Poached Chicken from Frozen

No need to defrost first—poached chicken from frozen is 100% easy and 100% delicious!

No need to defrost first—poached chicken from frozen is 100% easy and 100% delicious!

Did you forget to defrost your chicken before you wanted to cook it? Well, it’s your lucky day—because poaching is a cooking method that works just as well from frozen as from thawed. So grab that chicken out of the freezer and get cooking.

But first, a little review on poaching. As I explained in my post about poaching chicken (not from frozen), poaching is simply cooking food in gently simmering liquid. That could be water, broth, olive oil, wine, or a combination. You name it. Any liquid.

But what’s really great about poaching is that the moisture around the food helps keep it juicy, and the slower, more gentle heat helps keep the food tender. Which means it’s a great way to cook foods that can easily dry out, like chicken breasts. Poached shrimp is also great.

Lucky for you, poaching is also ideal for frozen foods. Why? Because one of the simplest ways to defrost something is to put it warm water. And that’s essentially what poaching is. So although it takes a little longer to poach a chicken breast from frozen, it essentially defrosts and cooks in one step.

Just like poaching chicken that’s not frozen, start your chicken in cold water and bring it up to a boil gently—boiling the water first and then adding the chicken will cook the outside of the chicken immediately, causing it to firm up and potentially become tough before the inside of the chicken is cooked.

Also just like poaching chicken that’s not frozen, add plenty of salt to the water. Keep in mind that most of that salt gets poured away with the poaching liquid after cooking, and it really does take a lot to get enough into the chicken itself, helping it taste wonderfully chicken-y.

I also add garlic, peppercorns, and parsley for a little extra flavor, but that’s up to you. You could leave it out or you could add other things to the poaching liquid, like other herbs, bay leaves, or ginger.

Once your water comes to a boil, instead of taking it off the heat right away (as you would if your chicken wasn’t frozen), let it simmer very gently for about 3 minutes. Then remove it from the heat and let it finish by simply sitting in the hot water. It should take about 12 minutes for four breasts to reach 150°F. (Read this deliciously scientific blog post to learn why maintaining an internal temperature of 150°F for 3 minutes is as foodsafe as 165 F for 10 seconds.)

In about 40 minutes—only about 15 minutes more than if you’d remembered to thaw—you’ll have tender, juicy poached chicken, perfect for salads, sandwiches, quesadillas, and more.




Poached Chicken from Frozen

  • Author: Jill Hough
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 35 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings


No need to defrost first—poached chicken from frozen is 100% easy and 100% delicious!


  • 4 (7-8 oz.) frozen boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 cups cold water, or more if needed
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 810 peppercorns (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed (optional)
  • a handful of fresh parsley (optional)


  1. Put the chicken in a skillet large enough to hold it in a single layer.
  2. Add the water and sprinkle the salt on top. (If the water doesn’t cover the chicken, add more until it does.) Add the peppercorns, garlic, and parsley, if using.
  3. Bring to a gentle boil over medium heat.
  4. Maintain a gentle simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Turn the breasts over, then cover the skillet and remove it from the heat.
  6. Let the chicken sit in the hot water until the internal temperature is 150°F, about 12 minutes. (The time will vary depending on the size of the breasts.)
  7. Take the chicken out of the water and let it rest at least 5 minutes before slicing or serving.
No need to defrost first—poached chicken from frozen is 100% easy and 100% delicious! #chicken #chickenbreasts #frozenchicken

8 Responses to “Poached Chicken from Frozen”

  1. sheila ressel — December 7, 2019 @ 12:47 pm (#)

    I’ve never poached anything before but it sounds easy enough. Perfect for a weeknight.

    • Christine Pittman — December 9, 2019 @ 10:58 am (#)

      Thanks, Sheila! Let us know how it works for you!

  2. Sandy Klocinski — December 7, 2019 @ 6:08 am (#)

    I will surely try this. It looks so easy!

    • Christine Pittman — December 9, 2019 @ 10:54 am (#)

      It is easy, Sandy!

  3. Sharon — December 2, 2019 @ 6:16 pm (#)

    I am going to have to try this, as I’m terrible about remembering to defrost my chicken earlier in the day. It sounds good, and adding cajun seasoning would be delicious!

    • Christine Pittman — December 5, 2019 @ 10:27 am (#)

      I understand, sometimes you don’t realize till it’s time to get cooking! Enjoy, Sharon!

  4. Judy Gregory — November 28, 2019 @ 5:33 pm (#)

    Wow! So simple and quick. I’m gonna try this.

    • Christine Pittman — November 29, 2019 @ 10:18 am (#)

      Enjoy, Judy!

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