How To Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts

Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mushroom & Sherry Sauce

Learn how to use a “sous-vide” and cook chicken breasts.

Back in 2007, while watching the first season of Great British Menu I came across sous-vide. Sat Bains prepared his “Duck Eggs 62°C” which cooked for 55 minutes in the water bath. Even though I thought this to be a cool concept at that stage I quickly dismissed the notion of ever owning such a contraption. Surely this expensive piece of equipment is reserved for chefs in kitchens for posh restaurants?

Fast forward 5 years and slowly but surely sous-vide has become more affordable and a bit more mainstream, thanks to famous people like Heston Blumenthal. Can you imagine my surprise when I got offered a fantastic SousVide Supreme? Of course, I said yes! Since then I’ve been tinkering in the kitchen.


Slightly suspicious that this cooking method will actually work, I thought of a cut of meat I particularly dislike. Chicken breast. If there was a bill that allowed for scientists to genetically modify chickens to just legs, I’ll vote in favour. Seriously, who can get excited about this bland and dry meat?

Below you’ll see step-by-step how I cooked chicken breasts in my SousVide Supreme along with two little mistakes I made. But first, let me tell you more about sous-vide.

What is Sous Vide?

Sue did WHAT?!? Okay okay, so that’s if you say it wrong. There is much confusion about the pronunciation of the word. The correct way is “sue-veed”. If you want to sound less poncy you can simply call it a “water bath”.

Sous vide is when food is sealed in an airtight plastic pouch and then submerged in water at a low temperature. The food takes longer to cook but the results are consistently spectacular.

The History of Sous Vide

Like most great discoveries, sous vide happened by accident. Originally back in the 1970’s, French chefs wanted to minimise foie gras’ shrinkage in the cooking process and started experimenting with lower and longer cooking times. Not only did the delicacy lose less water but the flavour and texture were much better too than when using traditional cooking methods. Georges Goussalt tweaked it to the version we know today.

What Can You Sous Vide?

A lot of things! Salmon, steak, egg, vegetables and even ice cream. The following books will give you plenty of ideas:

If you were wondering how long things take to cook, they vary greatly – anything from 45 minutes for eggs to 72 hours for beef short ribs.

Is Sous Vide Safe?

Pouring water into the Sous-Vide Supreme

Yes, as long as you keep the following two things in mind.

Keep to the correct cooking temperature and times! Pathogens, bacteria and salmonella thrive between 4°C (40°F) and 54°C (130°F), which is also known as the “danger zone”. Sous vide’s cooking temperatures are slightly above that and since you’re cooking the food for longer enough germs will be killed to render the food safe.

There is a lot of paranoia surrounding food and plastic. Special plastic pouches are available on the market today. These fulfil several specifications such as being food-grade to limit the migration of plastic constituents into the food, heat resistant with a softening point of between 90°C (195°F) upwards, have low gas permeability to prevent freezer burn and they have enough mechanical strength. Many scientists and chefs believe that cooking in food grade plastic at these low temperatures is about equivalent to leaving a bottle of water in your car during summer. Make up your own mind regarding this matter.

There are plenty of advantages to cooking with a sous-vide and you can even freeze cooked food in the pouches for later use, reheat cooked food and cook food from frozen. It really is that amazing.


Let’s get cooking, shall we?

First off, fill the SousVide Supreme with water.

Sous-Vide Supreme Heating Up

Set the temperature to 60°C (140°F) and let it start heating the water. It will take a bit of time.

How To Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts

While the water is heating up, prepare the chicken.

Seasoned Chicken Breasts

Season it.

The rule of thumb is that you should only season meat after it’s been cooked. Let’s call it a newbie mistake on my behalf! :-)

Vacuum Bags for Sous-Vide Supreme

Next, you have to prepare the Vacuum Seal Bag.

Preparing Vacuum Bags for Sous-Vide Supreme

Fold the bag’s opening about 5cm (2 inches).

Preparing Chicken Breasts for Sous-Vide

Carefully place the chicken breasts inside the pouch. Do not touch the folded edges because if any mess occurs you run the risk of the pouch not sealing successfully in the vacuuming process.

Reference materials state you should use one bag per chicken breast which in my books is a gross waste of money if there is still plenty of space left in the bag. The only thing you need to aim for is that the meat is in one even layer.

Vacuum Sealing Chicken Breasts

Place the opening of the bag right below the nozzle of the Vacuum Food Sealer Machine and seal.

Vacuum Sealing Chicken Breasts

The Vacuum Food Sealer Machine will seal automatically when it’s sucked all the air out of the pouch.

Vacuum-Sealed Chicken Breasts

The chicken is ready to be cooked now.

Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts at 60°C

Chicken Breasts in the Sous-Vide

The water bath has now reached temperature. The latter tends to fluctuate 0.1-0.2°C above or below set temperature.

Here is my second mistake I made when I cooked with the SousVide Supreme for the first time. See the rack? It’s better if it’s placed on its side because pouches won’t be able to float to the top. It still worked though.

Another great advantage of the machine is that once your food is cooked, the machine doesn’t need cleaning. All you need to do is drained the water bath and dry it with a towel and then you’re done!

Chicken Breasts in the Sous-Vide

The chicken breasts will now cook for at least 2 hours. If they are frozen it will take another hour.

Cooked Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts

Voila! Are you ready for the juiciest chicken breasts you’ve had in your life? Just use scissors to cut the bag open to find out.

Cooked Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts

You have the option to fry the chicken 15-25 seconds on each side in a red-hot pan with some vegetable oil but if you’re going to be smothering the meat with plenty of sauce, why bother? It really is just an aesthetic thing. Why run the risk of making the chicken all rubbery again?

Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts with Creamy Mushroom & Sherry Sauce

This time round I served the chicken with Creamy Mushroom & Sherry Sauce – a very easy and delicious recipe.

Easy Blue Cheese Sauce

If this recipe got your tastebuds flowing, come and check out how to sous vide steaks!

P.S. If you’d like to know how to sous vide oxtail or duck, head over to Jeanne from Cook Sister‘s blog!

Download and/or print the recipe! Click HERE.

How To Sous-Vide Chicken Breasts
Learn how to sous-vide chicken breasts.Recipe by: Michelle Minnaar

Published: 22 October 2012

Prep Time: 1 hour

Cooking Time: 2 hours

Total Cooking Time: 3 hours

Serving size: 100g, Calories per serving: 114, Fat per serving: 2.5g
Yields 4

Ingredients


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, thawed or frozen

Method
  1. Preheat the water bath to 60°C (140°F).
  2. Season the chicken breasts.
  3. Place the chicken breasts in an even layer in a pouch and vacuum seal. Use more than one pouch if necessary.
  4. Pout the sealed pouches into the preheated water bath and cook the chicken for at least 2 hours. If you’re cooking the chicken from frozen this will take at least 3 hours.
  5. Remove the chicken breasts from their pouches and pat them dry with paper towels.
  6. Serve immediately.
Serving Suggestion
Notes
  • Alternatively, you can season the chicken after it’s been cooked instead of beforehand.

 

Sous-Vide Chicken Nutritional Values

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Comments

  1. says

    This chicken looks amazing! I think I rather want one now….! We used to have a sucky-air-out-of-bag contraption when I was a teenager and used it to freeze bags of veg from the allotment. They disappeared for years but seem to have made a come back now.

  2. Patrick says

    “You have the option to fry the chicken 15-25 seconds on each side in a red-hot pan with some vegetable oil but if you’re going to be smothering the meat with plenty of sauce, why bother? It really is just an aesthetic thing.”

    Always glad to find new cooking blogs, especially ones that advocate modern cooking techniques, but in my opinion this is bad advice. In all the sous vide chicken recipes I have seen and tried, I have not found one that suggest a cooking time long enough for any real Maillard reaction/browning to occur, it would likely be a matter of days or weeks even at high circulator temps (I’m not suggesting this is a good idea). This browning changes/improves the flavor profile significantly and while I’m sure your recipe yields tasty chicken, I think it could be MUCH improved with a quick sear before AND after it’s trip through the circulator. Trust me when I say it makes a HUGE difference.

    Also, this idea that we should take shortcuts in the preparation of a protein because we plan to later “smother” it in sauce is…well, kinda cheap. If your chicken isn’t totally delicious all on it’s own then your recipe and/or your execution has failed. Focus on preparing some spectacular chicken and then add a killer sauce to push it over the top.

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