This sous vide chicken breast recipe is an easy way to cook juicy and tender chicken. Flavored with lemon and herbs this is a delicious chicken breast recipe the entire family will enjoy. Sous vide cooking gives you a perfectly cooked chicken breast every time.
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I have had a sous vide cooker for over a year now and I have enjoyed using it to learn how to cook in a very different way. My family loves sous vide lamb chops and sous vide beef tenderloin, but one of my favorite things to make with my sous vide is chicken breast. The chicken it comes out moist and tender and is never over cooked. This sous vide chicken breast recipe is one that my whole family enjoys.
This post is long, which might make you think sous vide cooking is complicated. But it is not complicated at all, it is just a different way of cooking. Since it is so different there is a lot of stuff to explain. But don’t let that scare you off, sous vide cooking is easy and almost fool proof.
What is Sous Vide Cooking?
“Sous vide” literally means “under vacuum” in French. In sous vide cooking food is sealed in an airtight container and then submerged in a temperature controlled water bath. The precisely controlled temperature of the water bath means that food is heated gradually until the food reaches the same temperature as the water. This makes it possible to cook meals to exactly the desired temperature so that the food is never over done.
Why Use Sous Vide for Chicken Breast?
Chicken breasts are kind of tricky to cook well using conventional methods like pan frying or roasting. It is very easy to overcook them, which results in dry, stringy chicken. The difference between juicy chicken breast and overdone chicken breast can be a matter of just one or two additional minutes of cooking.
With sous vide, on the other hand, you almost can’t mess up the chicken breast. The chicken will cook to the temperature that you set for the water bath, no more, no less. So if you set the water bath to 145 F, as in this recipe, the temperature of the chicken breast will reach 145 F, but it can’t get any higher.
I have definitely served stringy, dry chicken to my family on more than one occasion before I had a sous vide cooker. Now when I am done cooking my chicken breast will be 145 F in the center and 145 F at the edges. I can get consistent and predictable results every time!
And sous vide cooking is easy too – you simply bag the chicken, put it in the water bath and walk away while it cooks.
Can You Overcook Chicken in Sous Vide?
It is difficult to overcook chicken in sous vide cooking, but it is not impossible. In this recipe I suggest cooking the chicken for 1 1/2 to 4 hours. If you left it in the water bath for 8 hours it would probably still technically be edible, but I doubt it would taste very good!
Additionally you can overcook chicken, or any meat, in a sous vide if you set the temperature of the water bath too high. But as long as you don’t leave it in too long or cook it at too high a temperature the process is simple.
At What Temperature Should I Cook Sous Vide Chicken?
For sous vide chicken breast the ideal cooking temperature is between 140-160°F. I recommend cooking sous vide chicken breast at 145 F. This is the temperature I use and it gives me delicious chicken which has a soft texture with no stringiness. As you increase the temperature of the water bath the texture of the chicken will get more firm and the chicken will become a little bit stringy. But up to about 160 F you will still have nice juicy chicken breast.
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Is Sous Vide Chicken Safe?
If you are familiar with the FDA guidelines, which suggest cooking chicken to 165 F, you might wonder how this lower cooking temperature can be safe. It is safe, because food safety depends on both time and temperature.
The FDA recommended temperature of 165 F is the temperature at which chicken becomes safe instantly. So one second at 165 F is long enough to kill any bacteria in the chicken. But chicken cooked to lower temperatures is safe as long as it is kept at that temperature for a long enough time to kill any bacteria. At 145 F it takes about 9 minutes to ensure the chicken is safe to eat. If you want to learn more about the science behind safe cooking temperature check out this post by Serious Eats for a detailed explanation complete with charts!
Sous Vide Chicken Breast Recipe – Step by Step
1. Heat the Water Bath
The first step in sous vide cooking is to heat the water bath to the desired temperature. My Anova sous vide cooker has a handy app that helps me figure out what temperature I need to use for cooking various items.
2. Prepare the Chicken Breast for the Sous Vide
You shouldn’t add the meat until the water bath has reached the desired temperature. So while it is coming to temperature is the perfect time to season and bag your chicken. I seasoned my chicken with salt and pepper and then added cut lemons, thyme and rosemary to the bag.
Adding spices and lime or lemon slices flavors the chicken and makes it even tastier. You can find other sous vide chicken breast seasoning ideas here. In these pictures I used a Foodsaver Vacuum Sealer, but you can also use standard food storage bags if you don’t have a vacuum sealer.
3. Add the Chicken Breast to the Water Bath
Once the desired temperature is reached add the bag of chicken to the water bath. If the bag is vacuum sealed the chicken will sink to the bottom. If you are using a food storage bag use the water displacement method.
For the water displacement method seal the top of the bag half way, then lower the bag into the water, holding the top out of the water. As the bag enters the water it should seal up around the food from the pressure of the water. Once it is completely submerged fully seal the bag.
I usually clip the bag to the side of the pot with a binder clip to keep it in place.
4. Wait for the Chicken Breast to Cook
Then it is simply a matter of waiting until the cooking time is complete. At 145°F the chicken should cook between 1 1/2 to 4 hours. This is a pretty wide time range, which gives you a lot of flexibility as to when dinner will be ready.
When you add the chicken to the water bath the temperature of the bath will drop by a few degrees. You should start timing the cooking when the temperature increases back to the temperature you have set. My Anova sous vide cooker will beep when this happens, which makes it easy to start timing.
5. Sear the Chicken Breast
Searing the chicken breast is optional. But the chicken will look prettier and taste delicious if you sear it in a hot frying pan for a few minutes. This creates a nice crispy skin on the chicken breast and builds some nice flavor into the meat.
A few minutes before you are ready to take the chicken out heat a skillet over medium-high heat on the stove and add a tablespoon of oil or butter.
When the chicken is done remove it from the bag and throw out any herbs or lemon. Pat it dry it with a paper towel. Then add the chicken to the hot pan and let it sizzle for a minute or so until it is nicely brown. Turn it to brown it on all sides.
6. Serve the Chicken
If you used bone-in chicken let it rest for a few minutes. After 5 minutes the chicken should be cool enough to able to pull away from the bone, slice and serve.
Should I use Boneless Chicken or Bone In Chicken for Sous Vide?
Either boneless or bone-in chicken works well in this sous vide chicken breast recipe. I used bone-in chicken in these pictures, but I have made the recipe both ways. If you use boneless chicken you can lower the minimum cooking time to 1 hour.
I use bone-in chicken because it is cheaper and once the chicken is cooked the bone peels right off anyway. But if you prefer not to bother taking the bone out before serving boneless chicken breasts work just as well.
How Many Chicken Breasts Can I Sous Vide at a Time?
The number of chicken breasts you can cook at one time is determined by the size of the container you are using for your water bath. You don’t want to overload the cooker. I find two bone-in breasts or three boneless breasts fit in nicely in the big stock pot I usually use. But if you want to cook more just get a bigger pot. Some people rig up coolers when they want to sous vide a whole bunch of food at once.
Can You Sous Vide Frozen Chicken?
Yes, you can sous vide frozen chicken. The ability to cook frozen meat easily and without thawing first is one of my favorite things about sous vide cooking.
Since the frozen chicken breast starts out at a lower temperature you do need to increase the cooking time, by about an hour. So a sous vide frozen chicken breast should cook for 2 1/2 to 4 hours.
I like to buy a big family pack of chicken breasts and then seal portions and put them in the freezer so I can just grab what I need. I season the chicken breasts and add aromatics like thyme, rosemary and lemon before I seal the bags.
Sous Vide Chicken Breast Seasoning
There are lots of great combinations of herbs and other seasonings that are delicious with sous vide chicken breast. I like to buy a big pack of chicken breasts, flavor them a bunch of different ways, vacuum pack them and freeze them for later. Here are some of my other favorite flavor combinatons:
- Italian Chicken Breast – flavored with lemon, parsley and basil
- Asian Chicken Breast – flavored with soy sauce, five spice powder, basil and ginger root
- Spicy Mexican Chicken Breast – flavored with lime, coriander and jalapenos
How to Use Sous Vide Chicken
Sous vide chicken is delicious just served hot as a main dish, especially if it is flavored with lemon and herbs. But it is also a great way to prepare a bunch of chicken for meal prep. The chicken is delicious cold and can be used in a salad like Southwestern Chicken Salad or used as leftovers like in these Buffalo Chicken Zucchini Boats.
If you are making a bunch of sous vide chicken breasts to use in meal prep I recommend you cool them in an ice water bath before refrigerating them. Adding a lot of hot chicken to your refrigerator can overwhelm your refrigerator and cause food safety issues.
Sous vide chicken breast is also tasty added to pastas, tacos or soups. It can be used in any recipe that calls for leftover chicken since it will provide a tasty and juicy chicken. So if you are looking for a way to cook perfect chicken breast try using a sous vide cooker!
Sous Vide Chicken Breast
- 2 chicken breast, bone-in
- 1/2 lemon
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 2 sprigs thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 Tablespoon oil or butter
- 1 teaspoon capers
- Set up your sous-vide cooker with a water bath at 145 F.
- Season each chicken breast with salt and pepper to taste. Put each chicken breast in a FoodSaver bag with 2 slices of lemon and a sprig of both thyme and rosemary. Vacuum seal. OR put the ingredients in a food storage bag.
- When the sous vide cooker has reached 145F add the chicken to the water bath and let it cook for between 1 1/2 to 4 hours.
- When the chicken is almost done heat a cast iron or stainless steel pan over medium high heat. Add the tablespoon of oil or butter.
- Take the chicken out of the bag and throw out the lemon and herbs. Pat dry with paper towels.
- Brown the chicken in the skillet for a minute or so until the chicken is nice and brown on top.
- Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes or so until it is cool enough to handle.
- Use your thumb to peel the chicken from the breast bone. It should come right off. Then slice the chicken diagonally and serve with lemons, capers and herbs.
- If using frozen chicken breasts increase the cooking time to 2 1/2 hours to 4 hours.
- If using boneless chicken breasts you can decrease the minimum cooking time to 1 hour.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 192Saturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 266mgCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 24g
Nutrition facts are estimates.