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How to Sous Vide Chicken Breast
Chicken breasts are an inherently tender meat so they do not benefit much from the long cooking times that sous vide allows. Most white meat is cooked for 1 to 2 hours and is fine for 3 to 4 hours. Any longer than that and the meat begins to get too tender and takes on a slightly mushy texture. The exact time is determined by the pasteurized by thickness tables.
The main benefit of sous vide chicken is the ability to create a perfectly cooked chicken breast with very little effort and allowing you to cook chicken to lower temperatures than would be safe using traditional techniques. This can result in chicken with a different texture when cooked below 140ºF and chicken that is much more moist when cooked below 147ºF. This is because water loss speeds up the hotter the meat gets, so keeping the temperature of the chicken below 147ºF slows down the loss of moisture.
I prefer my chicken breasts cooked at 141°F (60.6°C) for 2 to 4 hours. They are safe as low as 136°F (57.8°C) but then they are a little too raw-tasting for me. Some people like them as high as 147°F (63.9°C) but I find them a little too dry for my taste. At any temperature, they just need to be cooked long enough to pasteurize them.
I usually don't sear the chicken after sous viding it, it's hard to get any browning without over cooking it. I'll usually just eat it straight from the bag but you can grill or sear it if you prefer that style.
Due to the moisture present in sous vide cooking any skin that was in the pouch can struggle to become crispy. The best solution to this is to take it off of the bird before cooking the meat sous vide and then before serving crisp it in a 375ºF oven. When I'm feeling lazy I'll just sear it for a little longer after sous vide and the skin is adequate for a normal meal.
Chicken that is coated is notoriously difficult to cook properly. It's hard to time the browning of the coating and cooking of the chicken to happen all at the same time. Using sous vide to pre-cook the chicken allows you to focus on the browning of the coating without worrying about the chicken itself. I tend to go on the lower side temperature wise, that way the frying will bring it up to an ideal temperature.
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This is a super simple recipe to toss together when you need a filling but quick meal. The lemon helps to brighten up the dish while the radishes and cucumber introduce a pleasant crunch. The lemon and olive oil add brightness to the dish without overwhelming it. This recipe works equally well with turkey breast.
Chicken salad is a classic summer dish, but sometimes it can be a little dry and bland, and no amount of mayonnaise can save it. Using sous vide to cook the chicken is a great first step, resulting in always moist and tender meat. To bump up the flavor, I turn to fruit chutney and curry powder. Then I round it out and add a ton of texture with diced celery, carrots, grapes, apples and pecans. It's a dynamic, flavorful dish that everyone loves.
When it is done right, Puebla-style mole is one of my favorite sauces. This recipe is for a more traditional preparation than the milder and cloyingly sweet versions found at chain restaurants. It takes advantage of the different chile flavors and is very bold and full flavored. When you sous vide the chicken, the dish elevates to a whole new level. The sauce does take a decent amount of effort, but I'll often double or triple the recipe and store the remainder in plastic bags in the freezer so I can easily use it later. The sauce works exquisitely with shredded pork or chicken breasts and thighs.
Sous vide chicken breast is always flavorful and moist, but you don't always just want to eat it by itself. This recipe combines it with a simple vegetable stir fry that bulks it out and bumps the flavor, all the while still being super simple to put together. It's a great go-to weeknight meal when you want something easy to make that is still tasty.
I think chicken salad is a great summer and spring meal but more and more I crave something refreshing during the winter months too. It comes together really quickly, especially when using sous vide chicken breasts. I love using varied garnishes to add texture and bursts of flavor. In this recipe I call for the typical celery and carrots, but I also add toasted cashews and green grapes to add even more flavor. Some basil rounds it all out. When served on a bed of greens it's an amazingly flavorful meal.
I recently took a Thai cooking class at the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan and ever since I've been trying to work traditional Thai flavors into my cooking. Classic Thai food has an amazing mix of hot, salty, and sour and I tried to work that into this flavorful soup. The soup pops in your mouth, with bright highs of all the flavor combinations.
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