This sous vide whole chicken recipe will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most flavorful chicken you’ll ever make. Follow the step-by-step guide to round out your perfect chicken dinner. By the way, it’s not poached.

Note: This recipe post was originally published on October 20, 2018, and I have received many questions, comments, and criticisms regarding whether it’s safe to sous vide whole chicken without poaching it in the cooking bag. I feel it’s necessary to address these concerns regarding food safety. Therefore, I’ve updated this post with more information in that regard and different ways to sous vide a whole chicken safely.

This sous vide whole chicken recipe will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most flavorful chicken you’ll ever make. Follow the step-by-step guide to round up your perfect chicken dinner. By the way, it’s not poached.


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When it comes to sous vide whole chicken, almost every single recipe on the internet is poached. There is a good reason for that, which I will explain shortly. 

If a poached chicken isn’t something that sounds attractive to you, I am happy to tell you that I’ve discovered a foolproof path to a perfectly juicy, golden-brown whole chicken without adding any liquid in your cooking bag. 

This sous vide whole chicken is as flavorful as an oven-roasted chicken, with crispy skin and seasoned with my go-to homemade poultry dry rub. 

Before we get into it, though, a common question that I get frequently is why cook whole chicken sous vide? Here’s the answer.

Why Sous Vide Whole Chicken? 

The benefit of using a sous vide precision cooker (versus a grill or oven method) for making a whole chicken is that you can rest assured your chicken is always going to turn out tender, juicy, and cooked to perfection consistently, every time—never overcooked or dry. I’m sure you would agree, less stress in the kitchen is always nice! 

The even nicer part is that once your bird is in the sous vide bath, feel free to walk away from your kitchen. It’s going to take at least six hours (totally hands-free), and even if you leave the chicken in the bath longer, it’s still going to turn out great because sous vide makes it pretty much impossible to overcook it. 

How to Sous Vide a Whole Chicken Safely

The main principle of sous vide cooking is to slow-cook food at a precise low temperature. A lot of the time, the cooking temperature is below 140°F. You might have heard of the “danger zone,” which refers to a temperature range between 40°F and 140°F. When food sits in this range, potentially harmful bacteria, notably food pathogens, can thrive and make you sick. 

One of the most worrisome pathogens is Salmonella, and our beloved chicken has a lot of it. When the center of your chicken reaches 165°F, 100% of Salmonella is killed immediately. And that’s why the FDA recommends the minimum internal temperature for safely cooking chicken is 165°F. 

This non poached sous vide whole chicken recipe will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most flavorful chicken you’ll ever make. Step-by-step instructions included.

When you cook chicken sous vide between 140°F and 150°F, the internal temperature of the bird will never reach 165°F. How on earth is it safe to cook chicken this way? That’s a great question. Please read on. 

Temperature and Time

You know that Salmonella in chicken dies instantly at 165°F. What you might not know is that at 160°F, it takes 14 seconds to kill Salmonella in chicken (5% fat). At 155°F, it takes 50 seconds. When the temperature is brought down to 150°F, the pathogen is killed in 3 minutes

You see, in order to pasteurize chicken or any food, it isn’t just about the temperature. It’s about time as well. Technically, you can cook your chicken at an even lower temperature than 140°F for a longer time, and it will be safe to consume. But I don’t recommend it because the chicken will have a sashimi-like texture, which no one will find appealing. 

The recommended sous vide whole chicken cooking time is 6 hours at 150°F. Not only is food safety ensured, but your bird will also turn out mind-blowingly tender and juicy. Seriously, you are going to be stunned! 


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Can’t wait to roll up your sleeves and put a whole bird in a cooking bag? Hold on for a second. There’s one more thing you should know. 

Fill up That Thorax 

The tricky thing about cooking a whole bird sous vide is removing the air from the thorax. Because air doesn’t conduct heat well, it will prevent the inner part of the chicken from reaching our desired temperature. 

Even if you use a vacuum sealer, there’s no way to suck the air out of the thorax unless you butterfly your chicken. That’s why sous vide whole chicken is usually poached. By adding liquid into the cooking bag, the chicken thorax is filled, and the liquid can effectively transfer heat inside the chicken. 

(Full disclosure: the first time I attempted to cook a whole chicken sous vide, I did not add any liquid in the vacuum-sealed bag. The chicken made its own juice which filled up the thorax during the cooking process. After six hours, my bird was fully cooked and my family thoroughly enjoyed it. None of us got sick. However, it never hurts to take precautions when it comes to food safety.)

After a few more experiments, I discovered a non-poaching way to remove the air from a chicken thorax and it worked extremely well. 

Stuff the thorax of your chicken with onions and lemons!

The onions and lemons act as the heat transfer agent inside your chicken to ensure it reaches 150°F inside out and holds at that temperature during the entire cooking time. They also add an unexpected layer of flavors to your chicken, in addition to the mouth-watering thyme, cayenne, garlic, and paprika dry rub. 

Depending on the size of your chicken, you might need to use more or fewer onions and lemons. Make sure you stuff the thorax as much as possible so there’s little to no air left inside before you bag the chicken. I cut my onions and lemons into slices and stuffed the bird really well. 

Feel free to add a couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary or tarragon or whatever your heart desires inside the chicken.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken (Not Poached) Step-by-Step Instructions

Now, here comes the exciting part! Let’s do this!

Step 1: Preheat water to 150°F using a sous vide precision cooker (I use Anova sous vide).

Anova Sous Vide

Step 2: Make the dry rub for your bird.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken Dry Rub

Step 3: Coat your chicken with the dry rub.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken

Step 4: Stuff the thorax with onions and lemons.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken - Stuffed Thorax

Step 5: Pop the chicken into a large sous vide bag and vacuum seal it.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken

Step 6: Lower the bag into the prepared water bath and set the timer for 6 hours.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken

Step 7: Once the chicken is done, transfer it onto a plate and pat dry gently. Sear it on the stove or using a torch.

Sous Vide Whole Chicken

Hooray! You did it!

The Meat around the Leg Bones of My Cooked Chicken Is Still Pink-ish. Is It Safe to Eat? 

It’s understandable when we see cooked chicken meat that’s not white but pink-ish, we automatically think it’s unsafe. It’s because we’ve spent most of our lives eating overcooked chicken, so when it’s actually cooked properly, it seems underdone. 


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If the cooked chicken doesn’t have the appearance that we expect—all white inside and out—that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to consume. Once again, provided it has been pasteurized fully, it is perfectly safe to eat. 

Round out Your Chicken Dinner

You can turn your chicken dinner into a feast by serving it with a side of buttery garlic mashed potatoes, roasted Brussels sprouts, or keep things nice and simple with a side of steamed broccoli

This recipe is perfect if you love serving up a hassle-free, wholesome dinner on the weekends. Plus, if you’re cooking for only two or three people, this whole chicken will yield enough leftovers to make a hearty chicken salad or a batch of chicken soup the next day.

If you’re looking for delicious sous vide chicken recipes but with a shorter cook time, this Sous Vide Chicken Breast and Asparagus takes only 20 minutes to prep and is ready to go in two hours. 

This non poached sous vide whole chicken recipe will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most flavorful chicken you’ll ever make. Step-by-Step guide included.

What If I Don’t Have a Sous Vide?

Don’t have a sous vide machine or not ready to invest in one yet? Don’t worry. This dry rub I used for this sous vide whole chicken recipe is actually the exact same recipe as my Crockpot Whole Chicken. So you can follow step 1 to step 3 and use totally different cooking methods to cook the chicken.

  • Slow cooker method: Cook the chicken on low for 6-8 hours. Feel free to add whatever vegetables into your slow cooker.
  • Oven method: Roast the chicken at 350°F for 1.5-2 hours or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  • Grill method: Grilled the chicken at 350°F-400°F for 80 minutes (rotate once halfway through) or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Note: For the oven and grill method, you’ll want to melt some butter and brush all over the chicken before cooking. This step will result in golden brown and crispy skin.

Alrighty, as always, I hope you enjoy this easy chicken recipe. Happy cooking as always!

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Sous Vide Whole Chicken (Not Poached)

Sous Vide Whole Chicken

This sous vide whole chicken recipe will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most flavorful chicken you’ll ever make.

  • Author: Sharon Chen
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 6 hours 5 minutes
  • Total Time: 6 hours 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
  • Category: Poultry, Gluten Free
  • Method: Sous Vide
  • Cuisine: American

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 whole chicken (4-5 pounds)
  • 1 large onion, cut into stripes
  • a few lemons, cut into wedges
  • Olive oil
  • Fresh cilantro for serving (optional)

For the chicken dry rub:

  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Instructions

  1. Preheat water to 150°F using a sous vide precision cooker (I use Anova sous vide).
  2. Prepare chicken by rinsing under cold water. Pat dry with paper towels and set it aside.
  3. Mix the dry rub ingredients on a big plate. Now, prepare a large vacuum bag or a Ziploc bag by folding the top of the bag back over itself to form a hem. This will prevent chicken seasonings from getting on the edges of the bag. Set aside.
  4. Place the chicken on the plate and rub the mixture all over it. Sprinkle the excess dry rub inside the chicken if there’s any left.
  5. Stuff the chicken thorax well with onions and lemons. 
  6. Slide the chicken into the prepared bag. Unfold the edge before closing the bag. Seal the bag using either a vacuum sealer or a hand pump.
  7. Lower your bagged chicken into the preheated water bath, making sure the whole chicken is under the waterline. If using Ziploc bag (double bag) 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. Cook for 6 hours.
  8. Once the chicken is done, remove from the water bath and transfer it onto a plate. Gently pat with paper towels. Preserve the cooking liquid from the bag if you like for serving or for flavorful chicken soup or chicken stock later.
  9. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add olive oil and sear the whole chicken on all sides until the skin is golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. You can also cut up the chicken first before searing. Alternatively, fire up the broiler and broil until the skin is golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
  10. Let rest for 10 minutes, discard the onions and lemons, slice, and garnish with cilantro. Serve. 

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1
  • Calories: 145
  • Sugar: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 232mg
  • Fat: 11.6g
  • Saturated Fat: 4.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 1.6g
  • Fiber: 0.6g
  • Protein: 9g
  • Cholesterol: 46mg

Keywords: sous vide whole chicken


Cooking Guide


SOUS VIDE

TIME & TEMP GUIDE

Get instant access to my comprehensive sous vide time & temperature guide (including the basics) for quick and easy reference. It's free.

This non poached sous vide whole chicken recipe will be the juiciest, tenderest, and most flavorful chicken you’ll ever make. Step-by-step instructions included.

58 thoughts on “Sous Vide Whole Chicken (Not Poached)”

  1. I can’t believe how easy this is! I always think of sous vide cooking as fancy and complicated…not with this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I tried this and my chicken was not thoroughly cooked. Juices were running dark pink, and legs were firmly attached. We cut into it and it did not look safe. At that point, dinner was ruined, I did not know how to finish cooking the chicken without it drying out. Took another hour in 375 oven to reach 165.

    1. Thank you for trying this recipe. I am sorry to hear that it didn’t work out for you. I have since updated this recipe article with my personal experiences along with a lot more info regarding sous vide chicken safety. I hope you find it helpful.

  3. Ah! I found the manual suction devices and valved bags – lots of different ones on Amazon. But such mixed reviews. What has your experience been?

    1. Hey John! Good to hear that you found it. This is the type that I use. https://amzn.to/2CTqijr
      I love those because they are easy and convenient. Also, the manual pump takes up no space at all. The set is great for cooking 2-4 servings at a time. But if you want to do a large batch of cooking, manually pumping out the air from each bag could be a little tedious and tiring. That’s the only disadvantage I have experienced. Hope that’s helpful. Cheers!

  4. Where did you acquire that clever Dr Sous manual suction device and bags? My web searches turn up nothing like that.

  5. I have a 2.85 lb de-boned chicken stuffed with shrimp dressing. Would the same times/temp apply for the other boneless preparatrions?

    1. Hello Om, since your chicken is deboned, you might not need 6 hours of cooking time. The temperature (149F or 150F) can be the same for cooking light meat and dark meat of a chicken. I’d shoot for 4-5 hours and check doneness. If you haven’t yet, make sure you download my sous vide time and temp cooking guide for more information. Cheers!

  6. Hi Sharon!

    If I use a larger chicken (+3.5kg) which I generally buy from a local farm, how much does this affect the cooking time using sous vide?

    I’m looking to cook for all the family and especially when having guests, I really don’t want it undercooked.

    Really looking forward to trying your recipe, it looks amazing!

    1. Hey Evdokios! Thanks for reaching out. For larger chicken, I would highly recommend that you butterfly it first, meaning cut it in half in the middle and use two bags to cook the halves. The temp and the cooking time will still be the same. But if you want to cook it as a whole, go for at least 8 hours or even longer. Check and if it’s still not done, add more cooking time. Remember that you can’t really overcook food using sous vide, so might as well cook for longer especially it’s chicken.

      Another option is to sous vide first and finish it off in the oven or grill. That should work too! Hope that’s helpful.

  7. What if I take a whole chicken and cut it into its pieces then Sous Vide, how does that change the cooking time and or temperature and why? I love to understand the science behind the answer.

    1. Hey Dave, if you cut chicken into pieces and sous vide, you don’t need 6 hours of cooking time. Generally, the larger the meat (especially with bones), the longer cooking time you need. For white meat like chicken breasts, 140F for 1.5-2 hours should be enough. For dark meat like thighs and other parts of the chicken with bones, 149F for 2 hours is what I would do. Hope that’s helpful.

      1. Dave: there is another key reason why cutting up a chicken will cook much faster than a whole one when using sous vide. It has to do with the cavity: the chicken pieces are contacting the warm water on both side of the piece (through the bag, of course). But the meat of a whole bird is only touching warm water on one of it’s sides. While the air in the cavity does reach the cooking temperature (say, 150℉), it doesn’t carry as much heat as the water, and thus cooking the meat is slower.
        (Yes, there is a difference between “temperature” and “heat”…. ask someone who’s familiar withthermodynamics.)

  8. I deboned a chicken and added a harissa paste to the inside and outside and rolled it up like a ballotine. Then baked the deboned rolled chicken on/in a grill pan for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 400 degrees to get the meat up to temp. I am thinking of trying this method. Of course I want the crispy skin on the outside. Do you think the same technique and cooking times you used would work on a chicken ballotine?

    1. Hi Michael, the sous vide temp and cooking time used in this recipe is for whole chicken with bones and everything. With deboned chicken, generally, the sous vide temp is between 146F to 149F and the cooking time is 2 hours. You may adjust the temperature and cooking time to change the texture of chicken though. Hope that helps.

  9. Hey , I am doing whole chicken sous vide for the first time now (in Japan). However rather than dry rub I added a bit of butter and olive oil. Will see how it turns out in another 5 hours.
    Thanks
    Duncan

  10. Isn’t their a problem with the meat near the cavity not fully cooking since there is no heat transfer since it’s full of air? Would stuffing it with onions and garlic better cook it?

    1. Hi Ivan, I’ve cooked sous vide whole chicken multiple times and it’s fully cooked each time. If you are concerned about it, you can always use an instant-read thermometer. If it reads 165F, it means that the chicken is done. Also, if you vacuum seal the chicken well, there shouldn’t be any air inside the bag. You may cook the chicken for more than 6 hours. Leaving the meat in the water bath for up to 2 hours shouldn’t affect the texture too much. Hope that’s helpful.

          1. This is wrong. As others have pointed out, the air in the cavity prevents the water temperature from reaching the inner meat. Air is not a good conductor of heat. That’s the whole principle of sous vide, which literally means, “under vacuum.” The reason you need to remove air from the bags is so that the meat is as near the water as possible for heat transference (flotation is less important reason since it could be prevented with clips and a rack). With so much air in the cavity, there is no effective conduction of heat. In other words, the inner meat is not cooking sous vide (under vacuum). Indeed, when I measured my chicken, the inner cavity only registered around 130F. That’s not hot enough to produce steam, which can carry heat through air.
            Very dangerous. It’s precisely why the other sous vide recipes use broth to poach — liquids are a good conductor of heat.

            The page you referenced refers to direct exposure to heat. In other words, the pathogen must be exposed to the temperatures and times on the axes. In this case, the inner meat never reaches safe temperatures so the graph is inapplicable.

            In conclusion, this method is unsafe. I say this as someone with a physics and medical background whose current research is in Infectious Diseases. In other words, I deal daily with pathogens and affiliation p is part of my job.

            If you really want to sous vide a whole chicken, butterfly it first. Then splay it flat before sealing it a bag. Or split the chicken lengthwise and use two separate bags. That way, there is no large air pocket to prevent heat conduction from water to meat.

            1. I am guessing you have never done this. Chickens today are full of water and while I added no water/broth to mine, when it was done the bag was full of chicken broth so the cavity gets plenty of broth and plenty of heat transfer. I did cook mine longer and at 155.

  11. Fascinating way to make a popular dish. I was going to ask how you browned it but, I read that at the end of your post. 🙂

    1. Thanks, Elizabeth! The easiest way to brown it is probably by using a torch. But I did it in a cast iron skillet. 🙂

  12. Your chicken recipe is making me super hungry while typing this comment, and that golden skin makes me want to dip it to lots of gravy and enjoy it. Ohh this is delicious!

  13. I have yet to cook an entire chicken, but this looks like it is worth a try. It’s definitely a skill that I would love to learn and this looks so good!

    1. I remember the first time I cooked a whole chicken. I used a slow cooker. It was scary, but after I did it, it’s honestly not that hard. You just have to try it. 🙂

  14. Fab recipe! And I appreciate you sharing the different cooking methods. I haven’t invested in a sous vide just yet but will be testing this recipe in my slow cooker in the meantime.

  15. Oh wow! I didn’t know you can sous vide a whole chicken! We’ve only been using it on chicken thighs. I imagine a sous vide chicken would be even better than a rotisserie chicken 🙂

    1. The texture of the chicken is so much better than a rotisserie chicken. You’ll have to try it yourself. It’s game changing! 🙂

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