A Sous Vide machine + a charcoal grill + BBQ sauce = the most tender, juicy and flavorful chicken breasts I’ve ever had. No flippin’ joke. In an effort to keep this recipe from having the longest title ever, let’s give credit to the sous vide machine and go from there.
We have been grilling a lot lately, even eating dinner outside as much as we can while it is dry and cool in the evenings. The past few Indiana summers have been hot hot hot, hotter than normal. Thankfully the temperatures have stayed south of 85 for a few weeks, giving us the springtime that is always too short.
And with the great weather comes the desire for fresh vegetables and the crusty char that a charcoal grill brings them. Out of all the cooking methods, grilling is by far my favorite way to enjoy vegetables and they can be slightly enhanced by a few herbs, salt/pepper shakes and olive oil.
But to grill vegetables, you either need foil or grill basket. Sure, some peppers, onions, corn on the cob and other large vegetables can be grilled without risk of falling through the grates. With a grill basket you can achieve a char on the vegetables that you can’t wait a foil bag.
We purchased this grill basket at Kroger for $11. This is the cleanest I’ll ever see it.
Just a few red potatoes, a baby eggplant, red onion, green pepper and brussels sprouts made it into the basket with olive oil, dill, salt and pepper.
Instead of throwing a few pieces of meat on the grill and slathering on some BBQ sauce, I decided to experiment with my ANOVA Sous Vide Immersion Circulator.
ENTER: Chicken Breasts, Sous Vide Method
Remember the ANOVA Sous Vide Immersion Circulator I’ve talked about? Let me jog your memory…
Introduction to Sous Vide Immersion Circulator ANOVA: Cooking a Steak - here’s the step-by-step explanation of how the machine works and why you should use it
Sous Vide Duck Legs with Blackberry Sauce - here’s another example of how to use the machine for game meats
This is what it looks like perched on a tall stock pot.
Sous vide immersion cooking is great for cheap cuts of meat that can’t stand up to normal cooking methods. When you buy beef eye of round, for example, at $6 for 3 steaks, you think you’re getting a good deal. That is until you cook the meat and realize it is as tough as nails. However, when you take that same cut of meat and cook it a la sous vide, it is as tender as filet mignon.
How? Because you are cooking meat at a lower temperature for a longer period of time. Think about the “low and slow” barbecue method – pork ribs cooked for 5 hours over low heat are WAY better than cooked in 2 hours over high heat.
I decided to take chicken breasts, a boring, bland and dry piece of meat, to see how it would change when cooked with the ANOVA Sous Vide Immersion Circulator. Best. Chicken. Ever. No joke. It was the most tender chicken breast I’ve ever had. Pair that with BBQ sauce for flavor and a grill to create an outer crust and KAPOW – delicious.
To begin cooking the chicken breasts with the sous vide method, I had these questions to answer:
- What temperature should I heat the water to?
- How long should the chicken cook at that temperature?
- How would I season and sear the meat?
We all know that cooking chicken to 165 degrees is recommended to ensure the chicken is fully-cooked and safe to eat. Beef and pork have similar rules but do not run the risks that chicken does. We have not one but two meat thermometers in our kitchen just for this reason.
I’m not a scientist, but after reading about chicken temperatures I understood the “low and slow” method. You can cook a chicken at a lower temperature over a longer period of time and it can be just as safe as cooking to 165 degrees in less time. For specifics, read this fantastic article from Serious Eats: http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/04/sous-vide-basics-low-temperature-chicken.html
From there I determined that cooking chicken breasts via sous vide at 140 degrees for 1 hour and 35 minutes was safe according to the USDA.
Each of the chicken breasts had been vacuum sealed individually and had about 1-2 tablespoons of liquid from the chicken steaming and cooking in warm water in the bag. Salt and pepper were the only additions. Some people use oil or butter with herbs to infuse flavor, but the sous vide method takes the place of any need for additional moisture. Instead, I decided to grill and BBQ the chicken and let those flavors prevail.
This is what they look like fully cooked, right out of the bag – weird! (Dark photo, afternoon lighting in my kitchen.) Those little imprints are from the plastic vacuum bag.
You also need to sear the meat either in the skillet, oven or on the grill to create a light crust on the outside of the meat. BBQ sauce isn’t essential, but it sticks to the chicken and leaves something for the grill to char. Are you getting the char theme?
Just don’t leave them on the grill for long. You’re only grilling them for color and texture. Another good reason to grill vegetables so you get the full use out of those coals.
Sous vide is a fantastic method and the ANOVA machine takes very little space in your kitchen unlike similar options. If you have any desire to try something new in the kitchen, the sous vide machine will challenge you to the fullest!
Sous Vide BBQ Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts
- Up to 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
- Salt and black pepper
- BBQ sauce of your choice
Secure the ANOVA sous vide immersion circulator on the rim of a large stock pot. Fill it with water in between the minimum and maximum line. Turn the machine on and heat the water to 60 degrees Celsius / 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and vacuum seal them in bags individually. Place the sealed bags in the water and let cook for at least 1 hour and 35 minutes. Remove the cooked chicken and grill for 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush with BBQ sauce and let cook 1 minute more per side. Serve with your favorite grilled vegetables and enjoy!