Perfectly tender and juicy sous vide chicken breast paired with sous vide asparagus makes a fabulous low-carb and gluten-free meal. Meal prep tips included.
In mid-March 2018, my husband and I moved from Austin, TX to Hong Kong for his business. It’s a big change, I know—shockingly big.
Hong Kong is famous for being extremely expensive and incredibly small. We got a place on the west side of Hong Kong Island, and the rent is more than double the amount we were paying in Austin but for half of the size.
Crazy, I know. It took me a while to accept the brutal fact and face the reality.
The Real Challenge of Living in Hong Kong
For the first time in the past five years of food blogging, I felt a real challenge, and it stared at my face all day, every day until very recently. It’s not that we had to downsize our apartment; it’s not that I have to pay the “foreigner tax” when buying groceries at the wet market in my neighborhood as I don’t speak Cantonese; it’s not that the culture and life pace are so different.
The real challenge was cooking!
Suddenly, there’s no oven in my kitchen anymore. My favorite slow cooker brought from the States doesn’t work in Hong Kong because of different voltage and electrical socket. In fact, no US appliances work here unless you get a voltage converter, which is a gigantic, heavy device that can’t be easily transported. Plus, I’ve got no space for it.
That leaves me only an induction stove with two burners and a microwave.
How am I going to cook the way I used to?
I spent an entire month asking myself this question and looking for other options before I settled on the fact that the stove was going to be my only cooking method.
- Buy a convection oven? It’d occupy my entire kitchen counter, leaving me pretty much no working space. No go.
- Buy my all-time favorite Tatung Multifunctional Rice Cooker? The voltage is only 120V. It can’t be used in HK where the voltage is 220V.
- Buy a local slow cooker? Maybe.
- Buy a sous vide machine? Wait… sous vide?!
Sous Vide to the Rescue
I’d heard of sous vide but never really looked into it until now. Sous vide cooking is basically cooking food in vacuum-sealed bags in water at a precise temperature. ChefSteps did an amazing job explaining what sous vide is in this guide.
After learning the basics, I found that the machine doesn’t take much space, and how much food I want to cook depends entirely on the size of my saucepan or sous vide container. In other words, I could easily do batch cooking with a sous vide machine.
Again, in order to use it in HK, the voltage of the sous vide has to be 220V. Unfortunately, Joule is out of the picture. They make it crystal clear on Amazon:
“Voltage warning: Works with 120V outlets only. Due to our precise heating technology, voltage transformers and converters can damage your Joule, and use outside of North America voids the warranty.”
My heart sank a little.
At the point, all my hope was on Anova. Can you imagine how excited I was when I found out that Anova makes sous vide machines particularly for Hong Kong?
I was ecstatic!
With the sous vide machine and the induction stove, my street-smart kitchen is now back in business!
First Try: Sous Vide Chicken Breast and Asparagus
For my very first sous vide cooking experience, I wanted to do something basic and simple, just to get the hang of this new cooking method. They say that it’s pretty hard to mess up with sous vide since you basically can’t overcook anything.
Well, since it’s so easy to ruin chicken breast on the stove, I decided to sous vide some to see how big a difference sous vide makes compared to the traditional cooking methods.
Prepping and Cooking
This Sous Vide Chicken Breast and Asparagus meal was inspired by my Baked Chicken in Spicy Peach Sauce with Sautéed Asparagus. To keep things simple, I didn’t make the spicy peach sauce for the sous vide meal.
I prepared for six whole chicken breasts, generously seasoning them with kosher salt, black pepper, and paprika. I put them into two sous vide bags and dropped a couple sprigs of fresh herbs like thyme or rosemary in each bag, then vacuum sealed them.
Once the water bath reached 147°F, I dropped the bagged chicken breasts into the water to cook and set the timer for two hours using the Anova app on my phone. It’s so convenient to be able to control the temperature of the water and the cooking time right at my fingertips.
As for the asparagus, I placed three pounds of whole asparagus in one bag, drizzled it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, shook it a little, and sealed it up.
When my chicken breasts were done, I took them out and increased the water temperature to 184°F for the asparagus. It was perfectly cooked in 15 minutes.
The total hands-on time was around 20 minutes, which was mostly spent on seasoning the food and packaging it. Keep in mind that I prepared six meals. If you do less, your prep time would be less as well.
Finishing and Tasting
Searing the food after sous vide cooking seems to be a highly recommended step for finishing cooked meat and poultry. So I heated a cast iron pan with olive oil on the induction stove over medium-high heat and seared my skinless chicken breasts for 30 seconds on each side.
Time to check the results.
The chicken was a little bouncy when I touched it with the side of my knife. As I cut into it, it was so smooth that I could tell the chicken was super tender by the feel of that cut. I immediately put a piece into my mouth. And that bite was just heavenly. It was so juicy and tender. The texture of the chicken was completely different than pan-cooked or baked chicken. I was beyond impressed!
My brother-in-law, who sous vides three times a week, told me to try a lower temperature, 146°F, with the same amount of time next time for an even better texture.
Oh, on top of the best chicken breasts, the chicken juice in the sous vide bags are a very nice bonus. I saved it to flavor some hard-boiled eggs.
Sous vide vegetables do not require any further cooking steps. Once the asparagus is done, take the bag out of the water, transfer the asparagus onto a serving plate, and serve. That’s it.
Sous Vide Is Life-Changing!
I couldn’t believe how well my first sous vide meal turned out, and the process of making this sous vide chicken breast and asparagus quickly made me realize that sous vide is life-changing!
At least for me, with my current kitchen situation, Anova Sous Vide successfully solved my cooking problem, and I feel like the sky’s the limit. Here are some thoughts based on my very limited sous vide experience so far.
- The prep work for sous vide is pretty minimal compared to traditional cooking methods. Not much chopping or seasoning required. Salt and pepper go a long way.
- Cooking is foolproof. Drop the food in the water bath and control the cooking on your phone from anywhere. So you can do other things during the cooking time.
- There’s not a whole lot cleaning to do after cooking. Since you cook food in a bag, after cooking, just dump the water from your saucepan. The sous vide machine does not need to be cleaned, ever. I’ve got no dishwasher in Hong Kong. This is absolutely a bonus point for me.
- Batch cooking is easy-breezy. With sous vide, the effort you make for cooking for two versus cooking for a crowd is pretty much the same. This makes batch cooking very easy. That’s why I was able to do six chicken breasts and three pounds of asparagus in a span of two and a half hours. That’s three days of lunch for the two of us.
- Meal prep Sunday and sous vide during the week. Season your food, put it in a Ziploc bag or a sous vide bag, seal it up, and refrigerate it or freeze it before cooking. Guess what? When ready to sous vide, just drop the same bag in the preheated water bath. Literally no hassle whatsoever.
I am truly amazed by the restaurant-quality results that sous vide produces, and I’m super-duper excited about the endless possibilities that it brings. This is just the beginning. I plan on documenting this new cooking experience and sharing more meal plan ideas. Would you be interested in learning more about sous vide? Let me know in the comments below.
Perfectly tender and juicy sous vide chicken breast paired with sous vide asparagus makes a fabulous low-carb and gluten-free meal.
- 6 whole chicken breasts (skinless and boneless or skin-on bone-in, the thickest part is about 1 ½ inches)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Smoked paprika
- 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
- 3 pounds of whole asparagus
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- More olive oil for searing the chicken
- Attach the Anova sous vide machine to a large saucepan or a sous vide container. Fill your saucepan with water until the water comes up to somewhere between the lines of “min” and “max” that are marked on your sous vide machine.
- Preheat the sous vide machine to 147°F or your desired temperature. Allow the water bath to come to the temperature before adding your chicken.
- While your water bath is getting warmed up, prepare the chicken breasts by seasoning each chicken breast with salt, pepper, and paprika generously on each side.
- To bag chicken breasts, start by folding the top of a sous vide bag or Ziploc bag back over itself to form a hem. This will prevent chicken seasonings and juices from getting on the edges of the bag, which could interfere with the seal or provide vectors for contamination.
- Slide the chicken breasts into the bag along with thyme sprigs. (My sous vide bag is big, so I had three chicken breasts in one bag).
- Unfold the edge before closing the bag. Seal the bag using either a vacuum sealer or a hand pump. You could also slowly lower your bagged chicken into your water bath, letting the pressure of the water press air out through the top of the bag. Once most of the air is out of the bag, carefully seal the bag just above the waterline.
- Place the bagged chicken into the preheated water bath, making sure not to block the intake or output sections of your sous vide machine. If properly sealed, the chicken should sink. Cook for two hours.
- Once the chicken is done, take it out of the water bath and increase temperature to 184°F.
- Prepare a new sous vide bag or Ziploc bag by folding the top. Place whole asparagus into the bag, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Grab the bag and shake well.
- Unfold the edge of the bag and seal it according to step 6. Drop the bag into the prepared water bath, making sure that all asparagus is under the water. Cook for 15 minutes.
- While the asparagus is cooking, finish up the chicken. Take the chicken breasts out of the bags. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
- Add some olive oil in a cast iron skillet and heat it over medium-high heat on your stove. Once the oil is hot, place the chicken in the hot oil and push it down with your spatula for about 45 seconds on one side. (If using skin-on chicken breasts, put the skin side down.)
- Once the chicken is seared, transfer to a cutting board. Let it rest for two minutes and cut into slices. Serve with sous vide asparagus. Enjoy!
I saved the chicken juice from the sous vide bags and used it to flavor sous vide hard-boiled eggs. Amazing!