Sous Vide/Sous-B-Q™ Chicken

This simple preparation demonstrates the superiority and versatility of vacuum processed chicken. Smoking will enhance the experience.

sous vide marinade



This recipe utilizes chickens that were cut in half along the backbone. They are frequently marketed in this form, you can ask your butcher. The chickens can be cut up into smaller pieces before processing without altering the procedure or results; Leaving the bone in and the skin intact retains the rustic feel of the dish.

Basic seasoning mix:
Kosher salt: 1 oz/30 g.
Black pepper, ground, 1 teaspoon.
Paprika, smoked, 1 teaspoon.

B2 Sauce, as a condiment, LINKED HERE, or DARK SIDE sauce.

Equipment requirements
Immersion circulator, portable or stationary.
Heat rated container, minimum of 2 gallons/8 liters.
Heat rated sous vide bags, 2 each.
Hot smoker or barbecue.
Kitchen tongs, metal.
Infrared or probe thermometer.


Serves 2-4
Level of difficulty: 2.75


Load the chickens into vacuum bags or Ziploc Freezer Bags. Click Here for how to use the Ziploc method. Process the chicken fully submerged as shown in the slide below @
135 F/57 C for 4 hours up to 8 hours, as per your convenience and scheduling needs.

Once the time has elapsed, remove the water from the vessel (I use a siphon), and refill with iced water. Leave the bags of chicken in the rack in the water. If the water exceeds 70 F/21 C after fifteen minutes, repeat the cooling process. When the chickens have settled at this temperature. they can be removed from the vessel, drained, and refrigerated at 40 F/4 C. I usually leave them in the rack to refrigerate; it saves space and allows for cold air to circulate around the chicken.

The chicken can be processed, smoked and served same day, or after refrigerating overnight. The sealed packages can be safely refrigerated in this state for up to two weeks. This gives you ample time to prepare other items to be served on the day of the event without worrying about cold items coming in contact with the residue of raw chicken.

Smoking the Chicken:

Dip the packages of chicken in hot tap water (110F/43C) for a few seconds to melt the gel that has formed in the bag. Save these juices; click HERE for an explanation. Dry the chicken well, and lay out on a screen or parchment, skin side down. Sprinkle lightly with the seasoning mix and pat lightly. Turn the chicken over and sprinkle again, as shown.

The next step is somewhat controversial. I have written about the danger of exposure to the gases emitted by burning wood/charcoal. It is best avoided if possible. For the purposes of this model I do a “cold start” on the chicken. This is easy with a pellet grill but not possible if you are doing a manual light on charcoal, for example.

Put the chicken on the screen (or the parchment) with the pan below it in the smoker. This prevents moisture from accumulating on the bottom of the chicken. It also helps keep your barbecue clean. Smoke at
180 F/82 C for 4 hours.

Be aware that even PID controlled pellet grills’ temperatures fluctuate widely. That being said, I strongly recommend that the lid not be raised for at least the first two hours. Opening the barbecue repeatedly drastically lowers the temperature so far that the barbecue cannot fully recover. This is a waste of fuel and can also have a deleterious effect on your end product.

This temperature is low enough that nothing can burn–not even the parchment! Nothing is exposed to open flame. Myself, I check it after four hours. That’s usually just about perfect!

Even though smoked/barbecued chicken has a sort of “home made” and rustic image, there is no reason that it cannot be presented in a colorful and appealing manner. Below we share the basic  “fresh out of the smoker” approach, with the chicken cut into large pieces.

Another simple and yet appetizing presentation inhabits a large plate for table, with just a little corn bread and fresh fruit as color and texture counterpoints. Chopped chervil has a subtle and unobtrusive flavor and fulfills the need for something green!

Fine restaurants hesitate to serve chicken prepared this way–not because they consider it undignified, but because they consider it difficult. For a restaurant, this sort of dish is problematic–not because of the sous vide processing, but because of the smoker finish.

No customer wants to wait four hours for their chicken, no matter how good it is. And finishing it ahead of time makes it necessary to store it hot, ready to serve, which results in dry and over cooked product. That being said, we have the luxury of a freedom that restaurants don’t. The reader should be encouraged to discover that this simple item can be served “restaurant style” with little or no modification. If restaurants put their minds to it, they could do it too!

For the polite appetite:

The simple addition of our popular B-2 Sauce or Dark Side sauce, barbecued chicken becomes elevated to modernist status. The accompaniment is a smoked vegetable frittata.

Finally, let me share one more “money shot” that really showcases simple elegance combined with complex flavors of the now proud smoked chicken genre:

As always, I sincerely hope you gained some insight from this recipe. It is a classic demonstration of how calm patience in and out of the kitchen overwhelms frenzied panic and haste. How many dishes can require 10 hours for completion and yet require our participation for a mere fraction of that time?

Norm King


It's almost impossible to find anyone who doesn't like chicken cooked "outside." Whether we call it barbecuing, grilling or smoking, everybody's eyes light up in the summer months as the weekend approaches.

As much as we love the idea of barbecued chicken, we are all familiar with the all too common end product--scorched skin, dry meat, and blood on the bone. Sous vide processing solves all three of these problems in one fell swoop. The chicken is pasteurized before encountering the smoker, so we needn't concern ourselves with the delicate balance between palatability and safety. The color of the skin finally becomes a fairly accurate indicator of degree of doneness!

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