Easy Poached Chicken
Updated Sep 18, 2023
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Poached chicken breasts are a simple yet versatile ingredient. They’re the perfect blank-slate for a variety of delicious sauces and ingredients. And if done correctly, you’ll get beautifully tender and juicy chicken. Watch the full process in the video below and keep reading for a few tips on how to maximize the flavors.
What Is Poaching?
Unlike baking or pan-frying, poaching is not as common when it comes to cooking chicken. But, I say we change that. Because poaching is extremely easy, super healthy (with no added oils), and delivers juicy, tender, and flavorful pieces of chicken — like this poached salmon!
The key here is to be patient with the poaching process. This low-and-slow method involves cooking foods submerged in water at a low heat level. And this is where you want to make sure the water doesn’t come to a full boil, but very close to a simmer. Ideally, the cooking liquid should be between 170°F to 180°F.
How To Poach Chicken Breasts
In four simple steps, you’ll have perfectly poached chicken. Just remember to not rush the process.
- Start with cold water. Place the chicken breasts into the pan and add in cold water until it covers the breasts. Season the water with salt to give the chicken some natural flavor, that’s key.
- Bring it to a simmer. Turn the heat to medium (don’t try to rush it), until the water reaches a gentle simmer. Then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan.
- Cook on low. Let the chicken simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until it reaches an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This will also depend how thick your chicken breasts are so make sure to keep an eye on it!
- Let it rest. Remove the chicken to a plate or cutting board. Let it rest for a minute or two before slicing or using.
What’s the best internal temperature? 160 degrees fahrenheit is the perfect internal temperature for white chicken meat, like chicken breasts. It’s fully cooked and stays juicy. If you’re using dark chicken meat, like chicken thighs, cook until it reaches 165 degrees fahrenheit.
Add Aromatics for More Flavor
All you really need for poached chicken is water with a pinch of salt. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop there. Aromatics will give it an extra punch of flavor. Here’s a few ways to do this:
- Salt: This is essential. I highly recommend adding 1 teaspoon of salt to the poaching liquid to enhance the flavor of the chicken.
- Herbs: A few favorites are parsley, a sprig of thyme, rosemary, or 1-2 bay leaves.
- Aromatics: Peeled garlic cloves, fresh onions, whole peppercorns, or peeled ginger work wonders. And for an asian twist, you can use kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass.
- Fruit and Veggies: Add chopped carrots, celery, or lemon slices into the mix for freshness and depth of flavor.
- Chicken or Vegetable Broth: Swap water for broth (or use half and half) to intensify the savoriness of the meat itself.
Can You Use the Leftover Chicken Poaching Liquid?
Absolutely! Although it’s thinner and less rich than your regular chicken stock, this is still liquid gold. It’s perfect for adding to cooked rice, stir fried veggies, savory sauces, or used as a light soup base.
Just strain out the solid bits and store it away in the fridge in a glass storage container for up to 5 days. Or freeze it for about 2 months. You can store it perfectly in an ice cube tray or Souper Cubes.
Is Poached Chicken Healthy?
Easy answer – yes! If you’re looking for a meat that’s on the leaner side, poached chicken is your answer. Poaching is one the of the healthiest options when it comes to cooking chicken. No additional fats or oil are used. And the chicken gets enough moisture from simply absorbing the poaching liquid.
How To Properly Store It
You can store poached chicken in sealed containers in the fridge for up to 5 days. But if you’re meal prepping the chicken for a future date, I suggest dicing, shredding, or slicing into pieces beforehand. Then you can freeze it for up to 2 months.
More Ways To Cook Chicken
There’s so many ways to utilize a beautiful chicken, whether it be the breast, thigh, or leg. But since we’re talking about the basics today, here’s a few ways to create tons of delicious chicken recipes:
- Make shredded chicken with my secret method to create casseroles, toss into salads, include in wraps, stuff into sweet potatoes, or bake with enchiladas.
- Roast or bake your chicken with seasonings or sauces. A few recipe favorites are my crispy baked chicken thighs, soy garlic chicken wings, roasted balsamic chicken with Brussels sprouts, and herbed honey mustard chicken.
- Make slow cooker chicken for juicy, fall-off-the-bone, tender pieces of meat.
- Stir fry diced chicken pieces for easy meals such as coconut curry chicken, chicken teriyaki, or chicken fajitas.
Easy Poached Chicken
- 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, you can always cook more with a larger pan/pot
- water or broth
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- Place the chicken breasts into the pot. Add in cold water until the breasts are covered by about an inch of water, and season with salt. If you'd like to add aromatics like lemon slices, onions, garlic or herbs, you can add them now.
- Bring the water to a gentle simmer over medium heat. If you see some white froth accumulate on the surface, that's just fat from the chicken. You can optionally skim it off if you plan to save the liquid. Otherwise, don't worry about it.
- Once it's gently simmering, cover the pan, and reduce the heat to low.
- Let the chicken simmer for 10 to 15 minutes (depending on the size/thickness of your chicken) or until the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Remove the chicken from the water and let it rest for a few minutes before using or storing away into containers. You can also dice it or shred it for weekly meal prep.
- If you'd like to save the poaching water, which is a light chicken broth, strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve and store in glass containers in the fridge or freezer.
- This recipe yields about 2.5 cups of shredded or diced chicken, for average sized chicken breasts.
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