Why Is My Sous Vide Chicken Pink?

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If you have begun sous vide recently, you might ask, ‘Why are my sous vide chicken pink?’ Making food is an art because you must ensure that it is as appealing to the eye as it is flavorful. When you pick up any new cooking technique, you are more particular about this.

Why Is My Sous Vide Chicken Pink?

Sous vide chicken may remain pink because it is cooked at a much lower temperature than normal for long periods of time to achieve pasteurization. Of course, some marinades or spices added to the bag can give the chicken some color when it is done.

Chicken breasts with herbs on a white plate placed on a brown chopping board

The color change in meat during cooking is due to the chemical and physical processes that occur due to increasing temperature. As such, if there are physical or chemical blockers present, your food will not change color or may not fully change to white.

One of my favorite ways to prep chicken is to brine it. Either dry brining with a salt rub or a wet brine with salt and wine work great for sous vide chicken. However, both these processes will hinder the pink to white color change in chicken I am used to.

If you aren’t sure about your temperature or the doneness of the meat, you can use a separate thermometer to calibrate your sous vide water bath temperature.

Remember, pasteurization is a combination of both time and temperature. So if your temperature is right, you just need to ensure it is cooking long enough to be safe for human consumption.

The Cooking Process for Sous Vide Chicken

Putting a whole chicken with skin in a vacuum-packed sous vide silicone bag and immersing it in hot water will take a couple of hours to cook. The color of the skin and the meat underneath will depend on the recipe you use.

Some recipes have dark marinades, giving the meat a darker shade when done. Additionally, the type of meat you use (white or dark meat) will affect the final cooked color.

Similarly, different recipes can result in chicken meat coloring between salmon pink, dark red, and even pale. As long as your food is cooked to temperature and has enough time to pasteurize, you won’t have to worry about the color of the meat. Pink chicken meat tastes fine, and you will love how all the flavors combine to give a richer experience.

Is Chicken Fully Cooked if It Is Pink?

Pink chicken can still be fully pasteurized. At 130°F it takes about 2 hours to safely prep food via sous vide. If your chicken is prepped with pink salt, smoke, wine, or other additives, your chicken may never fully change color to white.

In a sous vide stock pot of hot water, a vacuum-sealed bag with chicken will need hours to cook fully. When you pull it out, the color may be pink, and the meat might look underdone compared to what I am used to. However, the slow process and consistent temperature make the cooked item safe, tender, and ready to eat.

Sous vide cooking involves vacuum-sealing the meat, vegetables, or other foods in a plastic bag and then immersing it in a preheated pot of water. The ideal temperature for cooking this meat is between 130°F and 165°F.

Compare this to cooking on a grill or in a pan at heats that are 3 or 4 times as high. With very high heat, you get charring, caramelization, Maillard reaction browning, and of course, the color and textural changes you are most familiar with.

The Texture of Sous Vide Chicken

The texture of chicken cooked with the sous vide method will be tender. Many other methods of cooking result in a chewy and dry texture. Sous vide chicken remains so tender because the low heat cook does not force juice out of the meat.

The crispy and glazed finish is not possible with sous vide alone. To get the perfect piece of chicken, you will want to dry the chicken as it comes out of the sous vide, then sear it as high and quickly as possible. This gives you the best of both worlds with a tender, juicy center and a flavorful browned exterior.

The Thickness of the Chicken Fillet and Its Pink Color

When cooking with a sous vide, the thickness of your cut of chicken shouldn’t make any difference to the final color if cooked correctly.

Since a sous vide cooks the entire piece of meat evenly and fully to the temperature of the water, there is no gradient present in the finished product. If you are still seeing a color gradient, you may have not allowed the chicken enough time to cook.

Two-sliced chicken breasts with rosemary herbs toppings placed on a white surface

Undercooking Chicken and Pink Color

To avoid undercooking your chicken in a sous vide, you need to ensure your water is fully up to temperature before putting your food in. Additionally, the better the vacuum seal on the bags, the more efficiently they’ll cook. Air is a terrible conductor of heat, so removing as much of the air as possible ensures heat transfers into the food.

Once your food is sealed and your water is up to temperature, don’t start the timer until the food hits the water. Then, add 20-30 minutes of buffer for the meat to heat up to temperature before the pasteurization clock can begin.

Related Questions

People trying sous vide for their favorite type of meat for the first time might want to know more about how it is cooked and whether they are doing it right. Some questions still need to be answered for more clarity. It can never hurt to see what people are asking and how experts answer them!

What Is the Best Temperature for Sous Vide Chicken Breasts?

The best temperature for sous vide chicken breasts is between 135° Fahrenheit and 145° Fahrenheit. It’ll take a little more than 2 hours to fully cook, but this will give you a juicy and tender chicken.

Do I Need to Cook More if the Chicken Is Pink?

No, sous vide chicken may appear pink when it is fully cooked and tender. However, be sure to put the vacuum-sealed bag in the water for the time specified in the recipe. Since sous vide is slow cooking, it may take longer for the meat than if you were preparing it over the fire.


Even if your chicken is pink, that’s okay when cooking with a sous vide. Your sous vide chicken can be done and pasteurized while remaining pink in tone. Seasonings, brines, and marinades can all affect the color and chemistry that change the color of your chicken.

Just make sure your temperatures are correct, and you are following the recipes for timing. As long as your food has cooked long enough to pasteurize, it’s good to go.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. He is a contributing chef at Mashed, and his recipes and contributions have been featured in Tasting Table, Edible Arrangements, Insanely Good Recipes, and The Daily Meal.