Ok, I’m going to say it; boneless skinless chicken breasts are usually really boring and they can be tricky to cook. They usually lack flavor and are almost always dry and chewy when fully cooked. This recipe is how to make them pretty mind-blowing.
Once you sous vide, there’s no going back.
What is sous vide cooking?
Sous what? Sous vide, pronounced ‘sue veed’ is a French term that translates to “under vacuum.” In cooking, it is basically the technique of vacuum sealing food in a plastic bag and submerging it into a temperature controlled water bath for a certain amount of time. That’s it. There’s really not a whole lot more to it, other than it’s magic.
Sous vide is the method that restaurants have been using for years to serve perfectly cooked food. While the chefs are obviously great at cooking, they use sous vide to eliminate guessing and produce textures that are extremely difficult to achieve with traditional methods.
Here’s why sous vide works so well for chicken breasts
When you cook chicken breasts on the stove, grill or in the oven, the internal temperature of 165 degrees f needs to be reached to make them safe to eat. The problem with that is the heat source is much hotter than 165 degrees; it’s usually more than double the temperature.
That means that once the chicken has reached 165 degrees in the center, the temperature will keep climbing if it isn’t removed from the heat at the perfect time. It also means that the temperature closer to the exterior is going to be hotter than 165 degrees (yep, that means overcooked). If you want perfectly cooked chicken, your timing has to be perfect too, which is really difficult to do.
Then there’s the sous vide method. By cooking the chicken breasts in a lower temperature water bath for a longer period of time, they get fully cooked, but there’s no possibility of the temperature going higher than what you set it to. This gives a big window of cooking time without having to worry about them overcooking.
Sous vide makes it impossible to overcook chicken
Sous vide is the easiest way to cook skinless boneless chicken breasts
Here’s why: Cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts always feels like a guessing game. It goes on the grill, when is it done? Do you cut into it to check, or do you use a thermometer? Either way, they just aren’t going to be great.
When you cook the chicken breast in the sous vide, it will cook to the exact perfect temperature with no guessing. Below are the numbers for temperature and time to make it perfect.
145° F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours is the magic number
Why sous vide chicken breasts?
- Perfectly cooked every time
- The texture is wonderful
- Super healthy (can cook with no fat)
- Convenient and totally hands off
- Can be made ahead and it’s great for meal prep
- Gives you plenty of time to entertain dinner party guests while the sous vide does its magic
- Add whatever flavors to the bag that will be infused into the chicken while it cooks
Where to source great Chicken
To eat great chicken, you have to start with great chicken. These aren’t your ordinary grocery store chicken breasts. These are organic free-range chicken breasts from Butcher Box that were delivered right to my doorstep.
It’s chicken that you can feel good about eating. If you sign-up for Butcher Box using my link below, you can get a special deal.
Meal prep tips
The sous vide method is really great for meal prepping. Prep the bags by seasoning the chicken, adding herbs or a sauce, vacuum seal and they are ready to go. You can keep them in the fridge if using in the next few days or freeze for later use.
You can also cook the breasts sous vide ahead of time, cool in an ice bath and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days until you are ready to use.
Can you cook frozen chicken sous vide?
Absolutely! One of the great things about cooking sous vide is you can add vacuum sealed frozen foods right to the water bath. For boneless skinless chicken, just add an extra hour to the cooking time and everything else is the same.
How to Sous Vide Chicken Breasts
If you can cook pasta, you can easily sous vide chicken breasts. Since boneless skinless chicken breasts don’t have a ton of favor on their own; seasoning and adding the fresh thyme or other herbs are pretty key to adding wonderful flavors.
- Fill a large pot or container with water and turn the sous vide machine on to 145° F.
- Season the chicken liberally with kosher salt & freshly ground pepper; placing a few fresh thyme sprigs on each side of the breasts.
- If using a sauce, add that to the bag then add the chicken.
- Vacuum seal or get as much air out as you can if using a ziplock bag.
- Clip the bag to the side of the pot or container to keep it in place.
- Cook the chicken at 145° F for 1 1/2 to 2 hours (same result within this time window).
- Remove from the bag and rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes before removing.
While you might quickly sear skin-on chicken breasts or other proteins after they cook sous vide; there’s really no reason to do this with boneless skinless chicken breasts as there is no fat to crisp.
What temperature do you sous vide chicken breast?
The water bath should be set to 145° F / 62.7° C.
How long does it take to sous vide chicken breast?
The perfect cooking time window is between 1 1/2 and 2 hours.
Quick tip for using ziplock bags for sous vide
It’s important to get all the air out of the bag so the water can fully be in contact with the chicken for proper cooking. The trick to getting all the air out is to partially seal the ziplock bag and remove as much as you can by hand, then submerge the bag in the water bath which will push the rest of the air out. The bag can then be fully sealed and clipped to the side of the container.
If your bag keeps floating to the surface, place a small bowl or plate on top to keep it submerged.
Marinades / Seasonings to try
One of the great things about cooking chicken breasts sous vide is you can add any flavor you like, and the chicken will totally take on that flavor. I almost always add fresh thyme sprigs to each side of the chicken breast, and each bite has the essence of the thyme flavor.
Try adding lemon slices, bbq sauce, pesto, garlic, other herbs, butter, romanesco or just about anything else you can think of.
How to use sous vide chicken
The perfectly cooked chicken breasts can be sliced and eaten as is or on top of a salad, in a sandwich, pasta, make chicken salad, in tacos and so much more.
What sous vide machine to use
While commercial sous vide machines can be quite expensive; in the last few years there have been numerous consumer-grade sous vide machines. I personally use the Sansaire Sous Vide Immersion Circulator (amazon affiliate link), but one of the most popular and highest rated machines is the Joule Sous Vide by ChefSteps (affiliate link).
If I were to buy one today, I would definitely pick up the Joule. It is sleek in size, beautifully designed, powerful and it connects with your smartphone to control it remotely.
Special Equipment Used
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Sous Vide Chicken BreastsPrint Pin Rate
- 2 Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
- kosher salt & freshly ground pepper
- 4 fresh thyme sprigs
- olive oil
- Fill a large pot or container with warm water and heat the water bath to 145° F according to your sous vide machine's instructions.
- Season the chicken breasts with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Place a thyme sprig on each side of the breasts, drizzle a little olive oil on top, then place the chicken in a vacuum seal bag or ziplock bag.
- Vacuum seal the bag if using a vacuum sealer, or if using a ziplock bag; partially seal it removing as much air as possible, then place it in the water to push the rest of the air out before sealing.
- Clip the bag to the side of the pot or container to keep it submerged and cook for 1 1/2 hours.
- Remove from the water bath and rest for 5 to 10 minutes in the bag.
- Remove the chicken from the bag and place on a cutting board to slice or dice.