Abstract The three-dimensional, transient, coupled mass and heat transfer of cooked meat during vacuum cooling is modelled by using the finite element method. The model mainly includes two sub-models, describing mass transfer with the inner vapour generation and heat transfer with the inner heat generation, respectively. The variations in the physical properties of the meat and the shrinkage of the meat during the cooling are covered in the model. For vacuum cooling a cooked meat joint in a brick shape (310×130×130 mm) and with a weight of 5.3 kg from the maximum temperature of around 74 °C to below 10 °C, the maximum deviation between the predicted and experimental core, surface and average temperatures is within 2.5 °C. The deviation between the predicted and experimental total weight loss is about 7.5%. The simulation indicates that a rapid cooling can be achieved for large cooked meat joints by using the vacuum cooling.