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I am new to sous vide food. I am cooking a chicken breast. I have read that chicken requires an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit (75 degrees Celcius). However the recipe only requires a temperature of 150 °F (66 °C).

https://recipes.anovaculinary.com/recipe/chicken-breast

How does this not cause food poisoning?

We checked the internal temperature after an hour and it was only 130 °F (54 °C). Is this safe to eat?

  • My roommate's electronic induction hot plate only has temperature settings for 140F, 180F, 210F, etc. so I sous vide my chicken breast at 140F for an hour. I leave it on the counter a while so it's room temperature first. (I also rinse it off before cooking.) – Chloe Aug 20 at 19:43
  • @Chloe An induction hot plate doesn't provide the level of temperature control or precision you'd need for sous vide cooking. I'm happy you haven't gotten sick yet, but you should stop doing that, before you get sick. – Sneftel Aug 21 at 6:30
  • @Sneftel That's why I cook it for an hour. Doesn't matter the temperature as long as you cook it enough. seriouseats.com/2015/07/… Technically you only have to cook it for 28m. Look at that nice exponential decay curve! – Chloe Aug 21 at 21:40
  • @Chloe It really, really does matter. That "140 degree hot plate" may only be heating the chicken to 120 degrees. – Sneftel Aug 22 at 5:43
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The reduction of bacterial growth, and thus food safety, follow a logarithmic pattern that factors in temperature plus time. During sous vide cooking, lower temperature are frequently used for longer times. Employed correctly, this renders food safe. For an excellent explanation see the work of Douglas Baldwin.

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    Specifically in this case Table 4.1 for poultry pasteurization douglasbaldwin.com/sous-vide.html#Table_4.1 – Luciano Aug 19 at 13:40
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    J Kenji Lopez-Alt's explanation is perhaps somewhat more approachable: seriouseats.com/2015/07/… – Alex Reinking Aug 19 at 19:03
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    However, this answer doesn't answer the ultimate question of whether that chicken is safe to eat. If it was only at 130F after an hour, it is not safe to eat. It should be cooked at least another hour until it reaches 150 and sits there for 3 minutes. – Alex Reinking Aug 19 at 19:06
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    @AlexReinking while you are correct that after an hour, chicken at 130F is not safe (according to the linked charts), your conclusion is not necessarily required. I realize you are basing your answer on the OP, but just for informational purposes... Firstly, the thickness of the chicken breast has to be taken into account, so it is impossible to judge the time without that information. Also, according to Baldwin, it could be made safe as low as 134.5F, as long as it was held there long enough. – moscafj Aug 19 at 19:46
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    @moscafj - Reading your chart, at 134.5F and 5mm thickness, it takes two hours and 15 minutes to be safe and goes up with thickness from there. OP stated that they checked the temperature after one hour of cooking (less than half the time) and it was below that. – Alex Reinking Aug 19 at 19:49
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The other answers are correct regarding why that temperature is okay for sous vide, but I just want to clarify why it's not good enough when using other cooking methods.

As moscafj suggested, you need the meat to spend a certain amount of time at any particular temperature to actually kill off enough pathogens, and this is where sous vide acts quite differently from most other cooking methods.

The key difference is that sous vide never exposes any part of the meat to higher temperatures than the target temperature, so you get a lot of time right near that temperature; whereas more traditional methods typically involve exposing the meat to far higher temperatures, so the meat will be shooting right past that minimum safe temperature in a short amount of time. For example, when cooking on the grill, it might be exposed to air that's 450°F or more, so if you measure the meat at 165°F, it might have only been at a safe temperature for a minute or two — which is just enough time to kill those pathogens. (Also note the carryover effect.) If you had pulled it off the grill at 150°F, it would only have just entered the safe region, so few of the pathogens would be killed before you start cooling it again. On the other hand, you can't leave it on the grill for much longer, because it will quickly attain the texture of cardboard. Sous vide will never pass the target temperature, though the texture will degrade if you wait a really long time.

All that being said, sous vide does take a bit longer to get the meat up to the target temperature in the first place — and the colder or thicker your piece of meat when you put it in, the longer it takes. Even if your water temperature reached 150°F a minute after you put the chicken in, the meat itself will be far below that temperature for quite a while. So no, chicken that's at 130°F is still coming to temperature, and you have to cook it for longer because it needs to actually spend time at your target temperature. It may only need around 6 minutes at 150°F, but it needs to get there first.

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The link says for "soft" chicken you should let it go to 140 °F (60 °C) for 1.5 to 4 hours.

You checked at 1 hour and it was below that (130 °F (54 °C)) ... so you need to cook it some more.

This link gives the same temperature for chicken and explain why the lower temperature is acceptable when cooking for longer time

Good link for the temperature safety thing.

  • Where does it explain the lower tempature is ok? I see lower tempatures listed with the same cook times. But I don't understand how cooking at lower then 165 would ever result in an internal tempature higher. I don't see anything explaining why a lower tempature is ok. Just articles saying do it. – marsh Aug 19 at 0:48
  • oops! I edited my post for the proper link. – Max Aug 19 at 11:50
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    @marsh 165 isn't "safe" so much as "idiot-proof," in that it almost instantly kills the desired quantity and types of bacteria. The bacteria can also be killed to the same degree at lower temperatures, but it takes significantly longer. That process is called "Pasteurization," which you may recognize from milk—it's exactly the same process that makes your milk safe to drink for so long. – Kevin Aug 19 at 22:50

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