How to Poach Chicken

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Salad bowl with poached chicken.
Salad bowl with poached chicken. (Image: Nikolay Trubnikov/iStock/Getty Images)

Banish dry, overcooked chicken in favor of a velvety, delicious dish that takes minimal time to prepare. Poaching is a wet-heat cooking method that keeps chicken moist and tender with a mild, delicate flavor. Boost the flavor in your dish by poaching the chicken in broth or wine and adding your favorite aromatic vegetables, herbs and spices.

Necessary Equipment

You don't need any special kitchen gadgets or equipment to poach chicken. All you need is a heavy-bottomed, lidded pot that's large enough to accommodate the chicken in a single layer. Alternatively, you can use a baking dish or a skillet. You will also need a cutting board and a sharp knife to prepare any vegetables that you’re including or to trim the fat from the chicken. Additionally, use an instant-read thermometer to determine when the chicken is fully cooked. Poach it until its internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ingredients

At its most basic, poached chicken requires chicken, salt, pepper and a poaching liquid. Poaching works for all kinds of chicken -- skin-on, skin-off, bone-in or boneless. The method is particularly well-suited to cooking boneless skinless chicken breasts which tend to dry out with other cooking methods. Use poaching liquids such as broth or wine to give this mild-flavored dish a little more pizzazz. Other optional ingredients include aromatics such as onions, celery, garlic, ginger or fresh herbs.

Poaching Methods

Add the chicken and aromatics to the pot or pan. If you're poaching it on top of the stove or starting it on the stovetop, add enough liquid to cover the chicken by at least 1 inch. Bring the pot to a boil over medium-high heat on the stovetop, lower the heat to medium-low or low and cover the pot while the chicken simmers. Check the temperature after approximately eight minutes. You can also bring the mixture to a simmer and finish it in an oven that's been preheated to 325 F for approximately five to 10 minutes. Poach chicken in the oven by boiling the poaching liquid, pouring it over the chicken, covering the pan and oven-poaching it in an oven that's been preheated to 400 F for about 30 minutes.

Using Poached Chicken

Poached chicken makes a delectable addition to chicken salad and other recipes. It can also be served immediately as a main dish. Alternatively, transfer it to a platter and keep it warm while you transform the poaching liquid into a sauce. Add the liquid to a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Reduce the liquid by approximately 50 percent and add a little butter and flour to thicken the liquid. Stir the simmering liquid and let it cook for one to two minutes before adding a little cream, if desired. Drizzle the sauce over the poached chicken when you serve it. If you're poaching chicken for future use, optimize its tenderness by letting it cool in the poaching liquid.

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