What did I do wrong?

Hi everyone. I’m new to sous vide and I did my first cooking with ribeye steak last week and it was fine. Not the medium rare texture I was hoping but the meat felt medium and it was tender. However, yesterday I cooked a few bags of chicken breasts using the Anova recipe and it was disappointing. I think I cooked them at 150F for about an hour. Turned out the meat was hard and dry. I seasoned them with pepper, rosemary and lemon. The flavour was there but the taste was like eating boiling chicken in water. What went wrong?

150F will give you a very traditional texture for chicken. I’d suggest trying a lower temp, like 145F. Also, remember that acid will also ‘cook’ protein.

There is also the possibility that it wasn’t a good chicken breast. Birds vary, even those raised together.

It is highly recommended that chicken should be cooked to pasteurisation. This is about the time the meat spent at temperature. Pasteurisation tables can be found in Baldwin’s Guide to Sous Vide here.

You may want to double-check your water temp with a separate thermometer. The first Anova unit I received was calibrated incorrectly and it took a couple of failed cooks before I realized what was going on. The second unit they sent has been rock solid.

Also, you don’t state the cooking temp for the steak or how you finished either the steak or the chicken. Many overcooks are due to problems in the finishing steps.

Thank you for your reply. I guess I will try again at 145F and see how it goes. Btw, what do you mean by acid will cook ‘protein’? And thanks for the reminder about pasteurisation. I am cautious about eating the food and not having a bad stomach after that. So I thought Anova’s recipe should be a safe recipe to follow.

Thank you for your reply. I will try to double check the temp. Hopefully it’s not because of that. Do I need to get one of those kitchen thermometer to do that or I can just dip any thermometer will do. Pardon my silly question because I’m trying to not spend money to buy any additional gadget if I could.

For both my chicken and beef, I just pan fried them in olive oil about 30s a side. For steak, the cooking temperature was 130F for 2 hours, again following the Anova’s recipe.

Acids cause protein to denature, which is much the same thing as happens during the cooking process.

You may have seen recipes that use lemon or lime juice on raw fish. The fish proteins are denatured and the fish no longer has a raw taste ir texture. The acide in the juice has ‘cooked’ the fish.

It sounds like you’re kind of new to cooking in general. You cannot use a “fever thermometer” for this, but any dial thermometer that reads up to 250F should work fine. However, I would recommend that you have an “instant read” thermometer in your set of kitchen essentials, not just for checking your Anova. There are good ones reasonably priced on eBay and Amazon.com.

Having good (aka professional) kitchen tools is really a long-term investment. I’ve been cooking for more than 40 years (25+ of those as a caterer, too), and I still have some of the original pots and pans and “gadgets” that I bought in the 1970s – not to mention a collection of well over 200 cookbooks. I’m relatively new to sous vide, and am sorry it took so long to get here.

It seems you are on the right track. A temp. of 150F and time of 1hr. is spot on! For better help, you will need to give better info, for example; skin-on bone-in or skinless boneless breasts? Did you sear your chicken for crispness after cooking? Also, did you add your seasonings to the bag before cooking? Adding seasonings to your sous vide bag before cooking can have very unpredictable results. Most sous vide vets I’ve read about season their proteins after the cook. If they use seasonings in the bag, they are a select few herbs and spices, and in very small amounts. If you would please re-post with this necessary info, perhaps we in the “community” can provide you with better help. Thank you and good luck. Sous Vide ON!!!

Stevej is right, acid can cook proteins, save the citrus for serving time. Also, an instant thermometer could be the difference in a great meal or a sous vide “fail”. there is a good one on Amazon (Kizen Instant Read Thermometer $19.95) that I use and it is great(especially for soft-boiled eggs). As for your chicken, if you finished it, did you pat it dry and maybe even let it rest for 10 minutes or so to cool the outside? Making sure the outside is dry and somewhat cool will improve your chances of getting the sear your looking for, without over-cooking the inside! Good luck!!

Thank you for your reply. Yes, I just ordered a kitchen thermometer and hopefully my Anova is fine, and it was probably because of other factors brought up by the rest.

Hi Michael. Thanks for your reply. I used organic skinless boneless chicken breasts during my last attempt. And I did sear my chicken after that. I prob didn’t pat dry enough.

Thanks for the advice. I will try cooking chicken breasts again without any seasoning. Will not give up. I bought the Anova hoping to bulk prepare my lunch with chicken breasts and probably some greens. I hope I will get it right so that I can do that.

You might also want to try “brining” the chicken breast first. In a plastic bag let the breast soak in saltwater overnight. Then, remove the chicken breast and pound with a meat hammer (leave it in the plastic bag) and then add optional marinade. Bag in a separate bag and cook. this will add flavor and tenderness to the breast.