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I have a butterflied chicken in the fridge that is marinating in a mojo mix.

I have read many times to SV it at 148f. But what about time? I would like the bird to be uniformly cooked and the meat to be juicy but not stringy.

What do you think would work best?

  • What is the outcome you are looking for? – moscafj Jan 21 '17 at 16:29
  • Hi, juicy and non stringy breasts. Tender dark meat. – Choubix Jan 21 '17 at 16:42
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This is a very crude estimate:

If you have a 1kg chicken cooked straight out of the fridge at 2C to 65C, and assume that the chicken has thermal properties of water (near enough given that it is 70% water give or take), you need roughly 265kJ.

Heat transfer is limited by surface area and thickness of the chicken. If we approximate the chicken as a cylinder with say 150cm length and 10cm diameter, with a total surface area of 628 sq-cm, the average heat transfer rate for the temperature range is around 24W. So, it would take 11,141 seconds (or 186 min or just over 3 hours) to move 265kJ from the water into the chicken to bring it up to 65C.

If the chicken were fully immersed in water without a bag, heat transfer would be much quicker since the cavity will also be filled with hot water and the path length is roughly 1/4 of the bagged chicken. So, expect cooking time to roughly fall by 3/4.


thermal properties assumed: Cp 4.2 J/g/K, conductivity 0.6 J/s/m/K

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Given your situation, and your question ("What would work best?"), I would use the grill or the oven. Sous vide is not the correct tool for this job. Cooking a whole chicken sous vide will basically result in a poached chicken. You are probably going to need about 4 hours. I would also go with a higher temp, dark meat at 148F (64.4C) will be safe, but will probably feel under cooked. 150 - 155F (65.5 - 68.3C) would give you a better result. If that is the result you want, sous vide will get you there. However, given the description you provided the oven or grill will be much faster, and likely result in a more desirable outcome. Sous vide chicken can work well, but white meat and dark meat are generally preferred when they are cooked at significantly different temperatures.

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    It's way different than poaching. All (most) of the rendered fat and juices will stay in the chicken and it should have more flavor than a poached chicken. You can also grill the chicken on very high heat after it's done, broil it, sear it in a cast-iron skillet, etc. to get crispy skin. – Caleb Jan 22 '17 at 6:43
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    This is why I asked the original poster to provide more info. If his/her intent is to achieve crispy skin, in this case sous vide is not helping. For the crispiest skin, you need to remove as much moisture as possible. It would be far better and much quicker to grill or roast the chicken without the sous vide step. I respectfully disagree with @Caleb. The will not be "way different" from poaching, because, in essence, that is what you are doing. – moscafj Jan 22 '17 at 13:36
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    @moscafj hi, thanks for your response. I agree with you : the end result is very much like poaching. I tried 3h at 64c and the breaks were a bit too cooked for my liking and the legs slightly undercooked. Bottom line: breasts and dark meat should be cooked at different times. A solution may be to inject the breast with a brine to avoid removing too much moisture in the SV while cooking the while bird – Choubix Jan 24 '17 at 14:31
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@Choubix himself might have found the answer. Sous vide the white and dark meat at different temperatures to get the " juicy and non stringy breasts. Tender dark meat." that he asked for.

That was how I found out too.

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