Sous vide cooking involves sealing food in airtight plastic bags and then cooking it to a very precise temperature in a water bath. This results in food that is perfectly cooked edge to edge without over or undercooking. Sous vide is a fantastic method for cooking pork since it helps ensure the meat comes out juicy and tender every time.
A common question that comes up with sous vide cooking is whether you can cook frozen foods like pork from frozen using the sous vide method. The short answer is yes, you can absolutely sous vide cook frozen pork! However, there are some important things to know about sous viding frozen pork to ensure optimal results.
Can You Sous Vide Frozen Pork?
Yes, you can sous vide cook pork from completely frozen. The key is to add extra time to the cook. How much extra time will depend on the thickness of the pork cut. For example, a 1-inch thick pork chop may need 1-2 hours extra cooking time from frozen compared to thawed. A large 3-inch thick pork roast may need 4-6 extra hours cook time from frozen.
The reason for the extra time is because the frozen pork needs to thaw and come up to the set temperature. The dense frozen pork conducts heat slower than thawed meat. So it takes longer for the very center of the pork to reach the final temperature you have set your sous vide machine for.
Benefits of Sous Vide Frozen Pork
There are some benefits to cooking pork sous vide straight from frozen:
You can skip the thawing step and go straight to sealing and cooking. No need to plan ahead and remember to thaw pork in the refrigerator.
The extra slow cook time from frozen can help break down connective tissue in tougher pork cuts like shoulder resulting in pork that is extremely tender.
The gentle low temperature sous vide cooking method helps pork stay incredibly moist and juicy throughout the extended frozen cook time.
Cooking from frozen is safe with sous vide. The pasteurization that occurs ensures any bacteria gets killed even with the longer cook time.
Tips for Sous Vide Frozen Pork
Here are some tips to follow for the best results sous viding pork from frozen:
Use Thicker Freezer Bags
Use extra thick freezer-grade bags when cooking from frozen to avoid any bag leaks or punctures. The thicker plastic can better withstand the extended cook time.
Check Seal Before Cooking
Double check the bag seal before putting the pork in the water bath. Press out any air bubbles and make sure the bag is thoroughly sealed. This prevents water from getting into the bag during the longer cook.
Increase Cook Time
Be sure to add extra time to the cook to account for thawing and heating from frozen. Refer to a sous vide time chart to determine how much extra time is needed based on pork cut thickness.
Preheat Water Bath
Preheating the water bath saves some time bringing the frozen pork up to temp. Aim for at least 130°F bath temp for frozen pork.
Use a Thermometer
Use a meat thermometer after cooking to check for doneness, especially important with extra long cooks from frozen. Check the center of the thickest part.
Be sure to quickly sear the exterior of the pork after cooking. This adds nice browning and texture. Sear in a very hot skillet with oil or on a grill.
Frozen Pork Cuts to Sous Vide
Many different pork cuts can be cooked sous vide straight from frozen with great results:
Bone-in or boneless pork chops cook well from frozen using the sous vide method. For 1-inch chops, cook at 140°F for 2-3 hours from frozen. Increase time for thicker chops.
Whole pork tenderloins are ideal candidates for sous vide from frozen. Cook small tenderloins at 140°F for 2-3 hours, and large tenderloins for 4-5 hours.
Well-marbled pork shoulder benefits from the extra cook time frozen. Cook for 18-24 hours for pulled pork. Increase to 30-40 hours for extra tender roasts.
Forget to thaw that pork belly? No worries, just sous vide from frozen for delicious crispy pork belly. Cook for 36-60 hours at 150°F for tender, melt-in-your mouth pork belly.
Cook ribs frozen at 165°F for 24 hours for fall-off-the-bone tender ribs. Baby back ribs may only need 18 hours frozen. Add your favorite bbq sauce after.
Sous vide is great for bringing out the flavor of frozen sausage links, patties, or loose sausage. Cook at 150°F for 2-4 hours depending on thickness.
It is possible to cook frozen cured pork like ham or prosciutto sous vide. Cook at 140°F for 4-6 hours from frozen for perfect reheating.
Time and Temperature for Frozen Pork
The time and temperature needed for sous viding frozen pork depends on the cut and thickness. Here are general guidelines:
|Pork Cut||Thickness||Temperature||Time from Frozen|
|Chops||1 inch||140°F||2-3 hours|
|Tenderloin||1-2 lbs||140°F||3-4 hours|
|Pork Roast||3 inches||140°F||8-10 hours|
|Pork Belly||2 inches||150°F||36-60 hours|
|Sausage||2 inches||150°F||4 hours|
These times are just estimates, and may need to be adjusted up or down depending on exact shape and thickness. Use a sous vide time calculator to dial in the perfect cook time from frozen for the exact cut you are cooking.
Brining Frozen Pork for Sous Vide
For ultimate flavor and moisture, consider brining pork before bagging it frozen for sous vide. The salt and sugar in the brine will penetrate the meat over the extended frozen sous vide cook.
Make a simple brine using:
- 1/2 cup salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 gallon water
- Aromatics like garlic, peppercorns, bay leaf (optional)
Submerge pork in brine for 8-24 hours before freezing for sous vide. Rinse pork after brining and pat dry thoroughly before freezing. Adding brine ice cubes to the bag can further flavor the pork.
Freezing Pork for Later Sous Vide
You can also freeze pork specifically to later sous vide it from frozen. Here are some tips:
Portion Into Servings
Cut roasts, pork belly, ribs, etc into single serving portions before freezing. This makes it easy to pull out just what you need from the freezer to sous vide.
Use Freezer Bags
For best results, seal pork in thick freezer-grade bags before freezing. Press out all air and seal thoroughly.
Freeze bags flat in a single layer to quick freeze, then you can stack. This prevents large ice crystals from forming on the pork.
Include the pork cut, number of servings, and date on the bag label before freezing. This helps identify what’s in each bag.
Freeze Below 0°F
For long term freezing, set your freezer to -5°F to -10°F. Quick freezing and very cold temps help preserve pork’s quality.
Food Safety with Frozen Pork
Proper handling and cooking temperatures are important when dealing with frozen pork to prevent foodborne illness. Here are some key safety tips:
If thawing before cooking, thaw frozen pork for at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. Do not thaw at room temp or in hot water.
Only marinate thawed pork in the refrigerator, not on the counter. Discard used marinade instead of reusing.
Follow Time & Temps
With sous vide, follow recommended cooking times and temperatures, and check pork internal temp after cooking.
Chill After Cooking
For cooked pork you don’t eat right away, chill in refrigerator within 1-2 hours, do not leave at room temp.
Reheat leftover frozen pork to an internal temperature of at least 165°F before serving. Bring sauces to a boil when reheating.
Use different cutting boards, plates, and utensils for raw pork vs other foods to prevent cross-contamination of bacteria.
Sous vide cooking frozen pork is totally doable with some simple adjustments to time and technique. The key steps are using thick freezer bags, adding extra cooking time, preheating your water bath, and double checking temperatures. Done properly, sous viding from frozen can result in exceptionally moist, tender and delicious pork ready to enjoy for dinner or meal prep. With a little planning, freezing pork specifically for later sous vide cooking means you can enjoy foolproof pork entrees any night of the week.