Ice Bath VS Freezer

Instead of doing an ice bath, can I just put the S.V. cooked meat into the freezer for a couple of hours? Thanks, OTBM

Hey OYBM, sure, you can put SV cooked meat into your freezer, but it won’t likely have the same result as an ice bath deep chill, and it could be slow and dangerous.

There are several factors to consider:
What are you trying to accomplish by using your freezer to chill meat?
Is this a short or long term holding period?
And how much meat are you considering?
And thick or thin?

Where is the heat in the meat going when you put it in the freezer?
Right, - it flows into the food around it. Do you really want to warm the food in your freezer?

Ice-water bath deep chilling will be quicker because water conducts heat much better than air. As in SV cooking, thickness matters when cooling.

Mr. C, Hope you are doing well. I am glad you would responded as your advice and comments are always informative and spot on. I mostly cook 1.25" steaks (NYS, Ribeye, T-bone, whatever is on sale. Not prime) and chicken breast. Sometimes the cooked S.V. food will be promptly seared and eaten, but mostly frozen for later consumption.

I guess my major problem is that I don’t understand the purpose of the ice bath. When food is cooked on the stove, bbq pit, slow cooker, oven, etc, it doesn’t go into an ice bath.

I will answer your 4 questions in order:

  1. Convenience
  2. Sometimes in the freezer for weeks, sometimes hours - then moved to the refrigerator to sear in the next couple of days.
  3. Yesterday was 6 steaks inside of 4 vacuum sealed bags.
  4. 1.25" thick

After yesterdays S.V. cook, I dumped the hot water and refilled with tap water. Then added 2 large blocks of ice from gallon ice cream containers. After 2 hours I transferred the steaks to the freezer for long term storage. My Thermapen showed the water temp never dropped below 50*. Does that sound adequate?

NYS steak @ 1.25" thick
137* for 2.5 hours (from refrigerator)

The last cook, I did 1.25" ribeyes for 1.5 hours @ 135* and found that the steaks were not as tender as I thought they should be.

If I am correct, Time = Tenderness and Temp = Cooked state (rare, med, well).

Thanks so much,

You aren’t alone! In short, the proper time for an ice bath is when you are going to chill the food for later use. It brings it to a safe temp, where it can then be placed in the fridge or freezer for you to then use as you need. If you are eating the food now, just sear and eat.

Hey OTBM, i appreciate your compliment, - merci boucoup.

You’re mostly right in your process. The purpose of an ice bath is two fold, for reasons of food safety and quality. SV cooking is low temperature cooking and that creates greater opportunities for the growth of pathogens than the other cooking techniques you enumerate.

For cook-chill and cook-freeze you should get the food through the Food Danger Zone (40F to 140F or 4.4C to 60C) as quickly as possible. That will minimize the numerical growth of pathogens to prevent food bourn illnesses that can be very nasty, or worse, - even fatal.

Your 50F is inadequate. You needed more ice and probably in smaller pieces with lots more surface area. It should have been below 40F and near freezing. You want to start food chilling with a 50/50 ratio of ice to water that should be just above 32F or 0C. Check it with your Thermapen. When chilling a large mass of food you will often need to add ice during the chilling process to keep the bath temperature below 40F or 4.4C. I frequently tumble the food bags to speed chilling and remove water as i add ice.

Those 6 steaks were a substantial mass of 50F food to place directly into a domestic freezer. In some food services we use freezers with high speed fans and well spaced racks to quickly chill food. A domestic freezer can’t match that effectiveness. So at home we use an ice water bath to get food as close to frozen as possible.

Cook-serve is rarely a problem. With cook-chill and cook-freeze you should want to get the food through the FDZ ASAP. Ice water is an effective means of cooling because of its greater ability to absorb heat than air. Complete chilling takes about as long as SV heating, about an hour for every inch of thickness.

Through comprehensive testing i’ve discovered the best cook-freeze quality is consistently achieved by quick freezing and slow thawing. Quick freezing is expedited by deep chilling resulting in less muscle fibre damage to food. Slow thawing also prevents muscle fibre damage.

Lagniappe: also keep in mind that meat is about 75% water. To change water from the liquid state at 32F to the solid state, ice at 32F, it requires the removal of a tremendous amount of energy with no change in temperature. That’s why we want to get meat as cold as possible before freezing.

Keep well.

Thank you all for the X-plane ing. I feels right smart now!

Seriously, thank you all. I have a much better understanding why the ice bath is so important and worth the effort.

Stay well my friends!

GOD, Guns & Gumbo

Hey Man, it’s my pleasure to be of service.

I had the honour to work with and learn from many great cooks and as my legacy want to leave as much of that knowledge for others as i can.

Stay positive, - and test negative.

The essential difference of an ice bath from a freezer is that the heat transfer coefficient of water is much higher than air, resulting in a faster chill of the food.

From the Wikipedia: “ Some typical heat transfer coefficients include:

Air - h = 10 to 100 W/(m^2 K)
Water - h = 500 to 10,000 W/(m^2 K).