Here’s how to poach chicken breasts so it comes out juicy and flavorful every time. So easy and so many ways to use the cooked chicken!
Poaching may not be something you think of often, other than poaching eggs for eggs benedict. But you can poach all sorts of things! This Poached Salmon recipe is great and today I’ll show you how to poach chicken breasts. It’s so easy and the chicken ends up wonderfully tender.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
What Is Poaching?
Poaching is gently simmering food in liquid. The moisture around the food helps keep it juicy, and the slower, more gentle heat helps keep it tender.
Poaching doesn’t add a lot of flavor, however. You won’t get the browning that baking or pan-searing will get you, or the smoky notes of grilling. But sometimes that simple, straight-ahead flavor of the food itself is ideal. If you’re making a chicken salad for example, the mild flavor of poached chicken will keep your salad light and fresh-tasting.
How To Poach Chicken Breasts
Now that I’ve convinced you to give poaching chicken breasts a chance, here’s a couple of tips to ensure your chicken comes out as juicy and flavorful as possible.
One, start your chicken breasts in a pot of cold water, and bring it up to a boil gently. Don’t boil your water first and then add the chicken. The shock of hot water can end up toughening up the chicken.
Add plenty of salt to the water. My recipe uses 1 and 1/2 teaspoons and it might sound like a lot, but it really does take that much salt in the water to get enough into the chicken itself.
Optionally, you can add other flavors to your poaching liquid. For a basic poaching liquid, I like garlic, peppercorns, and parsley. You could also try sprigs of fresh rosemary or bay leaves.
With the exception of the salt, all these aromatics will make only a subtle difference, so don’t fuss over it too much. Add what inspires you and play around with the flavors.
As soon as the water comes to a boil, take the skillet off the heat and let the chicken finish cooking by simply sitting in the hot water. It’ll take about 10 minutes for four breasts to reach 150°F.
Why aren’t we cooking to 165°F as usual for chicken? In lean white meat, maintaining an internal temperature of 150°F for 3 minutes is as food safe as 165°F for 10 seconds. So, poach your chicken to 150°F, let it rest for 5 minutes, and enjoy juicy, flavorful cooked chicken every time.
How To Use Poached Chicken
I already mentioned that poached chicken is perfect for chicken salad. Poached chicken is also great on a green salad or rice bowl or in a pasta salad.
Shred the chicken and toss with salsa to use in tacos or with BBQ sauce for chicken sandwiches. Cut up pieces of chicken and add to soup or mix in with fettuccine alfredo. Since the chicken is tender and doesn’t have lots of added flavor yet, it’s great to meal prep with and use in all sorts of dishes.
More Cooking Methods For Chicken
You can browse every one of my chicken recipes but here’s some more ways to cook chicken that you should know.
- Best Baked Chicken Breasts
- Baked Bone-in Chicken Breasts
- How to Grill Chicken
- Breaded Air Fryer Chicken Breasts
- How to Roast a Whole Chicken
- Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts
- Perfectly Cooked Chicken Thighs
Podcast Episode About Poaching Chicken Breasts
Listen to me explain briefly about how to poach chicken breasts, along with some other great tips, by clicking the play button below:
Optionally add additional ingredients to the water for flavoring. I like to add 8-10 peppercorns, 2 cloves garlic, smashed, and a handful of fresh parsley.
- 4 (7-8 oz.) boneless skinless chicken breasts
- 4 cups cold water, or more if needed
- 1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
- Put the chicken in a skillet large enough to hold it in a single layer.
- Add the water and sprinkle the salt on top. (If the water doesn’t cover the chicken add more until it does.) Add any additional flavorings.
- Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
- Turn the breasts over, then cover the skillet and remove it from the heat.
- Let the chicken sit in the hot water until the internal temperature is 150°F, about 10 minutes. (The time will vary depending on the size of the breasts.)
- Take the chicken out of the water and let it rest at least 5 minutes before slicing or serving.
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