My precision cooker gets far more use in the summer than it does in the winter. Precision cooking meat means I don’t have to turn on the oven, and combining a long spell in a constant-temperature water bath with a few minutes on the grill is my favourite cooking method (especially if I’m making ribs).
The grill, however, is at my boyfriend’s house, which means I usually precision cook the meat the day before, then chill it and take it over cold. This requires an ice bath, which uses up all of my precious ice. So I started using ice packs instead of ice, and my life has gotten much, much better.
Now, I understand that some of you out there have large freezers, freezers that come with built-in ice makers, or even an entire, standalone freezers in your garage that (in my mind) are dedicated entirely to ice. I love this for you, but this is simply not the world I live in. I can currently only make a tray or two of ice at a time, and I need that ice for cocktails, iced coffee, and Diet Coke that I forget to refrigerate.
Reusable ice packs cannot be used in cocktails so, unless I’m packing a lunch for the beach or icing my increasingly finicky back, they just hang out in the freezer waiting to be called into action, and they are very good at chilling a bath for rapidly chilling sous-vide cooked meat (which you pretty much have to do if you’re not finishing it right away).
Of course, they can be used to shock and chill other foods; you just have to make sure you clean them first. A bag of ribs has, well, a bag to protect it from anything less than pristine that might be hanging out in an ice pack-chilled bath, but a bunch of blanched asparagus has no such defence system. It’s not a big deal — just remember to wash your ice packs.