Rapid chilling

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One of my favorite techniques with the sous vide is to grill or otherwise brown the meat before putting it in the sous vide. I prefer this to doing it in the other order because my grill is inconveniently located down a flight of stairs from my kitchen, and also because right before serving is when I'm getting everything else ready and it's not a convenient time to be outside grilling. The sous vide will also hold the meat at the perfect doneness until everything else is ready so that's another reason do to the sous vide step last instead of first as is the case with many recipes.

One catch to this whole thing, however is that you need to rapidly cool the meat. This is necessary to keep the meat out of the danger zone (40°F to 140°F). It's also necessary because the meat needs to be cold before vacuum sealing in chamber vacuum sealer or the bag will inflate like a balloon which is not what you want for sous vide.

It's also not a good idea to put hot things in the refrigerator (takes too long to chill and also warms the refrigerator) or freezer (may warm the freezer unacceptably).

The restaurant solution to this is a big container and lots of ice. I really mean lots of ice - not a bucket of water with some ice cubes floating in it. I do not have that much ice in my home freezer's ice maker, however.

What I found works well, however, is to use flexible, reusable blue ice packs. Before cooking, fill a container (I used a 9x13 glass baking pan) with cold water and an ice pack. When done cooking, put the meat in a vacuum bag but do not seal. Place the bag in the cold water bath, sandwiched between the two layers of ice pack and underwater. Make sure the end of the bag is open and out of the water!

The water in the bath makes for efficient heat transfer out of the meat, and the ice packs are easily reusable.

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The general rule is that you have to get the food from 135°F to 70°F within 2 hours, and this technique should do it in less than 20 minutes. Subtract the amount of time it took to do the first part from 6 hours and the remainder is the amount of time you have to get the food the rest of the way to 41°F, so 5:40 which is easily to do in the refrigerator once you get it to 60°F or so.