Sous vide chicken thighs are an absolute game changer. Cooking sous vide allows you to make perfectly juicy and tender thighs, every single time. Time to say goodbye to the days of dry chicken, and hello to juicy thighs cooked exactly how you want it.
In this recipe, we dive into the art of sous vide cooking and explore how it can take your chicken thigh game to the next level. But we won’t stop there. We take it one step further by making a zesty lemon pan sauce that compliments the chicken perfectly.
The combination of crispy, perfectly cooked sous vide chicken and the bright flavors of the lemon sauce will leave your taste buds dancing with delight. You’ll definitely want to add this easy to make recipe into your weekly rotation.
Why You Should Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
The main reason I fell in love with cooking sous vide is that the results are so good and so consistent. This method is capable of producing perfectly cooked food every time.
With so much control over the ability to cook your food, you can eliminate the guesswork and create repeatable and tasty results. By having this predictability, you can devote more time to other aspects of your meal.
Here are the top three reasons you should cook chicken thighs sous vide:
- Precision and Consistency - With the precise temperature control of sous vide cooking, your chicken will be cooked evenly from edge to center every single time. Time to say goodbye to the days of overcooked or undercooked chicken.
- Moisture Retention - Sous vide cooking ensures that the meat retains its moisture, resulting in exceptionally juicy and tender chicken thighs.
- Convenience and Simplicity - Cooking sous vide is incredibly convenient and flexible. Since it’s as simple as dropping your food in the water bath, you can give the other parts of your meal your full attention.
- Chicken Thighs - I prefer bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe. However, boneless thighs work great as well!
- Chicken Broth - Either store-bought or homemade chicken broth works for this recipe.
- White Wine - Use a Sauvignon Blanc or another dry, crisp white wine.
- Aromatics - Adding fresh thyme sprigs adds a nice herbaceous flavor to the dish. Fresh herbs impart their flavor slower than dried herbs, so it can seep into the meat gently and not overwhelm the dish.
- Shallots - Finely minced shallots are the foundation of the delicious pan sauce. Shallots have a similar flavor profile to onions, with a bit smoother flavor that pairs great with the sharp lemon acidity. If you can’t find shallots at your store, you could substitute with yellow onion, if necessary.
- Lemon Zest - Use a Microplane Zester to zest a whole lemon. The zest of a lemon holds all the flavorful oils, without adding any extra liquid to the sauce; adding flavor without affecting the thickness.
- Butter - Add a few knobs of unsalted butter to make the pan sauce silky and decadent.
- Salt - I prefer a coarse Kosher salt like Morton or Diamond Crystal.
- Pepper - Whenever possible, use freshly ground black pepper.
An essential part of cooking sous vide is putting ingredients in an air-tight bag or container. The two most common techniques to package your ingredients are vacuum sealing and using the water displacement method.
A vacuum sealer removes all the air and seals the contents of a plastic bag through a vacuum. This process ensures the food is airtight and properly sealed, and prevents the bag from floating which can result in uneven cooking. If you are in the market for a vacuum sealer, I'd recommend the Anova sealer.
The displacement method is a technique where you first place your food and marinades in a sous vide bag, submerge the bag in a container of water, and allow the pressure to force all the air out of the bag.
Either method works for chicken thighs. Note that if you are adding a marinade in the bag, please make sure your vacuum sealer is capable of sealing liquids. If not, please use the displacement method.
Time and Temperature
The time and temperature guide below is the product of years of extensive testing, and will take the guesswork out of cooking sous vide. Simply select a temperature based on your desired doneness, then determine the length of the cook based on the thickness of the protein.
Sous Vide Chicken Thigh Temperature
|Firm and Juicy
|160 – 167F / 71 – 75C
|165F / 74C
Sous Vide Chicken Thighs Cooking Time
|1 to 4 hours
|1 ½ hours
Our personal favorite is cooking chicken thighs at 74C/165F for 1 ½ hours. Cooking the meat for this duration results in a tender, juicy bird that Thomas Keller would be proud of. Furthermore, cooking them at a temperature of 165F ensures that the chicken is fully cooked to the bone.
Although this combination of time and temperature is our favorite, we recommend you explore different combinations to find your personal favorite. Our cooking guide can always help you find your perfect time and temperature.
How to Sear Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
Searing is by far the most important step in cooking sous vide. If want your food to look like it is Michelin star quality, you are going to have to get a rich sear on it. Failing to do so will make your dinner guests wonder why they let you cook again.
If you want an amazing sear, you’ve got to:
1. Pat the meat completely dry with a paper towel
2. Season generously with salt or seasoning of your choice
3. Sear at extremely high temperatures.
At this point you want to determine the best searing method. For chicken thighs, we suggest pan searing, grilling or using a searing torch. The trick is getting the pan, grill or torch extremely hot, then searing for 1 to 2 minutes on each side. This results in a quick, high-quality sear without drying out the thighs.
How to Sous Vide Chicken Thighs - Step by Step
Step 1 - Set the Temperature. To get started, fill up your water bath and set the sous vide machine to your desired temperature. For chicken thighs we recommend cooking at 74C or 165F.
Step 2- Season and Seal. Lightly season both sides of the chicken thighs with salt. Place the thighs in a sous vide bag with a few sprigs of thyme, then remove the air via a vacuum sealer or the displacement method. Once the water has reached the target temperature, gently place the bag in the bath for an hour and a half.
Step 3 - Remove from Bath and Pat Dry. Once the chicken thighs are done cooking, remove the bag from the sous vide bath. Be careful as the water will be very hot. Take the chicken thighs out of the bag and pat dry using paper towels. Rub the chicken thighs with a small amount of olive oil, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Step 4 - Sear the Chicken Thighs. Next, heat up a large skillet on medium-high until it’s hot, then add a neutral oil with a high smoke point. Sear the chicken thighs skin side down for 3-4 minutes, or until they are browned and the skin is crispy. Flip and sear the meat side for 1 minute. Remove the chicken thighs from the pan, and place on a plate to rest.
Step 5 - Start the Lemon Sauce. Take the pan off the heat for a minute or two until it’s slightly cooled down. Turn the heat to medium low, then add 1 tablespoon of butter and minced shallots to the pan. Saute shallots for 2 to 3 minutes stirring frequently until softened.
Step 6 - Deglaze with Wine. Add a full cup of white wine to the pan to deglaze it. Stir frequently, making sure to scrape any delicious browned bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pan. Increase the heat to medium high and let the wine reduce by half.
Step 7 - Build the Flavor. Once the liquid is reduced, add in a full cup of chicken stock and bring it to a hard simmer. Add in fresh thyme sprigs and lemon zest to build the flavor. Cook until it is reduced by half and slightly thickens.
Step 8 - Finish the Dish. Remove the pan from heat and allow the sauce to cool slightly. Add the remaining 2 tablespoon of butter and whisk until it is completely melted. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste if needed. Place the chicken thighs back into the skillet to warm them up and take in the flavor.
Step 9 - Plate and Enjoy! Place your thighs on a plate and ladle this heavenly lemon sauce over your chicken. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Should I use bone-in or boneless chicken thighs?
The first step is determining whether you should purchase bone in or boneless chicken thighs for this recipe. The quick answer, either cut will result in tender, juicy meat. Also, either can be used interchangeably for most sous vide recipes.
That being said, I prefer using bone-in chicken thighs. They tend to be juicer and more flavorful, and the meat around the bone is to die for.
Can I sous vide frozen chicken thighs?
Cooking frozen foods sous vide is an ultra convenient, safe way to prepare your protein. Just take the food directly from the freezer, repackage it (unless you know the bag is sous vide safe) and let the sous vide work its magic.
The only thing you'll need to adjust is the cook time. If you are cooking frozen chicken thighs sous vide we recommend adding an additional hour to the cook time, so two hours and 30 minutes total.
How do I store and reheat sous vide chicken thighs?
Leftover chicken thighs will last 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator. To reheat, we recommend using an oven, microwave, or air fryer until the thighs are heated through.
Sous Vide Machine – This one is obvious. To cook sous vide, you’re going to need a device to precisely regulate the temperature of the bath water. The two best sous vide machines in the game right now are the Anova Precision Cooker and the Breville Joule.
The main difference between the two is that with the Anova you can control the device both manually and with a mobile device, and with the Joule you can only control the device by using your mobile device. Either way, both sous vide machines are top class and you can’t go wrong with either choice.
12-quart Container – Although you can use a basic stockpot for your sous vide cooking needs, I highly recommend buying a large plastic container. They are inexpensive and spacious, so you won’t have to worry about cooking a big roast in a small pot. I recommend a 12 quart Rubbermaid container, as it is BPA free, sturdy, and large enough for just about anything you will be cooking.
Container Lid – If you are going to buy a plastic container, I highly suggest buying a compatible lid for it. When you sous vide for a long duration, the heat of the water causes evaporation. With a lid, it eliminates a majority of the evaporation so you can cook for 72 hours care-free.
Cast Iron Skillet – If you are looking to take your searing game to the next level, we recommend investing in a cast iron skillet. By using a cast iron in this recipe, you’ll achieve a deep sear on the protein. Cast irons are also extremely handy for searing just about any and all sous vide meat. Lodge offers the best quality and price, which is why it is our favorite cast iron brand.
Next Level Sous Vide –Looking to take your sous vide skills to the next level? The Next Level Sous Vide eCookbook will push your culinary boundaries with 65 delicious recipes that are equally approachable and tasty. With pro tips and a detailed explanation of the sous vide process, you will be on your way to maximize your sous vide skills.
Check out our full list of recommended gear here.
Sous Vide Chicken Thighs
- 4 bone-in, skin-on or boneless chicken thighs
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- salt and pepper to taste
- ½ cup shallots, finely minced
- 1 cup chicken broth, low sodium
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 3 tablespoon butter, unsalted
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- salt to taste
Set sous vide machine to 74C/165F.
Lightly season chicken thighs with salt. Place chicken in sous vide bag with thyme, and remove the air through a vacuum sealer or the displacement method. Drop the bag in the bath for an hour and a half.
Remove bag from bath. Take chicken out of the bag, pat dry and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat up large skillet on medium-high and add oil. Sear chicken thighs skin side down for 3-4 minutes or until browned, then flip and sear for 1 minute. Remove from the pan, and place on a plate to rest.
While the chicken is resting, reduce heat to medium-low. Once the skillet has cooled down a touch, add 1 tablespoon of butter and minced shallots. Sauté shallots for 2-3 minutes stirring frequently until softened.
Add white wine to deglaze the pan and stir, making sure to scrape any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the skillet. Increase heat to medium high and let the wine reduce by half.
Once the liquid is reduced, add in chicken stock and bring to a hard simmer. Add in fresh thyme and lemon zest, and reduced by half until it starts resembling a slightly thickened sauce.
Remove from heat and allow the sauce to slightly cool. Add remaining 2 tablespoon of butter and whisk until it is completely melted. Taste the sauce and add salt to taste. Place the chicken back into the skillet to warm them up and take in the flavor.
Plate chicken thighs and ladle this heavenly sauce over your chicken. Serve immediately and enjoy!