Sous Vide Lemon and Roasted Garlic Chicken (with alternate method)

Learn how to make a juicy lemon chicken using the sous vide of cooking. Preserved lemons and roasted garlic add so much flavor to chicken breasts and sous vide ensures they be extra moist. Make the chicken ahead and then grill or pan sear right before you plan to serve dinner. A great make ahead recipe for entertaining or meal planning!

sous vide chicken with lemon and roasted garlic on a white platter and gray napkin.

Sublime describes this lemon and roasted garlic chicken that I cooked using a cooking technique called sous vide. But before I share below how to sous vide, here’s what you need to make the chicken.

Lemon and garlic go hand in hand, dontchya think? They are a classic pairing in cuisines like Italian, Greek, French. Garlic catapults lemon to over the savory side and roasted garlic mellows the whole dish in a way that is simply sublime.

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Garlic chicken ingredients

lemons, roasted garlic, lemon zest, rosemary and thyme on a gray board.

Ever heard the expression that “all great recipes begin with garlic”?

No? Well it’s one now and this chicken supports its presence. Here’s what you need:

  • Garlic. Roast garlic in the oven (400° for approx 30 min) and mash-up the cloves with some chopped herbs.
  • Lemon. FOUR DIFFERENT KINDS!
    • Preserved lemons
    • Zest of fresh lemons
    • fresh lemon juice
    • preserved lemon juice (from the jar of aforementioned preserved lemons) you’ll be whisking in the marinade as well.

Marinade Chicken

Take all that lemony and garlic-laden marinade, add some preserved lemons and spread it all over your chicken and either place in a freezer bag or in a glass container.


TO SOUS VIDE OR NOT TO SOUS VIDE: THAT IS THE QUESTION

orzo with asparagus and tomatoes and some chicken on a white platter with lemon slices.
Juicy chicken thanks to sous vide.

What is sous vide?

Maybe you’re like me and you have a sous vide circulator sitting in a box. Pull it out and let’s get to work!

If you watch any cooking shows on TV, you are probably familiar with the term “sous vide.” Sous vide (or “under vacuum”) involves cooking vacuum bag-sealed ingredientsin a water bath and then finishing them on the stove, oven, or grill.

What types of food can be cooked sous vide?

Meats, poultry, veggies and more (eggs, dessert and coffee!) can be cooked via sous vide. Restaurants use sous vide all the time to deliver a perfectly cooked product that typically would take hours to prepare and serve it within minutes to their customers. Home cooks can also benefit from sous vide at home.

What are the benefits of sous vide?

  • Timing. of dishes and meals making it so easy to cook for a group. For example, if you have steaks that you want prepared to different temperatures you can cook them using sous vide to the rarest temp needed, remove them from the bath and finish them later when you’re ready to eat.
  • Even cooking. Produces food that is evenly cooked throughout at a consistent temperature making it almost impossible to overcook your food.
  • Flexible. Makes it easy to prepare different proteins for different members of your family.
  • Improved texture of meats. Like this chicken – it’s SO juicy!

Sous vide equipment

sous vide equipment including a stockpot, immersion circulator, and plastic bags.
  • Immersion circulator – In order to sous vide, you need an immersion circulator which basically is a big electric thermometer that generates a current to heat an even bigger tub of water to the perfect temperature all while moving the water.
  • Plastic tub – And I don’t mean the kiddie pool in your backyard. Think of a big tub deep enough to hold the amount of food you’re cooking along with the water it needs. For 4 chicken breasts, small steaks or veggies, you could use an 8 qt stockpot. For larger amounts of food , you can pick up one of these large plastic bins.
  • I also recommend using a double-walled beverage tub that doesn’t form condensation on the outside.
  • Plastic bags – there are special bags specifically made for sous vide although you’ll see in this recipe I have used freezer-style Ziplocs. Bottom line: all freezer bags from name brands are lined with polyethylene which is a food-safe, approved plastic that you can use to sous vide.
  • Vacuum Sealer – You don’t need a vacuum sealer to sous vide. If you have one, great!
    • Otherwise, you can use the water displacement method where you gradually dip the ALMOST closed bag into the water and as you get to the top of the bag, the water pressure pushes the air out of the bag making it easy to seal the bag without excess air. Here is more info from Serious Eats on how to use the water displacement method. And note the use of freezer-bags.
  • Clips – having a clip, like a binder clip, secure the bag to the side of the container makes it easy to fish out the bag and reduces the risk of puncturing it with tongs.

Step by Step: Lemon Garlic Chicken

bag of chicken and lemons in a sous vide immersion circulator.
sous vide chicken in food bag using the immersion circulator.

With an immersion circulator

  1. Fill large stockpot (I use an 8 qt wide pot) with water about 2/3 of the way up. Attach sous vide to side of pot securing it tightly.
  2. Set temperature to 146° and the time to 1 hour on the circulator according to manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Once the water has come to temperature, lower the vacuum-sealed bag into the water clipping the top to the side of the pot.
  4. When the circulator signifies cooking has ended after one hour, either allow the food to stay in the water bath for no longer than 4 hours (for chicken). Or remove and refrigerate until needed that day.
  5. Heat a skillet with a little olive oil on medium high and sear the chicken for about 2 minutes on each side until the internal temp reaches 165°.

Without an immersion circulator

If you won’t, you can marinate the chicken for just 30 minutes in the lemon garlic paste and then grill it up. Either way, you’re going to have many happy campers at your table. Keep reading for all the sous vide info or just head on down to the recipe if you’re ready!

Tips

white platter of arugula topped with lemons and chicken with herbs.

For a crowd: if you’re having a crew over, sous vide a bunch of proteins ahead of time and have them ready and waiting in the water. Then when it’s time to eat, remove then from the bath and finish them on the stove, in the broiler or on the grill! Easy peasy!

For a few: prepare vacuum-sealed freezer bags ahead of time with smaller portions of marinated chicken and freeze ahead of time. Then place in your sous vide ready tub and cook from frozen. Just multiply the cooking time by 1.5.

Made this recipe?

I’d love it if you’d share your review and leave a star rating and comment!


sous vide chicken with lemon and roasted garlic on a white platter with utensils and a gray napkin.
4.50 from 2 votes

Lemon and Roasted Garlic Chicken

The flavors of this chicken are over the top thanks to roasted garlic and three different types of lemon.
Prep Time:45 minutes
Cook Time:1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time:2 hours

Equipment

  • immersion circulator
  • freezer bags or sous vide bags
  • vacuum sealer or handheld pump
  • tub or 8qt. stockpot

Ingredients
 

For the Marinade Paste

For the Chicken

Instructions

For the Marinade Paste

  • Preheat oven to 400°
  • Trim the top of the garlic clove but cutting with a knife across the top ⅛-¼ of the head exposing all the cloves.
  • Place garlic head on a small piece of foil and place on an ovenproof small dish. Drizzle garlic with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Loosely bring up the sides of the foil around the side of the garlic leaving the top open.
  • Roast garlic in the oven for 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool and set aside.
  • While garlic is cooking, zest both lemons and then juice one of them. *NOTE: if you're not using sous vide, juice BOTH lemons)
  • Place/pour zest and juice into a small bowl.
  • Squeeze head of garlic lightly to pop out the roasted cloves and add them to the lemon zest/juice bowl.
  • Add herbs, salt, and crushed red pepper to the lemon mix and mashup completely with a fork creating a slightly smooth paste. Don't worry if there are any chunks of garlic. Just make sure you got all the papery skins out.

For the Chicken

  • Place the chicken into a sous vide gallon size freezer bag or vacuum bag. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
  • Spread the lemon garlic paste on top of the chicken along with the four preserved lemon halves.
  • Remove as much air as possible from the bag either using a vacuum sealer, handheld pump or water displacement method. If the chicken will be frozen immediately, seal it up and freeze it for later. Just get as much air out as possible.

Sous Vide Method

  • Fill large stockpot (I use an 8 qt wide pot) with water about 2/3 of the way up. Attach sous vide to side of pot securing it tightly. **TIME SAVER: use hot water to begin with!
  • Set temperature to 146° and the time to 1 hour on the circulator according to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Once the water has come to temperature, lower the vacuum-sealed bag into the water clipping the top to the side of the pot. You can also use the water displacement method.
  • When the circulator signifies cooking has ended after one hour, either allow the food to stay in the water bath for no longer than 4 hours (for chicken). Or remove and refrigerate until needed that day.
  • Heat a skillet with a little olive oil on medium high and sear the chicken for about 2 minutes on each side until the internal temp reaches 165°.

Grill Method

  • Heat a grill to medium heat.
  • Add extra lemon juice (see above).
  • Allow chicken to marinate in the lemon garlic paste for about 30 minutes to an hr in the refrigerator.
  • Remove from marinade and discard the remaining marinade.
  • Place chicken on grill over direct heat and cook for 8-12 minutes flipping once until meat is no longer pink and the internal temperature reaches 160°. Remove from grill and rest for approximately 5 minutes until the chicken reaches 165°.

Notes

  • For extra-large chicken breasts: butterfly them (slice in half horizontally without going all the way through and then open like a book) and then slice in half down the middle lengthwise.
  • Another option is to double the garlic paste mixture.
  • For a reusable plastic bag alternative, try Stasher bags. 
Course: Chicken
Author: Lori Murphy
Did you make this recipe? Tag @josieandnina or tag #josieandnina!

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4 Comments

  1. Hi!
    This is a great, easy recipe! Yes to the Sous-Vide!!! I highly recommend this method to anyone who wishes to cook protein easily, without having to watch over it too much, and without the risk of drying it out (a la the slow cooker). My spouse loves gadgets and programming and now he is cooking more often because of this lovely item.
    The flavor is wonderful too. I only gave it 4 stars because my chicken breasts did not seem to soak up as much flavor as I had hoped. Maybe that was because the chicken breasts I used seem extra thick? Honestly I would hate to see how big these chickens were in real life. They just seemed too big! Any recommendations? Questions: 1) Can you cut the meat, to add more surface area for flavors to sink in? and (slightly unrelated) 2) Do you know of any way to cook with this method that doesn’t require a plastic bag that then needs to be thrown away? I realize this last question may be difficult. I can also do some research and repost if I find anything. I love your blog and style of cooking! I also went to Kendall’s blog and made the Orzo Pasta Salad with the Roasted Tomato Dressing. YUM! Yes I scraped that dressing out of the blender and ate it with a spoon!! Thanks for the tip!4 stars

    1. Thanks so much for the awesome feedback and review, Sarah! I SO appreciate all of it. And so happy you love to sous vide. I love the flexibility it offers along with all the flavor. Regarding the thick chicken…it is a constant battle in our house bc my husband isn’t a fan of too thick chicken breasts. I definitely think the thickness affects the ability to soak up all the flavor (and I’ll make a note of this in the recipe). There are a couple of things I might try with thicker breasts. First, I would butterfly the chicken breasts (slice them in half horizontally and open like a book) and then cut into two pieces and sous vide from there. Another alternative that you could also try is to double the garlic marinade. If you get a chance to try it before I do, please let me know. And thanks again for the comment and review!😀

      Regarding the bags, I looked into this and am going to pick up some of these large Stasher bags. They look like they would be awesome for sous vide. I have a small one I plan to experiment with.

      p.s. Kendell says thank you for trying the Orzo Salad and we both agree that the dressing is drink-worthy!!

      1. Thank you Lori! I so appreciate the reply!!

        I made the Lemon and Garlic Roasted Chicken again (had more chicken to cook) and it came out even better!! So, note to everyone, I think with these kinds of recipes (and new gadgets) you really have to play with them a bit and give them several tries. This time I used slightly less chicken and more garlic. Just a “supplies-on-hand” kind of thing. Honestly – it was some of the best chicken I’ve ever had. FULL of flavor. Go figure. I wish the government would just go ahead and send every household a free sous-vide. It’s such a tough time right now, with parents trying to work from home, kids in the house all day. Be well everyone! And thank you food bloggers for helping to keep us all inspired and cooking!5 stars

        1. Hey Sarah – no thank YOU! It is readers and people like you who make this so fun! I love that you responded to me – totally made my day!
          And I agree on the sous vide for everyone! Btw, that is totally how I like to cook and want you to be able to cook… with confidence to experiment. It’s just cooking, right? Wishing much good health to your family! xo