Why Is My Sous Vide Chicken Rubbery?

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Sous vide is an elegant cooking technique that produces unique tastes and textures that are often superior to other cooking methods. While the procedure is not too complicated, it is governed by set parameters that must be followed for impeccable results.

If your sous vide chicken is rubbery, chances are you have messed up one of these parameters.

Beginner Cooking Tips
Beginner Cooking Tips

Why Is My Sous Vide Chicken Rubbery?

One of the primary reasons your sous vide chicken is rubbery is that you have overcooked it way past the optimum internal temperature. Another reason could be that your vacuum packaging is too tight. Both these practices cause the chicken to become stringy and chewy.

A top view of a whole chicken with herbs and spices on a brown plate

This cooking method aims to deliver exquisite textures where the protein remains tender. If your chicken turns out to be rubbery, you need to figure out precisely what you are doing wrong. Occasionally, the issue can be an incorrect technique, while other times it can the quality of the chicken.

Reasons for a Sous Vide Rubbery Chicken

Multiple reasons can contribute to a rubbery chicken with an overly dry texture. Knowing all the factors and ways to overcome them can help you achieve a tender chicken consistency every time. These include:

Overcooking

Cooking chicken using the sous vide method often ensures more tender and juicier meat than other cooking methods. Since the method is known for its prolonged cooking time, it can be hard to gauge if you are overcooking your chicken without the proper tools.

Sous vide gradually increases the food’s temperature to your pre-determined desired temperature. Therefore, you should ensure that your water bath has a minimum temperature of approximately 140°F to get the perfect texture.

When you overcook the chicken by setting the temperature too high, the protein fibers lose their elasticity due to prolonged exposure to heat, causing your chicken to become chewy. Thus, invest in a food thermometer to monitor the water temperature.

Incorrect Vacuum Sealing

Another reason for rubbery chicken is prepping your chicken incorrectly before it goes into the water bath. Apart from ensuring that your sous vide bag is sealed correctly, you should also ensure that the packaging is not too tight.

While it is essential to remove the air from the bag to prevent it from floating on the surface, if you pack it too tight, it will result in the stringy texture that you want to avoid.

This occurs because not all parts of the chicken have access to the hot water due to overpacking, especially if you have more than one chicken breast in the pouch. Uneven cooking can lead to a rubbery texture.

Woody Breast

A chicken breast is woody when it is hard to touch and pale in color. The muscle fibers in this type of meat are too tight, leading to a poor-quality texture. Woody breasts affect around 5-30% of birds, with no known cause or cure.

Thus, even if you follow all the parameters for cooking chicken using the sous vide method, a woody chicken breast will still yield a rubbery bite. However, this type of meat is not harmful to eat.

Fortunately, identifying a woody chicken is not very difficult, and a simple test can prevent all your time and effort from going to waste. Press on the meat, and if it is firm to touch or you feel hard lumps, it is your cue to steer clear of that chicken.

White Striping

White striping is another factor that affects the quality of chicken. As the name implies, chicken breasts with this issue have fine white stripes of fat and connective tissues running across them. Many of them can be visible in a single fillet, making them very easy to identify.

Chicken fillets with white striping contain a higher fat content and less protein, making them tougher in texture. It also decreases their nutritional value, no longer making them a type of lean meat. While chicken with white stripping is considered safe to eat, it lacks the nutritional value of standard white meat.

A top view of Gnocchi alla Sorrentina with Sous Vide Chicken on a white plate placed on a black wooden table

How to Fix Rubbery Chicken?

While you cannot change the texture of the chicken once it is cooked, you can make it more appetizing by following one of these measures:

  • Serve the chicken with a delicious sauce that becomes the highlight of the dish, taking away the limelight from the meat
  • Repurpose the chicken for sandwiches, wraps, and fillings by shredding the overcooked fillets
  • Reheat the chicken in the oven submerged in a braising liquid for around 15 minutes at 300°F

Frequently Asked Questions

Is It Ok to Eat Rubbery Chicken?

If your chicken is rubbery because you overcooked it, it is safe to eat it. While the texture might not be appetizing, it will not cause any harm to your health. The only chicken that should never be consumed is an undercooked one as it can lead to food poisoning.

How Do You Know Sous Vide Chicken Is Done?

The long and slow process of sous vide often yields chicken that may not look cooked as it has a pale white color. However, if the chicken is completely tender and breaks apart easily with a fork, it is done and safe to eat.

How Long Does a Sous Vide Take to Cook Chicken?

The exact time it takes to sous vide cook a chicken depends on the meat. Chicken breast or light meat takes at least 1 hour up to 4 hours to cook at 140 to 167°F. The dark meat, including thighs, legs, and wings, takes around 1 to 6 hours at 148 to 150°F.

Conclusion

It can be disappointing if your sous vide chicken comes out rubbery in texture after all the time you spent prepping and cooking it. However, once you know the reason for it, you can avoid doing the same mistakes again to achieve consistent results earning you all the praise you deserve.

Nathaniel Lee is an avid cook, drawing on his decades of home cooking and fine dining experience. With inspirations like Alton Brown and Gordon Ramsey, Nathaniel focuses on simple processes to make amazing food.