This is not the most common way of roasting a chicken but is definitely one of my favorites although I save it mostly for special occasions. Just because it does take extra time and extra effort that a traditionally roasted chicken wouldn’t require. What’s the point of going through all this extra effort just to roast a chicken you may ask. Well, the point is juiciness. Why cook anything sous vide if it isn’t to bring out the most amazing qualities of food. This recipe is the simplest I could think of and I’ve done that on purpose to illustrate the process and a few ideas behind it. It’s a great weekend (or weekday with some planning) project and all you need is a chicken (about 4 pounds) and some salt. Ah yeah, some water too.
Isn’t 65C a better temperature choice?
Although technically a bit overcooked, I prefer whole chicken @ 70C to 65C and the reason why has to do with presentation more than anything else. Pink juices in chicken aren’t welcomed no matter the cooking technique even if they’re perfectly pasteurized which is the case when cooking the chicken sous vide at low temps. I’ve written an article on this very same subject so I won’t go over this again but if you’re interested in reading it check it out here: Cooking Chicken Sous Vide and Pink Juices. Anyways, 70C gets those juices running a lot clearer than 65C. If your chicken, cooked at 65C, doesn’t contain pink juices, more power to you but I consistently run into this “issue” so 70C it is.
Why not cook the white and dark meat separately?
The only good answers I have is convenience and… tradition (there… I said it). The idea of cooking a whole chicken instead of its parts isn’t ideal but a lot less work and a whole golden roasted chicken at the center of the dinner table is old-school but super cool, right? l. Different parts of the chicken cook at different temperatures, etc. By sacrificing some control and overcooking the chicken breasts a bit you get away with it. If you aren’t down with this then cut up that chicken and cook the breasts at 65C (1 or 2 hours) and the legs and thighs at 70C (for 3 or 4 hours) for example. In the end is all a matter of preference and safety when it comes to cooking temperatures and times.
How to safely cook whole chicken sous vide.
In order to safely cook whole chicken sous vide we poach it inside the bag by adding a liquid to the bag. If you were to cook the bird without the additional liquid you’d have a problem inside the thorax area (more like volume) which is filled with air (or nothing if you vacuum packed the chicken). Neither vacuum nor air doesn’t conduct heat as efficiently as water (or stock…etc) so chances are the empty thorax area will remain in a dangerous temperature range for too long making the chicken unsafe to eat. By adding liquid to the bag we overcome this issue. Happy sous vide poaching.
What if my chicken is frozen? 3 hours still enough?
The times on this recipe are assuming the chicken isn’t frozen which will definitely require adjusting if it is. If you don’t have the time to thaw it double the cooking time just to be safe. If you want to be more precise and do a little math then one and a half times the original cooking time should get you there. For example, if the cooking time is 3 hours then: 3+1.5 = 4.5 hours. If the cooking time is 6 hours then 6+3=9 hours.
How to season it.
For this recipe, I simply used salt and water but you can use stock, spices, herbs, fruits, etc. It is really up to you. Because the chicken is only cooking for about 3 hours, I made a 6% salt solution and about 2 liters of it (2000g). It’s salty but most of that salt won’t get diffused into the chicken so don’t worry, in the end, the chicken will turn out perfectly fine and well seasoned. So about 120 grams of salt. Get a scale. I couldn’t function without mine and by the way, you could brine the chicken overnight in a 3% solution which is what I do when I have the time.
The cook is pretty standard. Set up your water bath and bring it to 70C. Add the baggie in the water and remove any excess air then seal (water displacement method). Or vacuum seal if you have a chamber vacuum sealer. Don’t try to vacuum seal a bag full of liquid using a regular vacuum sealer. You’re just gonna make a mess. Anyways… cook for 3 to 4 hours. If you decide to go with a lower temperature keep in mind the cook time will have to increase. At 65C, please cook for at least 6 hours.
The chicken is cooked but we’ll need to roast it to get the beautiful golden skin. For this, remove the chicken from the baggie, discard the liquid, and place it over a cooling rack over a baking pan and stick it in the fridge at the bottom. The fridge is going to remove moisture from the skin which will make the roasting part easier (more efficient). I usually leave the chicken in the fridge overnight but if you’re in a hurry, at least try 3 hours. And if you”re really in a hurry then paper towels will have to do.
Preheat the oven to the hottest setting and if you have a convection mode, make sure it’s on (some convection ovens are always in convection mode which means that little fan in the back is always going). Melt some butter and baste the chicken generously. Stick it in the oven (using the same cooling rack/baking pan contraption) for 10 minutes (first half of the roasting time). Baste the chicken again with more butter and roast for another 10 minutes give or take. I usually time it by eye. When it looks golden, then I’m done.
Will this furious roasting step ruin the gentle sous vide poach?
Yes, it will definitely have an effect. Twenty minutes at 500F are definitely no joke and the outermost part of the chicken will overcook a bit but I think that’s just a necessary evil. Compared to a traditionally cooked chicken, sous vide roasted chicken is considerably juicier and tenderer. One thing worth noting is the fact that you’re roasting a cooked cold chicken (from the fridge) which helps protects the interior from overcooking too much.
I suggest using a probe thermometer to make sure the chicken is warm all the way to the core. It should be around 60C (it’s already cooked, you just need the meat at a nice warm temperature for serving). If this isn’t the case and the meat is under 45C for example, place the chicken back in the oven. This time turn the oven off. The residual heat should be enough to warm it up in another 15 to 20 minutes. Probe again until you and your chicken are happy.
Do you have a better method or just have some thoughts on this article?
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Beautiful. Can you recommend a chamber vacuum sealer? I’m pretty sure I need one.
You definitely need one! My recommendation is if you get one then do it well and get one for $900 or so. There are cheaper ones out there for around $600, but they are pretty crappy. I have never regretted getting my chamber vacuum sealer even though it is big and cost a lot.
Okay, thanks Stefan. Really good to know. I certainly don’t regret my sous vide purchase!
I use the chamber vacuum sealer a lot for liquids, like for freezing stocks or sauces.
Oh that’s smart. I was going to ask what you use it for. A while back I sous vide’d short ribs in a very liquid marinade, and kind of faked it with my regular sealer because I wanted to try the recipe. The flavors in the meat were outstanding, so I’d at least like to continue doing that, although the proper way. Stocks/broth in bags don’t seem as bulky for storing than containers. Can’t wait!
You anticipated all of my questions and remarks except for one: it is not true the chicken will need more time at 65C than at 70C, at least not from a pasteurization point of view (which takes only minutes at 65C). To avoid pinkness, I would prefer to debone (and stuff) the chicken rather than overcooking it. Deboned red meat is not pink at all, even when cooked at only 60C.
I’m feeling pretty good about myself now that you mention I almost got everything right. I almost got the Stefan approval! 🙂 I don’t think I suggest longer times at 65 due to pasteurization though (just for texture) but feel free to point it out if you find it in the text. I couldn’t but I’ll fix if that’s the case. And I totally agree with you, deboning is the key to free-pink chicken.
I don’t think you specify why you would use the longer time at 65. Since in my personal opinion the texture does not improve from more time at 65, I concluded you must have meant pasteurization
You’re right. I didn’t specify why but it is indeed for texture. Now, you’re saying it does not improve or it does not change?
It will change, but in my opinion chicken at 65 for 3 hours is enough. For better texture I’d use 62 or 60 for a longer time (but deboning may be needed to avoid a red color).
I’ve done 62C for 12 which has that nice confit soft texture. I wish I had gone a bit longer than 3h at 70C though. 65C for 12 isn’t pleasant either. It’s all a matter of personal preference I guess.
First of all – great blog! Been following it for about 6 months and your recipes and awesome photos inspired me to doe several different fermented chili sauces and a cured pork shoulder – Thanks!
Few comments on this whole chicken recipe:
– I have been avoiding this for a while due to the cavity issue, which you solve by adding brine in the bag. I am a big fan of brining polutry, but did not combine sous vide and brine before.
– “Whole” chicken wo. liquid I guess could be done by removing the back bone and flattening the chicken. This could facilitate browning under the grill also. However you will need to brine prior to cooking, so it will take more time. Then again sous vide was never about saving time…
– I guess you are working up to the perfect Thanksgiving recipe…imho nothing beats a well brined whole fried Turkey.
Again thanks for the inspiration and those beautiful pictures for Northern Europe
Mads – Hamburg, Germany
Hey Mads, thank you for these compliments. A huge motivating factor to continue posting content on my blog. Nothing like good feedback 🙂
Yeah, I mean, cooking a whole chicken sous vide is in my head a way to improve the traditional chicken roast so you end up with a much juicier result but technically, still overcooked though the compromise is well worth it.
I’m also a big fan of brining… everything, even vegetables haha 🙂 but I agree, spatchcocked chicken would also be a great way of getting this done and something I’ve been meaning to try I just don’t have a bag big enough to fit a whole flat chicken!
If I had a yard and a fryer, I would not hesitate to cook my turkeys your way. I’m a big frying fan.
Thanks so much for your input Mads!
That’s so amazing. I have to try it tonight for my family. Thanks for sharing!
please let me know how it goes!
It’s a great weekend (or weekday with some planning) project
Wow, sous vide roasted chicken doesn’t require defrosting time.