Friday, February 12, 2010
Sous Vide Fried Chicken- can it be done?
Sous vide- Fried Chicken
As always you may wish to see my original blog post for details on how I made a machine to cook sous vide at home. Instead of spending $500- $2,000, I did it with stuff I had at hand, and have done very well.
From everything I had read and experienced regarding cooking sous vide, fried chicken seemed to be a perfect fit. Sous vide makes meat more tender, you don't have to use as much oil to season, and the protein is cooked uniformly from top to bottom.
I thought that if I could cook chicken sous vide, dry it, bread it like a chicken finger or fried chicken wing, and finish it in a pan with just a tablespoon or two of oil you could create a pretty good replica of the original, greasy, calorie-riddled original.
I heated my cooker to 140 degrees, and brined my chicken breast. I love the taste of wings, but typically prefer the ease of eating something boneless. I brined the chicken in the fridge for half an hour, using a 5% kosher salt to water ratio. I zeroed out my scale, added 50 grams of water, then 5 of kosher salt. Once I took the chicken out of the fridge, I dried it and seasoned it with garlic powder, pepper, and kosher salt. Then I sealed it in the bag and put it in the cooker.
Next I took the chicken out of the cooker after a little over an hour- from what I read I could have gotten by with 45 minutes, but I'm always overly cautious with chicken, especially if a little longer won't dry it out (as it would in the oven or on the grill). I dried off the two chicken breasts and dredged only one of them with flour, but not the other (I wanted to see if no flour would help the bread crumb outer layer from flaking off when cut). I dipped the breasts in my egg wash- I used two eggs and beat them together with a quick squirt of mustard. While my pan was heating with vegetable oil, I breaded them with panko bread crumbs, which are always very crunchy.
I cooked them off in the pan on high heat. Because all I wanted was to brown the bread crumbs and make them crunchy it didn't take long. Also, given the brief time in a small (much smaller then deep frying) amount of oil, I reasoned the chicken should be far healthier then it's soaked-in-oil cousin.
The chicken came out great. Very juicy and tender with a crunchy outside. While the flavor of the chicken on the inside was slighly different from fried chicken, it was just about as juicy as if it had been deep fried. If I were to consider the difference in calories, I would definitely stomach the extremely small gap in taste. I also wouldn't say one is necessarily better then the other, only slightly different.
The only issue I had with this fried chicken is the same I've always had. When you put the chicken in the egg wash, then the break crumbs it does give a nice crunch to the outside but it's also a separate layer from the chicken breast. Whenever I cut into the chicken, sometimes a larger piece of the breading will come off as well. It still tastes fantastic, but I wish it would stick firmly to the chicken.
Skipping the flour on one of the breasts was not the right move. It didn't help the breading stick any better, it was actually worse. Next time I'm going to make a couple of adjustments. For one, I think rather then brining the chicken, I'm going to have it soak in buttermilk with salt. This is much the same process, but my hope is that the buttermilk will help to further replicate traditional fried chicken. I'd also like to locate a good list of seasoning for vacuuming the chicken. For example, what did KFC used to advertise- 17 herbs and spices? I'm sure I could have used paprika and countless others. I'll try to remember not to overdue it since it was very flavorful, but I hope this will also make it as closer to deep fried chicken. Oh yeah, I'll also remember to take pictures next time, although I have plenty more for my next post- steak again!