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How to Poach Chicken and Get It Right Every Time

Learn How to Poach Chicken

Poaching chicken is a culinary technique that will serve you well. Once you learn how to poach chicken so that it is moist and tender, as well as cooked through so it is safe to eat, you will find a multitude of uses for it. From salads, to soups, to sandwiches it is a wonderful item to prep in advance and then throw into a variety of meals throughout the week.

Here is What You Need to Know to Poach Chicken

1. What Kind of Chicken is Best to Poach?

I like to poach whole, skinless, boneless breasts. While I am a great fan of chicken thighs, there are a lot of better ways to cook them. (Check out my post on Chicken Thighs for why I love this cut of meat.) You can poach bone-in, skin on breasts, but you will wind up discarding all these extra bits. When I poach chicken, I am looking for a lean and moist finished product that is perfect for adding to salads, soups and sandwiches.

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2. What Kind of Pan do You Use?

I use a fairly deep skillet or sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. I am looking for a pan that is deep enough that I can lay the chicken breasts in the pan in a single layer and completely cover them with water. Don't overcrowd the breasts; there should be some space in between each breast.

3. Start with Flavorings

How to poach chicken | Something New For dinner Lay the chicken in the bottom of the pan. Now add some flavorings. There are a variety of ways to flavor poached chicken. You can pick your flavorings to match whatever the final recipe is that you plan to make. For instance, for an Asian chicken salad you might use ginger and a bit of soy sauce. However you flavor your chicken, do use 2 -3 teaspoons of kosher salt. Like cooking pasta, adding salt to the water will greatly enhance the flavor of the chicken. Don't worry, you will not be ingesting all of this salt. Most of the salt will stay in the liquid when you remove the chicken. Below are additional flavorings you can use to poach chicken:
  • Onions, shallots or leeks
  • Garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
  • Citrus rind and/or juice
  • Fresh or dried herbs
  • Fresh ginger, sliced and smashed
  • Soy sauce
  • Wine or beer
  • Chicken stock (to boost the flavor)
  • Whole peppercorns (I always add these)

4. Now Add Cold Water to Cover the Chicken

How to poach chicken IP1 - Something New For Dinner After you have layered the chicken with whatever flavorings you plan to use, cover the chicken in cold water. Using cold water is important because it allows you to bring the temperature of the chicken up slowly as the water heats. How to poach chicken IP3 | Something New For Dinner Over medium heat, heat the water just before a boil. When you see the water begin to move, but before it starts to bubble, flip the chicken and cover with a lid and turn down to the lowest temperature on your stove top.

5. When is the Chicken Done?

Chicken is done when it is pasteurized. What does this mean? It means the chicken has been heated to a high enough temperature for a long enough duration to kill 99.9% of bacteria and other pathogens. Most people focus on the internal temperature that must be maintained for only 10 seconds to achieve pasteurization. For chicken this is 165 degrees F. What many people don't realize is that lower temperatures will also achieve pasteurization, they just need to be held for longer times. Below is a range of times and temperatures that will achieve pasteurization where the chicken is safe to eat:
  • 165 degrees F -- 10 seconds
  • 160 degrees F -- 13.7 seconds
  • 155 degrees F -- 44.2 seconds
  • 150 degrees F -- 2.7 minutes
  • 145 degrees F -- 8.4 minutes

6. To Achieve Tender Moist Chicken, Shoot for 155 Degrees

Howe to poach chicken | Something New For Dinner If you poach your chicken to 165 degrees or above, you will have flavorless, dried out chicken. To achieve moist, succulent, poached chicken you want to shoot for internal temperatures of 155 degrees and hold that temperature for one minute.

7. Use an Instant Read Thermometer to Check Doneness

You absolutely need an instant read thermometer to poach chicken successfully and safely. So going back to step 5, after your chicken has been in the poaching liquid on low heat for about 6 - 7 minutes, check the internal temperature by removing the chicken from the pan and inserting the instant read thermometer into the middle of the thickest part of the chicken breast. If the chicken has reached 155 degrees, return it to the pan and put the lid back on.  Allow the chicken to sit for one minute and then remove it from the pot. Double check that the chicken is still at 155 degrees after a minute. I use this insta-read Javelin Pro thermometer. They offer a less expensive version that takes a few seconds more and has a shorter probe. How to poach chicken | Something New For Dinner The total time to poach a chicken breast will depend on how thick your chicken breast is and how hot your water is. Total poaching time once the heat has been turned down should be about 10 - 12 minutes. Note: If you are cooking multiple breasts they may not all cook at exactly the same time, depending on their sizes.

SNFD Recipes Suitable for Poached Chicken

         
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