Sous vide cooking will give you better results than the traditional methods for amazing southern fried chicken every single time! My recipe is foolproof: resulting in flavorful, juicy, crispy sous vide fried chicken that is never undercooked or dry and overcooked.
Have you ever tried sous vide crispy fried chicken? If not, you're in for a treat! Sous vide is a French cooking technique that involves cooking food in vacuum-sealed bags in a water bath. The results are always juicy and tender, no matter how thick or thin the cut of meat is.
Back in 2017, when my wife was developing her recipe for buttermilk brined, southern fried chicken, it was wild. So many batches ended up with some perfectly cooked pieces and some batches had raw pieces that left her frustrated before she found the right equation.
While she finally perfected the recipe for a crazy good traditional method of fried chicken that summer, I knew there had to be an easier way for those of us who are beginners at cooking.
That's where the sous vide method came into play: the chicken is first cooked completely to its optimal temperature in the water bath then battered in seasoned flour and fried, consistently producing juicy, tender, well-seasoned fried chicken.
We're talking crispy, juicy, and perfect every single time. Sous vide fried chicken is a serious game changer!
Equipment Needed to Sous Vide Chicken
A sous vide immersion circulator or sous vide water bath machine. Yep, a sous vide cooker is necessary for this sous vide recipe. The immersion circulators range in price, I have a whole post on my favorite sous vide equipment and my top picks for sous vide cookers of different price ranges, but the one I use most frequently is my Anova Precision Sous Vide Cooker with Wifi.
A large container. Before we bought the kit with a large sous vide water bath container, we would use large stock pots and even the Instant Pot's inner metal pot in a pinch. Whatever large, food-safe, water-tight container you have, use it.
Sous Vide-Safe Bags. It's so important to use bags that can be used in heat. Some plastic zip-top bags can be used in the sous vide, but you do have to think about how it degrades in the hot water bath. To be safe and have a successful sous vide cooking experience, use sous vide-safe bags.
Vacuum Sealer. Of course you can get away with using that sous vide safe zip top bag and carefully use the water displacement method to remove all the air, but a vacuum sealer is less fussy and gives safe, consistent results. A vacuum sealer can be really affordable; I also talk about my favorite vacuum sealers in the Best Sous Vide Equipment for All Price Ranges post, so check it out!
How to make sous vide fried chicken
So, how do you make fried chicken using the sous vide technique? It's actually very easy! All you need is a vacuum sealer, sous vide bags, and the sous vide machine, aka the immersion circulator.
You can optionally brine the chicken in a buttermilk brine, which helps season and tenderize the chicken. You can do it in a ziplock bag or in a large bowl with plastic wrap over it.
The first step when you're ready to cook is to set the temperature on your circulator. My preferred sous vide cooker is the Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker with Wi-Fi, so I can keep an eye on the temperature and time with the app.
The chicken pieces do cook at different times so if you've broken down a whole chicken, keep these times in mind. For white meat (chicken breasts) cook at a lower temperature than the other parts, at 140°F (71°C) for 1 to 4 hours. For dark meat (chicken thighs and chicken legs) let them cook at 165°F (74°C) for 1 to 4 hours.
Once the temperature is set it's time to seal your chicken up in the sous vide bags in a single layer, don't overcrowd them. The breast meat should be in a separate bag from the dark meat so you can cook them at separate temperatures.
Before sealing, remove as much air from the bag as possible; that's where the vacuum sealer comes into play. If you don't have one, you can use the water displacement method. Seal the bags and place them in the water bath.
Once the chicken is cooked, take the bags out of the sous vide bath and create the dredges. Whisk together the dry ingredients, and create the egg/buttermilk dredge in a separate shallow bowl.
Double dredge your chicken (press the chicken in the flour mixture on both sides, dip them into the egg mixture, then flour again) to make the coating extra crispy and craggy! Or single dredge for a lighter crust that is crispy and craggy.
Let the chicken sit for a few minutes on a wire rack to really let that coating set on the chicken and the excess flour can fall away.
Now, it's time to fry. I like to use a large Dutch oven for this step, but you can use any type of heavy bottom pot or deep fryer. Add enough oil to fill the pot about halfway, enough to be able to submerge chicken completely to fry. When ready heat the oil to 350°F/176°C.
It's best to fry the chicken in small batches. Place a few pieces of chicken into the hot oil and cook for about five minutes, until you have beautiful, golden brown, crispy, crunchy fried chicken. Because this is a sous vide chicken recipe, there’s no need to worry about the oil cooking the chicken.
Place the fried chicken on a wire cooling rack over a large baking sheet lined with a paper towel, letting the excess oil drip off before serving hot.
Don't keep the chicken on a paper towel, it'll steam the underside of the chicken and make the crust soggy.
Making a buttermilk marinade
A buttermilk brine is a great way to tenderize and flavor chicken, all at the same time. It’s very similar to making a dry rub for fried chicken. You mix together your spices in the buttermilk, set the chicken in it, and marinate. The acidic nature of the buttermilk helps break down the muscle fibers in the chicken, making for more tender meat. It also helps to infuse a lot of flavor into the meat.
If you have time, I recommend marinating your chicken pieces overnight. If not, at least give it an hour or two before cooking. The buttermilk brine is totally optional but I think it’s a great way to add some extra flavor and tenderness to your fried chicken.
The buttermilk brine recipe I use is the same one my wife uses for her classic buttermilk fried chicken recipe (I know, it’s not sous vide). It has garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and some hot sauce.
You can add in other spices if you’d like, such as cayenne pepper.
Why use buttermilk?
Buttermilk is a great ingredient to use when making fried chicken because of its acidic nature and high-fat content. The acid helps to tenderize the meat while the fat helps to create a crispy coating.
It also gives the fried chicken a deeper brown color as the milk solids caramelize within the crust and chicken that classic tang that southern fried chicken is well known for.
Single Dredge vs. Double Dredge
This is an ongoing battle in our house. We love that extra-crispy crunch from double dredging when eating fried chicken on its own, but that light, craggy single dredge is perfect on a fried chicken sandwich.
It's all about what you like, just know that double dredging will need an extra minute in the fryer to cook through all the way. This won't make the chicken any less juicy or flavorful.
A whole chicken, butchered into parts. You can use your favorite chicken parts from the store, but the recipe card has instructions for all parts of the chicken. If you need help, I have a post about how to butcher your own chicken for beginners.
Spices: kosher salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, smoked paprika, and oregano. Trust me, that smoked paprika is a life style now.
Buttermilk and Eggs.
All-Purpose Flour, Baking Powder, and Cornstarch. This mix is the secret for a crispy crust: the cornstarch lightens up the flour and the baking powder creates little bubbles in the batter, making a super light, crispy coating. Always use baking powder that doesn't have aluminum in it, it can leave a metallic taste.
A high heat oil. I created a helpful graphic detailing the different oils that are best for deep frying, but my top choices are vegetable oil, canola oil, and peanut oil (unless you have a peanut allergy, of course!).
You can make sous vide fried chicken ahead of time by cooking it in the sous vide. Simply follow all the steps up until you fry the chicken. Instead, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days.
When ready to eat, remove from fridge and let come to room temperature before frying as directed.
Top Tips for Perfect Sous Vide Fried Chicken
- Pat the chicken dry after they sous vide, it'll help the dredge stick on better.
- Splash in a little of the buttermilk/egg mixture into the flour to give the craggy bits a head-start.
- Let the dredge rest on the chicken so it doesn't come off in the oil.
- Use a candy thermometer to keep the oil temperature around 350 degrees F. Start the chicken off at 360 degrees F because each batch will drop the temperature quickly.
- Sprinkle flaky salt over the hot chicken immediately after frying for even more flavor and some fanciness.
Chicken thighs are my favorite but drumsticks would be a close second. You can use any cut of chicken you like!
With the traditional way, I would be wary of using breast because it will dry out quickly in high heat, but because we sous vide them in the recipe first, you will have extremely juicy chicken breasts.
Fried chicken is best eaten fresh and hot off the stove, but if there are leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. To reheat, place in a 325°F oven for 15 minutes or until warmed through.
Deep frying is not the time to splurge on expensive olive oil! Feel free to use any kind of neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point (please see guide).
You can use soured milk in its place. Use the same amount of milk as you would buttermilk, just add a pinch of lemon juice or white vinegar to the mixture. This will help tenderize and flavor your fried chicken just like using buttermilk!
It might be two reasons:
First, your oil isn't staying at the right temperature. Don't crowd your pot with a lot of chicken parts, they drop the temperature of the oil.
If your fried chicken isn't as crispy as you'd like, it might also be that your coating is too thin. In this case, you can try adding some more flour to the mixture before dredging the chicken and letting the dredge come together while resting on the chicken. This is why I always let it rest before frying!
First, check that your oil temperature is not too low. Soggy, grease-laden crust will want to fall right off.
Next, always pat the dredge into the chicken then shake off the excess before letting it rest for 10 minutes. That rest gives the crust time to come together before frying.
Tools I Used in this Recipe
- My trusty Anova Sous Vide Precision Cooker.
- Food Saver Vacuum Sealer.
- Sous vide safe bags.
- Mixing bowls.
- Wire racks and baking sheets.
- Dutch oven since it holds heat really well so the oil temperature isn't as unstable.
- A candy or deep fry thermometer.
Other Amazing Sous Vide Chicken Recipes
- Sous Vide Chick-Fil-A Deluxe Chicken Sandwich Copycat
- Best Crispy Sous Vide Chicken Wings
- Sous Vide Classic Southern Fried Chicken Sandwich
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- 10 pieces chicken
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 2 tablespoon sriracha or hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Vegetable Oil or other high heat oil
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- ½ cup cornstarch
- 2 teaspoon baking powder, aluminum-free
- 2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Buttermilk Brine for Fried Chicken
- Mix all the ingredients for the buttermilk brine in a large bowl or gallon size zip top bag, and add the chicken. Mix well so the chicken is totally coated in the buttermilk and seasoning.
- Brine overnight or at least 4 hours.
Sous Vide Chicken
- Preheat sous vide immersion cooker in a water bath. For dark meat, set the temperature to 165 degrees F (74 degrees C). For white meat, set to 140 degrees F (60 degrees C).
- Put the brined chicken parts into sous vide safe bags, dark meat in separate bags from the white meat because they cook at different temperatures. You do not need to rinse off the brine.
- Sous vide the chicken for at least one hour, up to 4 hours.
Deep Fry Chicken
- While the chicken is in the water bath, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and spices in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs for the wet part of our dredge.
- After the chicken is cooked in the sous vide, remove the chicken from the sous vide bags and pat them dry.
- Take a tablespoon of the buttermilk and egg mixture and shake some of it into the flour mixture to start getting some crag onto the chicken.
- Take one of the chicken parts, dip the chicken into the flour, then dip it into the buttermilk mixture. Shake off some of the excess, then press the chicken on both sides into the flour to coat the chicken. Shake off the excess flour, then set on a wire rack for 5 minutes to let the coating rest.
- While the chicken is resting, fill a dutch oven pot half way up with oil and heat it to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Use tongs to carefully place two or three pieces of chicken into the hot oil to deep fry for five minutes. If double dredging, deep fry the chicken for 6-7 minutes.
- Take the chicken out of the dutch oven with tongs and set them on a wire rack lined baking sheet to cool. Sprinkle with flaky salt, if desired.
- Serve hot.
Tips for Deep Frying Chicken
The temperature can drop, use a deep fry/candy thermometer to watch the temperature. Turn the heat up to keep it at 350 degrees F, if necessary. Do not let the temperature go above 360 degrees F.
Make Ahead Instructions
You can make sous vide fried chicken ahead of time by cooking it in the sous vide. Follow all the steps up until you fry the chicken. Instead, place it in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to two days.
When ready to eat, remove the sous vide chicken from the fridge and let come to room temperature before frying.