I am experimenting with the sous vide style of cooking with fairly great results. I am wondering if I can cook poultry, (a turkey),without the bag, just submerging it into the water. I know it will float, but I could place a vacuum bag on top of it and weigh it down with a can or two. And, if that’s possible, instead of just water, could I cook it in a brine? Quite often I will poach chicken breasts so I don’t see much of a difference. Has anyone tried this?

  • 6
    Sounds like you plan to make a stock...
    – bob1
    Nov 13, 2022 at 7:45
  • 1
    Worth noting that sous vide means 'under vacuum'; this may well be a good cooking method but it's probably best described as very precise poaching.
    – dbmag9
    Nov 13, 2022 at 12:03
  • Or low-temperature braising/pot-roasting.
    – Ecnerwal
    Nov 13, 2022 at 17:09

3 Answers 3


The benefit of low temperature cooking (also now known as sous vide, though technically "sous vide" translates as under vacuum), is that you can maintain a low temperature over a long time, both keeping proteins safe, and achieving textural results you can't otherwise. If you have the old school-type of immersion circulator (the kind that looks like lab equipment), you can probably get away with this. In the early days of sous vide, some folks were experimenting with cooking directly in oil heated by a circulator. These days, as @Sneftel points out, most of these devices are designed to work with water only. Other liquids, or particles of food can really mess things up. Beyond that, I see a couple of other potential problems. Floating items means poor heat transfer. You can account for this by weighing items down, as you suggest, but if you are poaching a whole turkey, for example, if there is an air pocket in the cavity, that could be a potential safety risk, as the heat transfer in the air space will be quite different from the rest of the bird. Finally, specifically in the case of poultry, dark and white meat are best at different temperatures, so you would have to factor that in. I do like to cook turkey breast sous vide, then finish in the oven. So there is merit to your approach. However, without containing your food, you create some challenges that you need to overcome.

  • Interesting information about the oil. Sort of a forced-convection confit, and wouldn’t leach away flavor like water would. I am intrigued.
    – Sneftel
    Nov 13, 2022 at 12:27
  • @Sneftel I don't think many folks did it (I know Dave Arnold experimented, but he plays with everything). Obviously it did not have much staying power.
    – moscafj
    Nov 13, 2022 at 12:32

The sous vide “wands” I’m familiar with do not want to be immersed in anything but water. Protein could build up on the impeller and the heating element during cooking and damage them, and salt in the water could lead to pitting. And in any case, it could be quite difficult to clean them afterwards. Check your sous vide device’s manual about this.

Beyond that, the plan sounds fine.

EDIT: incidentally, I’ll mention that eggs (in the shell) are often cooked directly in the water. Not the case you were interested in, but an example of sous vide without bagging.

  • Thanks for all the great advice. I’m glad you brought it to my attention regarding cooking it in the brine, wasn’t thinking about all the particles, (spices, sugar, salt), floating in the water. Aside from that, I think I’ll give it a try and then crisp it up in the oven! Never cooked a Turkey in my cooler before!!
    – Hutchette
    Nov 13, 2022 at 15:30

Not exactly what you're asking, but in case you're wondering because you can't find a bag or container big enough. I've done it before like this: Wand sous vide in a coleman cooler

I closed the lid as best I could, but it did steam up the room a little.

I put removed the wings and legs and did them in zip locs. The body I put in a Reynolds baking bag. I added some chicken stock this. You can remove most of the air this way.
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After sous-viding overnight, we put it in the fridge for while in the morning. Later in the day, right before dinner, broiled for 30 minutes or so, it was delicious.

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Sorry I can't remember all the details to get it to the right temperature at serve time.

But some ideas...

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