How to Cook a Chicken Breast Perfectly Every Time. Precise Low Temperatures for Moist, Juicy and Tasty Chicken!

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Here is a series of a few pretty easy to follow instructions for cooking a chicken breast. Nothing expensive nor any out of-the-ordinary cooking equipment is needed for this technique…and it will produce the very best chicken breast you have ever had.

I have never had great affection for chicken breast until I discovered how good it could be when cooked with great precision, and cooked to a uniform 62 degrees Celsius throughout. Chicken breast cooked in this way is a revelation. It is tender, completely moist and juicy and full of this incredible natural chicken taste - which sounds kind of silly, as most chicken should taste like chicken, right (?) but once you try it you'll understand what I'm raving about!!

A brief explanation (bear with me…)

This technique for cooking chicken is inspired from the sous vide movement in professional cooking (You can read more about sous vide here and read how to set yourself up to do sous vide for about $250 here). Sous vide cooking is a technique which involves cooking foods packed in vacuum bags at very precise temperatures in water.

When grilling or frying or baking etc., you normally cook meat at temperatures far higher than the optimal final temperature of the meat. Although you may want an internal temperature of 62-65 degrees Celsius within your chicken breast, you might cook it on a grill or pan surface that is 200 degrees Celsius or hotter! What inevitably ends up happening is that by the time you have cooked the inside at the deepest point to the desired temperature, you have over cooked the rest of the breast!

In this new style of cooking you will cook the breasts very slowly at 62 degrees. Since 62 degrees is the optimal temperature for chicken, you cannot overcook them!

Professional kitchens use expensive chamber vacuum sealers and laboratory water baths to do this – you can replicate the results of a sous vide set up for chicken breast with:

  1. A large pot of water
  2. A thermometer
  3. 2 sizes of ziplock bags (1 quart and 1 gallon sizes)

What you do (7 easy steps!)

  1. Firstly, take your largest pot of water and fill it with as much water as you can. You are going to try to keep the temperature of the water at 62 degrees Celsius, and keep that temperature as stable as possible for about 1 hour. The more water in the pot, the easier it is to manage temperature fluctuations.
  2. Sprinkle a little salt on a boneless and skinless chicken breast, and place 1 breast inside the 1 quart sized bag. Place your 1 quart bag inside the 1 gallon sized bag. Do not close the gallon bag. Submerge the bags so that the top of the quart ziplock is below the waterline, but the top of the gallon bag is above the waterline.
  3. Keeping the quart bag completely submerged, work out any air bubbles, and seal the top. If the bag is tight against the chicken breast after you remove it from the water, you have achieved an acceptable vacuum seal. If not, try again! Repeat with as many chicken breasts in individual bags as desired/needed.
  4. Heat the water up to 62. When at 62, toss in the bags of chicken. The chicken should sink to the bottom. If they float to the top, use something to weigh them down so that they stay submerged for the entire cooking time.
  5. Keep a quantity of cold water at the ready beside the pot. This water can be used to cool the pot water down quickly if you find that your water has climbed beyond 62.
  6. Keeping a close eye on the temperature and adjusting the heat as needed, cook the chicken for 1 hour.
  7. Pull the chicken out of the bags, and use in any dish that calls for chicken breasts! You will be amazed at the difference!

You can also sear them quickly in a very hot pan to brown the exterior prior to serving. Try to brown them as quickly as possible, so as not to undo all of the gains of your precision low temperature cooking efforts.

I hope you find this as astonishingly good as I do. I think that 62 degrees Celsius is perfect for chicken, but if you find it a touch too juicy, try again next time at 64.

Bon Appetite!

This technique is totally safe if you are eating the chicken right away. Because of the very small risk of botulism, you should get educated about sous vide cooking and sous vide food safety before preparing things using this technique for storage and later consumption. There is a very small risk of botulism associated with the storage of improperly prepared sous vide. There is zero risk of botulism if the chicken is cooked to order and consumed promptly after cooking. 

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Comments 6 comments

Jason Ardell 7 years ago

Hey John,

Long time reader, first time commenter!

I tried your chicken method and was really impressed! We buy our chicken from Costco so it comes in pre-vacuum-sealed packages, so we just defrosted it and tossed it in a gallon-sized bag in some 62 degree water for an hour. Since it was pre-sealed we didn't season the chicken beforehand, and I must say that was a mistake. Nevertheless the chicken came out extremely juicy and I could nearly cut it with a fork. Next time I'll season beforehand, although I must say it was nice to not have to worry about the biohazards of raw chicken!

Does this work well with Salmon or other meats? Are there other temperatures necessary for different meats? I assume it's not a good fit for beef due to the previously mentioned Maillard Reaction.

Thanks, and love your blog!

-Jason


John D Lee profile image

John D Lee 7 years ago Author

Hi Jason,

I am very happy to hear that you had success with the technique!

Ok, I will try to answer your questions:

This technique works very well for salmon and other fish. Fish is very easily and quickly overcooked and so really benefits from sous vide style cookery. the temperatures you would use will depend on the result you want to get (not very helpful...I know!) - you can even cook the salmon at a temperature low enough to render it "cooked" - but not high enough to change the colour! Which leaves you with a very strange piece of quite orange cooked fish (called salmon mi cuit ). Salmon can be cooked from a the low end of about 44 degrees celsius for a rare fillet, to about 52-54 degrees celsius for a medium rare end result. Probably better to start out at the hotter temp.

You should also note that any meat or fish cooked under about 54 degrees can never really be sterilized by heat - so don't eat anything rare cooked sous vide that you wouldn't eat rare cooked any other way!

Actually, I am reluctant to give too many instructions for this type of cooking sincwe I can't do it very completely within the space of a comment.. Following the directions above for the chicken breast is totally safe - but since you are cooking in an anaerobic environment, there are some bacterial safety isssues, particularily if you are going to cook and then store something prior to eating, at which point you need to start thinking about botulism. I am not saying that this technique is not safe, but just that you need to understand well it so that you can do it with assured safety.

If you are interested in this type of precision cooking, you will enjoy checking out the 77 pages of E-gullet devoted to sous vide. This is pretty much the most complete source of sous vide information in existance, and you can find it here http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=1166...

About beef though...this type of cooking is fantastic for beef! All you do is sear the beef in a very very hot pan very quickly after cooking it in bags to give you your mailard crust.

What you can do with sous vide on beef is pretty extraordinary. You can cook tender beef, like a rib eye steak, so that it is perfectly medium rare throughout the steak, no matter how thick! Totally perfectly pink from top to bottom...it's beautiful...

You can also do some very neat things with tough cuts of beef or pork that otherwise need to be braised or stewed. These tough cuts, take short ribs for example, have lots of collagen and conective tissue. This tissue will melt at the temperatures used to braise meats, but they will also melt at temperatures that will give you a rare or medium rare cut of meat (54 degrees or so) it just takes far far longer. So what you can do is seal a piece of short rib in a bag and cook it in the low 50's for 36 hours! What you get is a medium rare short rib that is as tender as a tenderloin and that has the great taste of a short rib. It's really amazing stuff!

Now, you obviously can't spend 36 hours monitoring the temperature of apot if water on the stove, so to do this kind of thing you need either a laboratory water bath, or a PID temperature controller attached to a rice cooker. I have the later and my whole set up was less than 300$ and has been a lot of fun! I wrote about that here http://hubpages.com/living/250-Sous-Vide-Set-Up-Ho...

It's a very big and new and exciting way to cook! I hope you continue to enjoy it as much as I do.

If you have any further questions, please let me know,

John


marisuewrites profile image

marisuewrites 7 years ago from USA

I do like my chicken well done...but not hard. great cooking tips - keep 'em coming! =))


Sous Vide Solutions 7 years ago

I am writing to inform you of a new consultancy service “Sous Vide Solutions” to accommodate the growing use of this cooking technique.

?I have been using this method of cookery for many years professionally in fine-dining restaurants, and contribute regularly at demonstrations and trade-shows.

?I have been working with the leading UK waterbath manufacturers [Clifton] and alongside Mulivac vacuum packers.

During the past 12 months I have seen much growth through the industry and a definite trend of larger-scale properties (often without highly skilled chefs) changing their cooking styles towards the sous vide method. That said the need for proper training and safe system set-up is vitally needed.

http://www.sousvidesolutions.co.uk

Sous Vide Solutions provide expert, practical set-up advice and the implementation within your premises for a tailored service - including the seamless inclusion of systems, processes and technology.

Full support of HACCP is all part of a safe and efficient service that Sous Vide Solutions offer.

Olly Rouse

Principle Consultant


kashifmahmood profile image

kashifmahmood 7 years ago from Web

I myself love all sorts of chicken meals. You have mentioned some interesting tips here. Will be making chicken breast this way the next time.


brennawelker profile image

brennawelker 5 years ago

Another chicken recipe! So delicious.

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