Can You Stop and Start Sous Vide?

Since sous vide cooking is all about timing and precision, is it okay to pause the cook halfway through?

Whether you can stop and start sous vide is a question that comes up a lot, mostly due to the pretty long cooking times (a few hours on average) with sous vide devices. Maybe you want to finish cooking your appetizers for a friend’s party at their house, so you can serve it freshly cooked and hot, for example.

So, can you stop and start sous vide to help deal with long cooking times? While it’s not going to get you the absolute best results, it is something that can be done. Depending on how long you want to pause your cooking for, as long as you can keep the food chilled at refrigerated temperatures (40°F [4°C]), then starting it back up again shouldn’t be a problem. I get into the details of this below.

pause button on keyboard

Reasons Why You May Want to Pause Sous Vide Cooking

There are several reasons why you may want to pause sous vide cooking, and it’s often due to the timing for how long you need to cook a specific item.

For example, short ribs are commonly used in sous vide and are often cooked for 48 hours. If you want to cook before travelling to a party, a barbecue, a relative’s house, or maybe you just want to cook ahead of time, then on occasion, you may want to come back to finish it off later (either in at your own kitchen or at your destination).

If you do need to take your items out of the sous vide machine to finish off later, then it’s vital you keep your food out of the “danger zone” in between cooking and while transporting it. In other words, keep the food hot or keep it cold. This is all for safety reasons. Read on to the next section to learn about the danger zone and how to keep your food out of it.

dining table set with plates and glasses with candles

Can You Sous Vide and Finish Later?

As we know from the above, you can sous vide and finish off at a later stage, but you need to be careful for how long you leave it. Most people would agree that you’ll get the best results by cooking the food sous vide all the way through and enjoying it immediately, but this isn’t always possible.

There are many people who sous vide batches of food, such as steaks or ribs and then refrigerate for a few days before coming back to them. Refrigerating the food in-between is critical to this process.

If you’re planning on pausing your sous vide cooking to continue at a later stage, you do need to be careful. In cooking, there’s a reference called the “Danger Zone”, which refers to the situation where bacteria can grow from leaving food out too long at room temperature. The danger zone occurs in the temperature range of 40-140°F, where bacteria can grow the quickest. As a general rule, food shouldn’t be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, and if the temperature is above 90°F, then the threshold is more than one hour.

If you want to pause your sous vide cook, the best way of doing this is by refrigerating the sous vide foods in-between.

green cooler that says keep cool sitting on grass

To do this, you may want to try to cool down your items fast and keep them refrigerated throughout the length of time you wish to keep them. Commonly, if you’re cooking at a high temperature you’ll need to hasten the cooldown to 40°F or below. If you ice bath your food items or put them in a bowl of ice this should help.

Another option is to empty your sous vide container and fill it up with cold water and ice cubes. Again, you’ll want to keep the temperature to 40°F or below.

In many cases, stopping and starting sous vide is perfectly fine if done correctly. However, as I mentioned, it’s best to leave the sous vide machine on until the cooking has completed to maintain quality and taste. You can always complete the cook all the way through, refrigerate, and then reheat the food later when you want to serve it.

Do You Need to Stop and Start Sous Vide?

In some cases, you may want to sous vide food for extended periods. For example, a short rib can be sous vide for 48 hours or some steaks can be sous vide for 72 hours. As this is quite a long time, many people may want to stop and start their sous vide machine overnight to avoid any running noise or dangers while sleeping. 

However, sous vide machines are made for really long cook times like these. You don’t need to watch over your sous vide machine although checking it every few hours is usually a good idea to avoid any issues with the sous vide bags or the machine. Click here to learn more.

In Summary

Whatever the reason is you want to pause or stop your sous vide to finish later, hopefully this guide has helped you understand what you can and can’t do when cooking sous vide with pauses or intermissions.

Make sure whatever you cook, that you’re storing the food out of the danger zone between cooks to ensure it remains safe to eat.