How to Poach Chicken

5 from 3 votes

Learn how to poach chicken with this simple tutorial that's perfect for meal prepping. Poaching chicken is healthy and versatile for recipes!

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How do you poach chicken and what exactly will it get you? Well, if you like chicken salad, enchiladas, chicken pot pie, and a slew of other dishes, poaching chicken breasts or thighs is an easy route to the tender, succulent pieces of meat that really elevate these dishes.

Poached chicken on plate with lemon slices and herbs

What is poaching?

Poaching is cooking food in a liquid that is barely beginning to boil. The water should look wavy. If even a few bubbles break the liquid’s surface, turn down the heat. In Salt Fat Acid Heat, cook Samin Nosrat says poaching is ideal for meat, like chicken thighs, because the slow, steady cooking turns their connective tissues into gelatin without drying the exterior.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN POACHING AND BOILING?

On a bubbling scale, poaching is a one and boiling is a 10.

  • Poaching, technically, is when the water is just about to start boiling. It may look wavy. Bubbles are tickling the bottom on the pot and rising along the sides without consistently breaking the surface of the liquid. If you took your liquid’s temperature, it would be between 160° -180° F.
  • Simmering is when tiny bubbles consistently rise to surface. A low simmer is a bubble every few seconds, a high simmer more bubbles rapidly.
  • Boiling is all bubbles fast and furious.

Ingredients for poaching chicken

  • Chicken: You can poach chicken breast or chicken thighs. This recipe uses boneless chicken breasts or thighs, but bone-in and/or skin-on works, too. However, bone-in will need to cook roughly twice as long.
  • Chicken broth: Homemade or store-bought either is fine. Chose low, or no salt added broth if you can to control seasonings yourself. You can also just poach using water.
  • Onion: White, purple, any kind will work. You can also use shallots or green onions if that is all you have.
  • Garlic: Feel free to leave out or add more to taste.
  • Spices & herbs: This recipe uses rosemary and a bay leaf, but this part is customizable. Definitely think about spices that will compliment or reinforce the flavors of your recipe.
Ingredients to make the recipe

How to poach chicken

  • Start by seasoning the chicken lightly with salt.
Chicken breast seasoned with salt
  1. Transfer the chicken to a large pot or dutch oven with a lid, add the onion, garlic, herbs, and spices.
  2. Add chicken broth to cover the chicken halfway and bring the mixture to the lowest possible simmer without letting it boil.
  3. Cook the chicken thusly for time given, turn off heat, then cover the pot and let stand in the liquid.
3 image collage to show how to make the recipe
  • Remove the poached chicken from the pot, reserve the broth for another recipe and discard the aromatics.
  • Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes, then slice or dice and use in your recipe.
Poached chicken resting on cutting board

Tips for poaching chicken

  1. Watch the pot and adjust the heat if you need to. Just a few – countable on one hand – bubbles should be breaking the surface of the stock.
  2. Keep an eye on stock levels, too. When poaching a large amount of chicken, if the liquid level sinks, add hot stock or water from a kettle to keep food mostly submerged.
  3. Chose your heaviest pot. Heavier pots like enamel-over-cast-iron dutch ovens are ideal for poaching because they keep a steady temperature making it easier to control the temperature of the liquid.
  4. Don’t skip on spices. Poached chicken, by nature, is a bland food so do not hold back on adding whatever aromatics will complement the dish for which the chicken is destined.

Recipes with poached chicken

Frequently asked questions

Can you poach in water instead of stock?

Yes, I suggest adding even more herbs, spices, salt and peppercorns for seasonings, though.

I am afraid my chicken is not done, how can I tell?

Take the chicken’s temperature. It is safe to eat chicken at 165° F. Some prefer the texture of legs cooked to a higher temp of 175-ish° or so.

Can you poach frozen chicken?

Yes, but for quickest cooking, alter the method. Put frozen chicken in pot with cold liquid, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 minutes, before resting off heat for five. In this case, it is doubly important to check that the chicken has reached an internal temperatue of 165°.

Close up of poached chicken

Poaching chicken breasts (and thighs) creates tender, sliceable, shreddable recipe-ready meat. Once you know how to poach, you might find yourself making chicken salad and enchiladas a lot more often.

For more cooking tutorials, check out:

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How to Poach Chicken

Learn how to poach chicken with this simple tutorial that's perfect for meal prepping. Poaching chicken is healthy and versatile for recipes!
5 from 3 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Main Course
Calories 132
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 25 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound chicken breasts, thighs, or both
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ yellow onion sliced
  • 4-6 garlic cloves peeled
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 4 parsley sprigs
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Chicken stock/broth

Instructions

  • Season chicken lightly with salt.
  • Transfer the chicken to a large pot or dutch oven with a lid. Add the onion, garlic, herbs and spices.
  • Add chicken broth to cover the chicken halfway and bring mixture to a simmer without letting it boil.
  • Simmer for 5 minutes, turn off heat, then cover the pot and let stand for 15 minutes.
  • Remove the chicken from the pot, reserve the broth for another recipe and discard the aromatics.
  • Allow the chicken to rest for a few minutes, then slice and serve.

Notes

Storage: Store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.
Freezing Instructions: Place the cooled chicken into a freezer safe container or bag. It will keep well for up to 3 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 132kcal, Carbohydrates: 3g, Protein: 11g, Fat: 8g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Trans Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 41mg, Sodium: 341mg, Potassium: 155mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 179IU, Vitamin C: 4mg, Calcium: 24mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

Photo Credit: Erin Jensen

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Poached chicken on plate with lemon slices and herbs

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