You have 168 hours in every week. Hopefully, for health’s sake, 49 of those are spent sleeping. On average, you spend 1.5 hours per day eating–so, 10.5 hours per week. With the few hours you have left after all of that eating and sleeping, it probably still feels like you’re spending 1,000,000+ hours prepping meals and waiting around for results that may or may not be as delicious and nutritious as your body is craving.
The bottom line? You need more time! That's where the glorious world of batch cooking comes in.
Perhaps you have a spouse, 2.5 children, and Rover happily weaves between your legs when you get home from work. You’ve already put in a 10 hour day with the commute. The thought of deciding what to make for dinner and then making it, while hangry, for your beloved family ratchets up your exhausted anxiety level from a 2 to a 9. Calling your favorite takeout joint for delivery is the only thing that can assuage the tightness in your chest. Every night.
What is batch cooking?
Batch cooking is just what it sounds like: cooking food in batches, or larger quantities. It is one of the most frequently asked cooking questions we receive from our community at Anova
. So, let’s break it down and give you the answers to our most frequently asked questions. You will be meal prepping and throwing amazing dinner parties in no time! (Just don’t forget to send me an invitation, okay? I love dinner parties!)
Why batch cook?
There are so many reasons to batch cook, the actual meal prep and dinner parties aside.
Batch cooking is easier.
With Anova, you just set the temperature, pop whatever protein you choose into a zip-locking or vacuum seal bag(s), then drop it in the water bath. There is no standing over the stove making sure it doesn’t burn. Maybe you set a timer, but if you miss it, no worries! For the majority of options, even a couple of extra hours won’t hurt!
Batch cooking saves time.
Cook once, eat for months. Using your Anova, you’ll have that time your protein is cooking free to manage the rest of your prep. 1 - 2 hours of active cooking will provide you with healthy food for an entire week, or longer. It’ll also keep you from ordering greasy takeout AGAIN.
Batch cooking is healthier.
This is especially true with sous vide because it puts YOU in control over what goes into your body. You can adjust the sodium, fat, and sugar levels in your meals to your liking as opposed to these things often being a mystery when you order out. You get to control your portions, making sure that you aren’t tempted to eat too much, or not enough for that matter! All this and more nutrients–including heart-healthy omega-3’s in oily fish that WON’T stink up your kitchen–are retained over any other cooking method. This is due to the fact that they are not lost to either the cooking liquid or pan.
Batch cooking saves money.
If you are anything like me, then you know that the road to food waste is paved with good intentions. “I MEANT to cook those short ribs/chicken thighs/rack of lamb, but I was busy with so many other things, I just forgot…” Throwing away uncooked food is literally the same thing as throwing away the money you spent on it. Cooking it, freezing it, reheating it at a later date, eating it in any way, shape, or form is the ONLY way to get your ROMI (return on meat investment).
What are some practical applications for batch cooking?
- Getting a week’s worth of lunch and dinner ingredients ready in one short span of time
- Cooking for a large number of people
- Making the most of that 10lb bulk package of chicken breasts you saw on sale
- Making meal prep last minutes each day instead of almost an hour
How do I batch cook?
It’s easy. Put multiple pieces of protein into the water bath at the same time and let Anova do the rest. You can do this in individual bags if you want to limit portion size and/or refrigerate or freeze in smaller amounts, or put a number of pieces into one bag.
How many pieces can I put in one bag?
This is a very common question, and understandably so. My rule of thumb is that you can put as many as fit in a single layer without overlapping. This is slightly different with vegetables, as things like brussels sprouts may have leaves that lay on top of one another, but the premise is the same. Ideally, you want a single, uniform layer. I personally like to make sure that I can push a fingertip between the pieces through the bag, to demonstrate a little movement.
The cooking is happening through indirect heat transfer from the water through the plastic bag. The more surface area is exposed to the ambient water temperature, the more effectively this process will happen, and the more quickly and thoroughly your food will cook.
How much can I cook at one time?
The Anova Precision Cooker is designed to efficiently handle 5 gallons / 20 quarts / 18.927 liters at one time. Provided that you have a cooking vessel, even a beer cooler, that holds this much water, you can cook as much as that vessel will hold as long as there is enough space between the bags for the water to circulate freely.
Are there any special steps to make sure it stays safe to eat if I don’t eat it immediately?
YES. You need to chill your food out of the danger zone, 40ºF/4ºC - 140ºF/54ºC, as soon as possible if you are not going to consume it right away. That doesn't just go for meat and fish, but vegetables, too. Between these temperatures is the zone where bacteria, both harmless AND harmful, grow most rapidly. The quickest way to chill your food out of this is to plunge the cooking bags directly into an ice bath that starts at 32ºF/0ºC, about 50% water and 50% ice, and the cooked food should stay there for 30 minutes to an hour.
The ULTIMATE Anova Precision Cooker hack is starting with a fresh vessel of cold water and ice and turning the temperature setting as low as it will go. Moving water is *colder* than still water, so a circulating ice bath will chill anything faster, and the built in thermometer will tell you when the water temperature has dipped back into the safe zone!
How long can I keep my food in the refrigerator after cooking and chilling?
According to Foodsafety.gov, you should eat refrigerated cooked food or leftovers within 3 - 4 days.
How long can I keep my food in the freezer after cooking and chilling?
Cooked meat in zip-locking bags keeps for 2 - 3 months. Cooked poultry in zip-locking bags keeps for 4 - 6 months. And either in vacuum-sealed bags keeps up to a year!
How do I reheat for eating?
I recommend thawing frozen meats in the refrigerator first, thereby keeping your food out of the danger zone. BUT, you can always reheat frozen and refrigerated dishes straight in the immersion bath. I recommend heating the meats to their initial cooking temperature. Otherwise, 140ºF/54ºC is the safest bet.
What do you nerds think? Are there any other uses for batch cooking that you can think of? Or any other questions that you would like to see answered? Please share your experiences and questions in the comments section.
And stay tuned for upcoming posts with recipes for all of the different things you can do with your great big batches!