How to Perfectly Poach Chicken

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Poaching is an excellent cooking method to use when preparing meat for various dishes such as chicken salad. Boneless skinless chicken breasts have a tendency to dry out very easily, and wet cooking methods like poaching are ideal for retaining moisture and infusing subtle flavors. Starting with cold water keeps the meat from seizing up, and the technique yields perfect results everytime!

Image Credit: Jennifer Farley -

Things You'll Need

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, (2 to 4)

  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • Lemon, sliced (1)

  • Optional: 2 bay leaves

  • Optional: 1 clove garlic, smashed

  • Water

  • Dutch oven or large saucepan

  • Thermometer

Step 1: Gather your Ingredients

This recipe can be scaled up or down depending on how much chicken you need depending on your recipe. Technically, the only required ingredients for poaching are chicken breasts and cold water. Everything else adds a subtle flavor enhancement. However, at the minimum I do recommend adding the peppercorns, salt and lemon slices. It's important that the internal temperature of the chicken reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit, so a thermometer is important to have on hand while cooking.

Image Credit: Jennifer Farley -

Step 2: Place Ingredients in a Saucepan

Place the chicken in the bottom of a Dutch oven or large saucepan. Top with the peppercorns, salt, lemon slices, garlic and bay leaves, if using.

Image Credit: Jennifer Farley -

Step 3: Cover Ingredients by 2 to 3 Inches with Cold Water

Cover the ingredients with cold water by at least 2 inches. The chicken should be completely submerged. While it takes more time to poach the chicken when starting with cold water, the final results will be more tender and juicy.

Image Credit: Jennifer Farley -

Step 4: Poach Chicken

Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit, approximately 8 to 10 minutes.

Image Credit: Jennifer Farley -

Step 5: Remove from Poaching Liquid

Carefully remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and pat dry. (Discard the liquid.)

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Step 6: Dice and Add to Your Recipe

Dice the chicken. It's ready to use!

Here's a simple, delicious chicken salad recipe to get you started.

Image Credit: Jennifer Farley -