Cooking chicken breasts in simmering water, or poaching them, produces tender, delicately flavored meat suitable for use in a wide variety of recipes. Chef Darin Sehnert explains that boiling chicken can overcook the proteins and dry it out, and poaching is a gentler cooking method. You can poach both bone-in chicken breasts and boneless, skinless breasts. Try poached chicken in sandwiches, on quesadillas or in soups and salads for convenient weeknight meals. You can make poached chicken more flavorful by seasoning the cooking water or replacing water with chicken stock.
- Chicken breasts
- Cooking pot
- Whole black peppercorns
- Slotted spoon
- Instant-read meat thermometer
- Heatproof bowl
Try adding lemons, white wine, celery, carrots or herbs and spices to the cooking water.
Place chicken breasts into a heavy pot. Add enough water to cover the chicken breasts, plus one additional inch.
Add seasonings of your choice to the pot. Some options include garlic cloves, peppercorns, peppers or salt.
Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat. Look for bubbles along the sides of the pot, but none in the center of the pot.
Reduce the heat to medium-low. Maintain the water at a very gentle simmer. Skim foam from the top of the water with a slotted spoon as it appears.
Cook until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 160 F in the thickest part of the breast when checked with an instant-read meat thermometer. Expect this to take 15 to 18 minutes for bone-in breasts and somewhat less time for boneless, skinless breasts.
Transfer the cooked chicken to a heatproof bowl. Strain the cooking liquid and allow the poached chicken to cool in the liquid.
Remove the meat from the bones, discarding the bones, skin and fat if you've poached bone-in breasts. Shred or slice boneless breasts, discarding gristle or fat. Use the meat in any recipe calling for cooked chicken.
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With a master's degree in art history from the University of Missouri-Columbia, Michelle Powell-Smith has been writing professionally for more than a decade. An avid knitter and mother of four, she has written extensively on a wide variety of subjects, including education, test preparation, parenting, crafts and fashion.