Poaching a chicken properly can produce a moist, delicious chicken that's ideal to eat as is or to make chicken salad or use in other recipes. It is especially great for anything that calls for cold chicken. While it's not as easy as roasting a chicken and it may take a couple of tries before you get the chicken just right, this is a worthwhile skill that is ideal for a beginner's cooking class.
Things You'll Need
Chicken (can be a whole chicken, or pieces)
Flavorings (you may want to experiment on what you like best, but experts recommend onion, celery, ginger, bay leaf, parsley, and lemon)
Chicken stock (so much better than poaching in water)
Your favorite recipe for cold chicken
You can poach a whole chicken or just breasts. Prepare your stock by using chicken stock instead of plain or even salted water. Add your flavorings or aromatics (green onion, pepper, lemon, etc.) and preheat to 190°F to 205°F (88°C to 95°C). Be sure not to boil; there may be bubbles, but never rolling.
In the old Europe, they used to wrap the chicken in a layer of pork fat or a pig's bladder, but you can achieve an ideally moist chicken, by pulling up the skin and rubbing in real butter. Or use tied parchment paper to cover the chicken or pieces, making sure to cover the breast and legs entirely.
Lower the chicken into hot stock 190°F to 205°F (88°C to 95°C).
A 4.5 lb. chicken will be thoroughly cooked in about an hour and 15 minutes, but use an instant-read thermometer to be sure that the interior breast meat has reached a temperature of about 160°F (71°C) and the middle of the thigh is about 170°F (77°C). You're now ready to cool your chicken and prepare whatever recipe you have chosen
Do not overcook or you'll end up with with stringy, tough, dried-out meat. It's also important to be sure the chicken or the pieces are submerged, because if there are exposed areas, those parts will be dry.
Lower the chicken into the hot stock carefully so it doesn't splatter. When you remove your now-cooked chicken from the stock, also keep in mind that the stock is very hot.