Sous vide chicken legs are cooked until they are tender and then seared and coated in honey garlic sauce. This easy chicken drumstick recipe is a delicious and easy family dinner that combines tender chicken, crispy skin and sticky sauce!
Sous vide chicken drumsticks are a low effort, low stress dinner. I like to cook chicken in the sous vide because it allows me to get perfectly cooked chicken every time.
For this dinner I make a quick and sticky honey garlic sauce to coat the chicken drumsticks. These are perfectly tender chicken drumsticks that make a delicious family friendly meal.
Why Sous Vide Chicken Drumsticks
When it comes to sous vide cooking steak is the first thing many people think of. And sous vide steak tastes amazing. But a sous vide is also useful for making basic, less expensive food like chicken.
I like to make sous vide chicken legs because it is such a simple recipe. It takes a few minutes to package them, then they cook while I ignore them for hours.
There is no marinading or brining or adding breading like air fryer fried chicken. They just cook, with no fuss, for hours and when it is time to eat I can have them ready in 5 minutes.
What is Sous Vide?
Sous vide cooking involves using a water bath to cook food to a precise temperature. With sous vide there is no under cooking or over cooking because things are cooked so exactly.
This makes delicious, tender chicken with juicy meat. And it takes just a few minutes to sear the chicken drumsticks in a hot skillet or on a grill to crisp up the skin.
Best Temperature for Sous Vide Chicken Legs
For cooking dark meat poultry like chicken legs, thighs or leg quarters I find 160 degrees F to be the optimal sous vide temperature. At this temperature the chicken is juicy and tender, which just a little bit of pink near the bone.
The temperature for cooking sous vide is different than for other cooking methods. Food safety is a function of both time and temperature. Since sous vide chicken cooks for hours it is possible for it to be safe if cooked at a lower temperature than if it was cooked on the stove.
So you can safely make sous vide chicken drumsticks at a temperature as low as 140 degrees F. But I find that most people don’t like chicken drumsticks cooked at that low of a temperature, even if it is safe to eat.
The texture isn’t as tender as they are used to and it is a little pink, which makes my family uncomfortable. So I sous vide dark meat at 160 degrees F.
Time and Temperature Chart for Sous Vide Chicken Legs
But just in case you want to try sous vide chicken drumsticks at a lower temperature than I prefer, here is a chart with time and temperature suggestions.
|Rare||140 – 147°F||1 1/2 – 2 hours|
|Medium||148 – 157°F||2 – 4 hours|
|Ideal||158 – 165°F||2 – 4 hours|
How to Sous Vide Chicken Legs
1. Prepare the Sous Vide
Set up the sous vide circulator in a water bath and set it to 160 degrees F. Make sure the container you use is large enough to hold all the chicken you are planning to cook.
2. Prepare the Chicken
Season the chicken by sprinkling it with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then put the chicken in an air tight bag for cooking. Keep the drumsticks in a single layer in the bag.
If you have a vacuum sealer then use it to seal the chicken. If not you can put the chicken legs in a freezer zippered bag and use the water displacement method to remove most of the air.
3. Cook the Chicken
Put the bagged drumsticks into the water bath container once it reaches the desired temperature. Let it cook, undisturbed for 2-4 hours at 160 degrees F.
Check on the chicken once or twice and make sure the bag hasn’t floated up to the top. If it starts to float use a plate or heavy spoon to weigh it down.
4. Sear the Chicken
Once the chicken is done cooking searing it in a hot pan or on a grill will help crisp up the skin and brown the chicken. This adds flavor to the chicken and makes them look amazing.
So about 10 minutes before you want to serve the chicken heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy pan on medium high heat. Let it heat for 5 minutes and then take the chicken out of the water. Open the bag and pat the chicken dry.
Add a tablespoon of oil to the skillet and add the chicken drumsticks, turning them quickly to brown them on both sides. Once the chicken is brown remove it to a serving platter.
5. Make a Honey Garlic Sauce (optional)
To make a sticky sweet sauce for the chicken legs reduce the heat in the skillet to medium add 6 cloves of minced garlic to the skillet and stir to brown.
Then add the remaining sauce ingredients – water, honey, rice vinegar and soy sauce and stir for a minute or two until the sauce thickens. Spoon the sauce over top of the chicken drumsticks.
How to Serve
Garnish with sesame seeds and chives if desired. This chicken is delicious served with rice or a simple salad. You can also serve the chicken without sauce and just enjoy it as is.
- It is more difficult to get a crispy skin on chicken legs than on chicken thighs just because their shape makes them harder to sear. So if I want really crispy skin I make chicken thighs.
- This chicken is also very tasty with a barbecue sauce, either homemade or store bought.
Make Ahead for Meal Prep
You can make this chicken ahead of time to use for a meal prep. If you are not eating the chicken right away then once it is done cooking remove it from the sous vide water water and place it in an ice water bath.
The ice water will help cool the chicken so that you can refrigerate it safely. Once the chicken has cooled place it in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
When you are ready to serve it sear it in a hot skillet or on a hot grill as directed to both brown it and finish heat it up.
Frequently Asked Questions
Using the sous vide with frozen chicken legs is fine. Just increase the cooking time by about 45 minutes to ensure the chicken cooks thoroughly.
Chicken leg quarters will work just as well as chicken drumsticks.
Overcooking chicken in a sous vide is difficult. As long as you don’t set the temperature over 165 degrees F it shouldn’t over cook.
Even if you keep it in the water bath for 6 or 8 hours it still will be edible. The texture and taste will start to deteriorate a bit after 4 hours, but it won’t be overcooked.
Find More Sous Vide Recipes
- 8 chicken legs
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon oil
Honey Garlic Sauce (optional)
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/3 cup honey
- 2 Tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
- Set up the sous vide water bath and set the temperature to 160 degrees F. See chart in Notes section below if you want a different temperture.
- Season the chicken with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Put the chicken in a vacuum bag and seal it. If you don't have a vacuum sealer use the water displacement method to seal it in a zippered bag. See this article for step by step directions on water displacement. Whatever method you use keep the chicken legs in a single layer in the bag.
- Put the drumsticks in the water and let them cook for 2-4 hours.
- About 10 minutes before you want to serve the chicken place a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
- After it heat for 5 minutes take the chicken out of the water and remove them from the bag, patting them dry.
- Add the oil to the skillet and sear the chicken, turning quickly to sear on all sides. Once the chicken is brown remove it to a serving platter.
- To make the honey garlic sauce reduce the temperature on the skillet to low. Add the garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Then add the water, honey, rice vinegar and soy sauce. Stir for 2-3 minutes to thicken slightly.
- Pour the sauce over the chicken to coat. Garnish with sesame seeds and chives.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 540Total Fat: 25gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 328mgSodium: 628mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 62g
Nutrition facts are estimates.