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How to Sous Vide Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs really are one of the most underrated cuts of meat. Juicy and meaty, this underappreciated protein is wonderfully versatile, not to mention extremely affordable. Chicken thighs are also far more forgiving than breasts which are prone to drying out if even slightly overcooked. 

Considering how easy they are to cook, why do we recommend preparing chicken thighs using sous vide? Sous vide adds a layer of control and precision that allows you to prepare chicken thighs to the exact level of doneness you prefer.

Temperature and cooking times for chicken thighs

We recommend cooking chicken thighs at least 160°F. 

TempuratureTimeResult
155°F1-3 hoursVery juicy, firm
160°F1-3 hoursTender and juicy
165°F1-2 hoursExtremely tender but less juicy

Like most sous vide meats, the longer you cook, the more tender your meat will become. Chicken thighs are one of the most forgiving meats to sous vide so they are a great place to start for beginners.

Follow this link to find out more information about Suvie cooking times and temperatures

Ingredients and Tools

  • Chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary or sage
  • Vegetable oil

Equipment

  • Suvie or sous vide wand
  • A large pot (if using a sous vide wand)
  • Vacuum sealer and bags or Freezer safe sealable plastic bags

Directions

If you’re using a sous vide wand, pre-heat your water bath to the desired temperature

Pat chicken dry and season with salt and pepper.

Place chicken in a plastic bag, add any herbs you intend on using and vacuum-seal.

Follow our guide if you are using the water displacement method

If you are using Suvie, use the following settings:

My Cook > Multi-Zone Settings

Protein: 155-165 degrees, 1 hour- 3 hours (or follow our Protein Cooking Guide)

Vegetable: 0 minutes

Starch: 0 minutes

Once the cook is finished, remove the chicken from the water bath or pan and allow to cool completely. 

Once cooled remove the chicken from the bag and place on a paper towel. 

Remove any of the solidified juices from the chicken. You can discard these or use them for a sauce or gravy. 

Finishing

If you have used skinless thighs or intend to serve your chicken cold you can skip the steps below. Sous vide chicken thighs are great as a basis for some homemade chicken salad, just make sure to debone the thighs and remove the skin. 

If you’re using your Suvie, place the chicken thighs, skin up, in your protein pan and place them under the broiler for 10 minutes. If you prefer extra crispy skin broil for an additional 10 minutes, checking often to ensure that the chicken doesn’t burn.

Alternatively, heat some vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. You’ll want to use an oil with a high smoke point such as vegetable oil while avoiding olive oil if possible.

Place the chicken, skin side down, in the hot pan being careful to avoid any splashing oil. Press the chicken down with a spatula or with your fingers to make sure as much of the skin is making contact with the pan as possible. Cook until the skin is crispy, about 5 minutes. 

Flip and cook the underside for 1-2 minutes. 

Serve immediately and enjoy!

FAQs

Is it safe to cook chicken below 165°F?

The USFDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F. Foodborne bacteria will be killed almost immediately at this temperature which makes it the safest. However, chicken cooked to lower temperatures for longer periods of time are just as safe. If you want a slight moister chicken thigh you can safely cook it to 155°F provided it stays at that temperature for at least 2 minutes.

Can I use any type of plastic bag?

You can, however, make sure that they are made from polyethylene. Some branded bags are made using polyethylene which is a BPA and dioxin free plastic that can safely handle sous vide cooking temperatures up to 190°F. Some generic branded plastic bags are made using cheaper polyvinyl chloride (PVC) which cannot handle high temps and contains chemicals that can leach into food. 

Bone-in or bone out?

Everyone has their preferences when it comes to chicken. This cooking process will work equally well in both cases. If you prefer deboned chicken, we recommend removing the bones at the end of the sous-vide process. The chicken will be so tender that the bones will come away easily and it will save you having to fumble around with a boning knife. Bone and skin also works as a natural insulator and will prevent the chicken from overcooking. 

Can I use frozen chicken?

Yes! This technique will work with frozen chicken pieces. If you’re cooking straight from the freezer just add an additional hour to the sous vide time. 

Do I need to cool the chicken thighs before the finishing step?

Not necessarily, but it’s worth it. Chicken thighs have a fair amount of fatty tissue, especially around the skin. This tissue takes longer to heat up so, in order to get satisfyingly crispy skin, you are going to need to brown the chicken thighs for longer than you would a chicken breast. Cooling the chicken before this step prevents the flesh from getting dried out during the finishing process. That being said, you can finish the thighs straight away if you have a hungry family waiting. 

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