7. Put all portions in freezer
  8. Evening before work day, thaw desired portion in refrigerator
  9. Pack cold and transport quickly and chilled to work
  10. Refrigerate once at work
  11. Remove meal 1 hour before lunch so it isn’t cold

Would this also work for chicken?

My pleasure Krystal. Thanks for sharing some personal details.

Your most significant problem is food safety. You should always handle and cook poultry as if is saturated in Salmonella and E. coli, which it likely is. Beef, not so much, but it can still be subject to cross contamination in the supply chain.

Your food bourn illnesses are always an indicator that there is an error in temperature control or food handling techniques.

Segregate your kitchen work surfaces between raw and cooked food use. Wash your hands immediately after handling raw meat and poultry, always. That means with ample soap and lots of friction, get your finger tips too as they are often missed. Rinse hands under running water with fingers pointing downward. Dry with a towel only used for hands, not as a wiper. Change hand drying towels frequently, detergent and water are the cheapest health insurance.

Chilling means using a 50% ice bath. Refer to the following site for more helpful information on all aspects of SV cooking:

Yes, New Steps works the same for meat and poultry, even fish.
Try slices or cubes of pork too. Pack a ginger-garlic dressing to go.

Step 9. Consider using a pre-chilled insulated means of transport so quickly is not a necessity.

Step 11. Remove from insulated transport container.
There is flexibility within reasonable time limits to suit your temperature preference. If one hour food is too cold, try 2, or 3 hours at the very most.

Ahhh… just responded to this on another thread. Glad the Cat stepped in to keep you safe.

@Krystal, if you use chicken breast there is no need to sear it. But do make sure when you are cooking it you pasteurise it according to the tables in Baldwin’s guide.

Glad to know about the food items you shared. Thank you!

And regarding Frank’s last comment “There is flexibility within reasonable time limits to suit your temperature preference. If one hour food is too cold, try 2, or 3 hours at the very most.”

@Krystal you mentioned that eating your food cold wound be “less enjoyable”. I was thinking that you might use that microwave at work to heat some water to your desired service temp, then place a Ziploc bag with your food item in it into the water to let you heat your food without the potential overcooking that using the microwave to directly heat your food might cause.

(Someone please correct me if this doesn’t sound like a good idea! :slight_smile: )

M, that’s reheating using a bain marie which is very traditional. You need to manage water to food mass to obtain enough heat and add more heat over time.

I can visualize a basin of water with lunch bobbing around in it at Krystal’s job site. It ought to be quite the conversation starter, but it will do the job. In the interest of workplace safety don’t attempt to move a vessel of hot water without a tight fitting lid.

Better bring your thermometer to work to monitor food temperature and time above 40F just to be safe. Get a box of alcohol wipes for the thermometer too.