ISO help converting cranberry chicken recipe to sous vide

Hi there. I am very new to sous vide. Can you help me understand the basic principles of adapting a conventional recipe to sous vide?

The recipe I want to make is for Cranberry Glazed Chicken. I have made it for many years, but my daughter dislikes chicken because she finds it dry. I am hoping that the Anova will help. Without specifics, the basic outlines of the conventional recipe as are follows:

  1. Dredge the chicken, brown it and remove from pan.
  2. Make the sauce in the pan by combining cranberries, brown sugar and water until the cranberries pop. Then mix in some vinegar & seasonings, with a little more flour to thicken.
  3. Put the chicken back into the sauce, cover and simmer for 1/2 hour.

Based on what I am reading about sous vide, it is obvious that I can cook the chicken in the sous vide bag, but that it won’t brown. The sous vide recipes all require the browning to be done at the end, quickly. However, since this sauce involves some sugar, I’m afraid it will result in burning and now browning. I’m not sure how important browning really is to the recipe, since the chicken is served smothered in the sauce.

My question: How should I adopt this type of recipe method to sous vide?

A) Should I do the entire recipe in the sous vide bags and skip the last stage browning as unimportant?
B) Should I cook the chicken without any flavourings at all, build the sauce in the pan using the cooking juices from the chicken, brown the chicken with nothing on it and then cover with the sauce at the end? Won’t that result in sort of less cross transfer of flavours?
C). I’m not sure it’s a good idea to have cranberries popping inside the bags, since that’s a release of steam heat that might upset the vaccuum? Should I do something like build the sauce in a pan, and once the cranberries have popped, THEN add the sauce to the bag with the chicken and cook, skipping the browning at the end?
D). Something else?


Sous vide version would look something like:

  1. Cook your chicken sous vide.

  2. Prepare your sauce.

  3. When chicken is done sear and serve with sauce.

The chicken will require a much lower temperature than the sauce. Cooking the sauce, if you’re using raw cranberries, will need around 183F. If you use canned cranberries they’ve possibly already had some cooking.

Now for the controversial bit: Even in regular cooking there is actually very minimal sauce flavour absorbed by the chicken. Chicken flavour absorption into the sauce is a different matter (and the reason why the chicken gets dry.)

Actually, the reason for cooking the chicken in the sauce is not for imparting flavour into the chicken but an attempt to keep it moist. You don’t need to worry about keeping the chicken moist if you’re processing it sous vide.

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Thanks so much for your reply! By the time I saw it I had already made the recipe. Without knowing better, I opted to make the sauce first and then add it to the bags with the chicken. (I was using fresh, raw cranberries).

The result was quite nice. Everybody enjoyed it. The chicken was beautifully juicy and flavourful. Perhaps most important, my fussbudget little girl who doesn’t each much asked for seconds (!!!) so right there the main part of the battle was won and the Anova probably paid for itself.

But . . . I know how the conventional recipe actually works, and what to compare it with. I can see that your method would have been better. Reason: The chicken released yummy cooking juices into the bag, which diluted the sauce. All it would have taken was a couple of minutes to thicken it at the end, but I didn’t anticipate it and had a tableful of guests etc etc.

Lesson learned. Next time I will do this your way. Plain chicken in the sous vide, quick sear afterwards and use the cooking juices from the bag to build the sauce in a pan. That will take this dish from good to great.

Thanks so much for getting back to me. Really appreciate it.

Not a problem. I’m just sorry I wasn’t quite quick enough with the response. Ah well.

But that’s the basics of converting most meat based recipes to sous vide. Sauces can’t reduce in the bag, so require post processing. And the juice from meat, as soon as it reaches a high enough point suffers from albumin clumping. So, it’s much easier to deal with that beautiful, flavourful juice on it’s own and then add it to whatever sauce you are making.

It’s all part of the learning experience.