First Cook Catastrophe

Well I just received my new Anova and I decided to do something really simple. So I made chicken breasts. I found a recipe online for boneless, skinless chicken breasts. My chicken breasts were frozen, so I used the time and temp recommended by the recipe (151 F for 1 hour) and added 50% of the time because the breasts were frozen. I salted and peppered each breast and rubbed them with a minced garlic/salt paste, topped them with a lemon slice, tossed in some fresh thyme and oregano and helf-a-tablsepoon of olive oil. I vacuumed sealed each breast in a separate bag and put them in my 151 degree water (using a rack to keep the bags apart).

As soon as the time was up and I took the bags out of the water, I knew something was wrong, because the breasts were rock-hard. I very briefly seared each of the breasts in a hot cast-iron pan with oil for less than 30 seconds per side.

As I’d reared, the chicken was very dry and completely unappetizing (althugh the flavor was very nice). Frankly, if I’d been served these in a restaurant I would have sent them back.

Obviously, when I try this again, I’m not going to use frozen breasts and I’m going to use a lower temperature. But, even with those issues, based on things I’ve read, the chicken should still have been edible.

What did I do wrong?

Idea #1 Try checking the water temp with an external thermometer. Maybe the temp spiked or is simply off and was much higher than 151F.
Idea #2 How old were the chicken breasts? Perhaps you grabbed some breasts that had been in the freezer for a loooong time?

Personally I cook chicken breasts at a somewhat lower temp, but chicken breast cooked at 151F should have come out moist given the steps you took.

@Mirozen is right. The first thing I would do is check the water temperature to see if your Anova is giving you accurate readings.

I prefer chicken breasts at 140F/60C for 2 hrs (3 for frozen). Higher temperatures will give you closer to traditional textures.

Good information for cooking chicken can be found in Baldwin’s A Practical Guide to Sous Vide.

Lee, we all regret you experienced such a disappointing initial cook, - particularly with something so simple. It’s difficult to know if you did anything wrong. With all your flavourings i am certain they were tasty, but the dryness is puzzling.

Have you previously cooked that same frozen product?
And if so, how were they?
Were they frost covered?

The reason i ask is I see a lot of IQF boneless skinless “seasoned” chicken breasts on the market at very low prices. Those are often the “mistakes” from the production line with slashes or bits missing. They are usually pumped with a brine solution to make them extra moist and heavier before freezing.
Water’s a cheap ingredient.

The producers are allowed to call that “seasoned”. However over time the salt solution breaks down meat cells and they gradually dehydrate. Leave them frozen long enough and you end up with the flavourful hockey pucks you experienced.
That’s my guess as to what happened judging by your description.

The problem with that product is they are often held frozen for an extended period until they have enough to sell a few truckloads to a major grocery chain. Most restaurants won’t touch them.

I think you are wise to use fresh product for your next cook at a lower temperature as Ember suggested.
Please let us know the outcome.