Pre-cooking for the elderly

In the Sous Vide Recipes Forum
I have some elderly relatives who are unfortunately not too well at the moment and I'm looking to cook and freeze some meals, or components of meals, for them, so they can be easily heated up by a carer (most likely in a microwave).

It will need to be soft and relatively lean so as to not be too fiddly. I was initially thinking about a joint of beef as it's a favourite, likely a lean cut like topside. I'm trying to figure out the process as the 'finishing' in a microwave is fixed. I was thinking of:

1) Sous vide the joint for 48-72 hours until very tender. Temp 62C for a roughly 'medium' result.
2) Sear and carve
3) Divide into portions and vacuum seal. Unsure whether this should be done after some kind of chilling.
4) Freeze.

Which would leave the microwave to defrost, hopefully not undoing too much of the good work put in to the cooking.

My main concern is that these are immune compromised individuals and I don't want to trip up at any stage. At home, I have become comfortable with rapid chill in an ice bath, freeze, then reheat/defrost in a water bath with a final sear, but the last stage of the process unfortunately is out of my control.

Any input as to whether any of the above stages should be re-ordered. My other thought was to sear and portion first, but I've never tried searing prior to the sous vide process.

Any responses gratefully appreciated.

4 Replies So Far

Hi LeeW, I'm sorry to hear about your relatives.

First off, I don't have a lot of experience cooking for immune compromised individuals so I'd get a second opinion before following anything I say.

I think your steps would work just fine. One benefit of portioning and searing after the sous vide bath is that you'll be dealing with "normal" leftovers at the point you take the meat from the sous vide pouches instead of food in an anaerobic environment. This *should* cut down on the risk for them.

We have a few hospital chefs that read this blog so perhaps one of them can chime in since they would have much more experience in this than I would.
Thanks for the reply Jason. My thinking was the 'leftovers' approach for bacteria would be best. I have a week or so to 'test' the process, so I'll give it a go and see whether it works.
Hi Lee, this is Chef John. I am the Executive Chef at a very large Hospital in the States. We have two different cooking techniques here: Sous Vide – cooking in a vacuum and Low Temperature cooking. When we are cooking for those with compromised immune systems we need to make sure we obtain a log10 killing of pathogens. Shellfish sometimes is infected with Norwalk virus, this virus is not killed until 192 F. for three mins. Cooking to this temperature will destroy most shellfish. You can use canned shellfish! Red meats should be taken to 155 F. for a minimum of 6 mins. Poultry to 165 F. for a minimum of 15 mins. Retherming the food in a microwave is not recommended as these ovens do not reheat evenly, the food in one place can be 165 F. and another is only 140 F. Reheat in an oven or leave in the bag and use a water bath set at 165 F. for poultry and 155 F. for red meat. Eggs are of special concern. I use commercially available pasteurized eggs (Davison’s Egg Company) for everything. You can pasteurize your in shell eggs in your sous vide water oven set 149 F. and leaving the eggs in the water for 5 mins. Quickly chill the eggs in ice water back to 40 F. Use like any other in-shell egg. Especially good for recipes that use raw eggs. Hope this helps, the right thing to do might be not to use Low Temp cooking but just Sous Vide.
Great ideas in preparing a food recipe for the elderly love ones. Their health problems give them a big impact in eating that's why it is really necessary to do a special food recipe for them. A healthy food recipe for them but delicious as well even though it may cost of a little cash advance. Thanks a lot for this post. I really appreciate it.

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