Top Rated Poached Chicken Recipes
Everyone loves this salad–it's crunchy, full of flavor, and bursting with fresh ingredients.Recipe courtesy of The Cheesecake Factory
Here's a basic poached chicken recipe that you can use to make a wealth of chicken dishes throughout the week. Plus, you also get a rich broth that's better than the boxed versions at the store; freeze it for future use.Click here to see 1 Chicken Recipe, 5 Meals.
Easy Poached Chicken
Poached chicken breasts are a simple yet versatile ingredient. They’re the perfect blank-slate for a variety of delicious sauces and ingredients. And if done correctly, you’ll get beautifully tender and juicy chicken. Watch the full process in the video below and keep reading for a few tips on how to maximize the flavors.
A Classic Chinese Poached Chicken Recipe
My parents made this poached chicken for years, and I’ve been eating it since I was a kid. The poached, always whole chicken was a welcome sight during Chinese New Year, Qing Ming ( 清明 ), birthdays, or even just a mahjong party when my parents invited friends over for a friendly game!
Judy and I continued the same tradition for Sarah and Kaitlin, and I’m certain they will do the same for their children.
It couldn’t be healthier or simpler: you slowly poach a whole (ideally free-range) chicken and flavor it with fresh scallions and ginger. After cooling, simply carve and serve with salted ginger scallion oil (and maybe a little soy sauce).
The next time you visit any Chinatown and walk by a restaurant with hanging roast duck , soy sauce chickens , and char siu in the window, look for the whole white cut chickens. That said, while restaurants offer it on the menu, this classic Cantonese poached chicken dish is most commonly cooked and eaten at home. If you’re Cantonese, there is zero chance that you never had bak chit gai !
If you’re looking for other classic chicken recipes, check these out:
How to Poach Chicken Breasts
This poached chicken recipe is made on the stove top and though the video shows you how to poach chicken breasts, you can certainly use chicken thighs or any part of the chicken that you want. But the timing for the recipe is set for boneless skinless chicken, so if you&rsquore wanting to poach a whole chicken, we&rsquoll have a video for this in a few weeks.
Video: How to Poach Chicken Breasts for Moist & Healthy Chicken
What to make with healthy chicken breasts?
Poaching chicken is easier than you think and it&rsquos not difficult at all to have moist and juicy chicken. Think of all the chicken salads and chicken sandwiches you can make with juicy poached chicken. Sometimes a chicken recipe calls for left over chicken, but if you don&rsquot have any at your disposal, you can make a quick and easy poached chicken that&rsquos moist and tender. Within a few minutes, poached boneless skinless chicken breasts that&rsquos simmered in water and herbs turns into a flavorful and perfect texture for healthy chicken recipes that are low in fat. Because there&rsquos no oil or butter used in this poached chicken breast recipe, the only calories come from the actual chicken that you use.
You can also customize the flavor by adding smashed garlic and a multitude of other herbs and spices. A little bit of spices goes a long way for flavor! Here&rsquos some more healthy chicken inspiration.
Cold-Start Your Way to the Tenderest Poached Chicken
According to the USDA, Americans consume an awful lot of chicken each year—we're up to about 90 pounds per person annually.* It's safe to assume that very little of that chicken is poached. I get it. Baked, roasted, braised, and fried chicken are inarguably delicious. Poaching, by comparison, can seem bland. And yet, when done well, poached chicken breast is unsurpassed in its tender texture, juiciness, and clean flavor. Served with simple yet flavorful preparations, like the watercress salad and miso vinaigrette recipe I've developed here, it truly shines.
*Although, the way some people leave meat on their bones, I'd be willing to wager that the actual amount of chicken eaten is probably half that.
The question, then, is what the best way to poach chicken is.
Most recipes have you add the breasts to simmering or boiling liquid, often water with some aromatics added. I've seen some instructions that tell you to simmer the chicken until it's done, and others in which you remove the pot from the heat as soon as the chicken goes into it, then let it stand for 30 or 40 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. I don't love the lack of precision in that latter method—different-sized chicken breasts will cook in different times, and the varying ratio of water to chicken will change the rate at which the water cools, throwing off cooking times even more.
That leaves the simmer-until-done approach as the best one left to us, but recently, while working on my Italian seafood salad recipe, I started wondering whether I couldn't improve upon the chicken approach using a similar method. In the case of the seafood salad, I cook the shrimp and squid by starting them in a room-temperature broth and slowly increasing the heat to 170°F. At this point, the seafood is perfectly cooked and still incredibly tender, since it's never subjected to the higher temperatures of boiling water that cause toughening. It's a technique that Kenji developed for his shrimp, corn, and tomatillo salad, and one that I use in my shrimp cocktail recipe.
Why wouldn't a similar technique work for chicken breast? I asked myself. After all, that's essentially what chicken breast cooked sous vide is, except that with sous vide, the chicken is in a plastic bag.
To test it out, I cooked two bone-in, skin-on chicken breast halves separately in two pots of water that I'd seasoned with salt and flavored with scallion and ginger. I dropped one of them into boiling water, then maintained the simmer until the thickest part of the chicken had reached 150°F on an instant-read thermometer. I added the other to the water while it was still cold, then brought the water up to about 150°F and cooked it until the inside of the chicken had reached the same final temperature I adjusted the heat to maintain the water's temperature, but wasn't too strict about it—it sometimes hovered up around 160°F, or even a little higher.
Straight from the water, the differences were visible. The chicken cooked in the simmering water had skin that retracted more, while the gently cooked chicken retained a much more even covering of skin. I could also feel by pressing on the flesh that the simmered chicken was tighter and firmer to the touch than the gently cooked chicken.
Once sliced, the exposed meat revealed similar results, with the lower-temp sample much tenderer and juicier than the simmered one, though the photos here don't do a good job of conveying that visually. In person, there was no question about which was better.
The downside of the lower-temp method, of course, is that it takes about twice as long. My chicken breast halves weighed three-quarters of a pound each, and at that weight, the simmered one cooked in 30 minutes (including the time it took to bring the water to a boil), while the low-temperature one took closer to an hour—not a terribly long time if you're prepping other things for dinner while it gradually cooks, but not ideal if you're in a rush.
You can split the difference, raising the poaching temperature to about 170°F, which is still lower than boiling/simmering water, but not quite as low as 150°F. That shaves some valuable minutes off, while still producing a tenderer piece of meat than simmering does.
I recommend you give it a try. After all, you've got a lot of chicken left to eat this year, so you might as well work in something different. And don't forget: You end up with flavorful broth as a by-product of the poaching, which means even more variety for your dinner menu.
The seasoning and ingredients to make poached chicken can vary depending on your use. Typically I use onion, garlic and ginger. You can also use the following seasoning and ingredients:
- Bay leaves
- Italian spice blend
- Greek spice blend
- Dried oregano and lemon
Don't be shy with the spices and add one tablespoon of each when poaching chicken breast. Make sure the spices are fresh and haven't been sitting in the cabinet for ages since they tend to lose their aroma and flavor after a while.
1. Place the chicken into a pot that will allow it to be completely submerged in liquid – a tall, thin stockpot with a capacity of around 5 litres is best. With a measuring jug, add water to the pot and make a note of how much liquid it will take to completely cover the chicken. Use that volume to adjust the recipe for the poaching liquid. This recipe is for a 2-litre volume of poaching liquid. Place the ginger, onion, sugar, soy sauces, star anise, wine, salt and water into the pot and bring to a simmer. Simmer, covered, for 15 minutes.
2. While the poaching liquid is simmering, rub the chicken all over with salt, removing any papery skin as it will prevent the colour of the sauce from penetrating the skin. Gently lower the chicken into the pot (a hook or loop of string under the chicken's wing will help with this) and reduce the heat to very, very low. The liquid should just be steaming, without any bubbles rising to the surface. Poach for 45 minutes then remove from the poaching liquid to rest for 10 minutes. Slice the chicken and serve with a little of the poaching liquid and a scattering of coriander sprigs.
Tip: Keep your poaching liquid to use again. After cooking with it, bring it to the boil, then freeze it. When you want to re-use it, just thaw it out and add a little more salt, sugar and soy sauce.
Find more of Adam Liaw's recipes in the Good Food Favourite Recipes cookbook.
I came up with the idea for this dish when thinking of my favorite dipping sauce for poached chicken , or bai qie ji (白切鸡) .
The Cantonese traditionally serve poached chicken with a sauce made of ginger, scallion whites, oil, and salt. Truthfully, as a Shanghainese person, I never really got into it. I do like it as a sauce base, but I always add light soy sauce to it (the Shanghainese put soy sauce in everything, as Bill likes to say). The combination is just perfect for my palate, and even Sarah and Kaitlin love it, which makes sense, since they’re half Shanghainese!
The resulting sauce for this poached chicken is actually very similar to a traditional scallion ginger sweet soy sauce mixture usually served over Cantonese steamed fish (see our recipe for steamed whole fish here ), so I like to think it pleases the Cantonese palate as well.
When Sarah was little, she wasn’t a big fan of fish, but she LOVED the sauce it came with. We would just spoon the sweet gingery sauce onto her rice, and she was a happy girl. I wish I’d come up with this dish made with chicken back then, as she would’ve gobbled it up!
9 quarts water
3 pounds whole chicken
Fill a 12 quart kettle or Dutch oven 3/4ths full with water and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Place the chicken in the boiling water. When the water stops boiling, carefully remove the chicken using wooden spoons (so as not to tear the skin) and set aside.
Cover the pot and let the water come back to a boil. Return the chicken to the pot. Turn off the heat but leave the pot on the burner. Cover the pot and let the chicken sit in the hot water for 1 hour.
Remove the chicken from the pot. When cool enough to handle, debone the chicken. Use the chicken meat in any recipe calling for cooked chicken.
The cooking water can be reduced and strained and used as a cooking liquid (such as for rice).
Recipe Source: Jeff Smith, "The Frugal Gourmet Cooks Three Ancient Cuisines"
For the brine:
In a large bowl, whisk the buttermilk and salt until the salt is dissolved. Pour this into a large resealable bag and add the chicken, garlic and thyme. Press out as much air as possible. Refrigerate (in a bowl or on a plate, just in case it leaks) for 8-24 hours.
Pour the entire contents of the bag into a pot large enough to fit the chicken, but narrow enough to make sure the liquid from the bag mostly covers the chicken. Top off the pot with water to just cover the chicken, if needed. Raise heat to low and poach until cooked through, about 25-30 minutes. Remove to a plate and pat dry, allowing the chicken to cool down enough to handle.
For the chicken:
Set up two bowls. In one, whisk the eggs and hot sauce with a splash of water. In the second bowl, mix the flour, cornstarch, paprika, salt and pepper. Dunk the chicken pieces first in the flour and tap off the excess. Then dunk in the egg wash and back to the flour mixture, this time not tapping off the flour. Rest the chicken on baking sheets fitted with wire racks for 10-15 minutes. The flour will look soaked into the skin a bit.
Using a deep fryer or a deep frying pan with straight sides, add enough oil to fry without spilling over. Heat oil to 370°F, so it rests just below that temperature when you add to the pot. Gently shake off any excess flour from the chicken and add a few pieces at a time, frying until golden (remember the insides are already cooked, this is just for color and crisp!). This should take about 5 minutes per batch.
Preparing your chicken breasts
How to bake chicken breasts
Cook chicken in the oven using the high and fast technique:
- Preheat the oven to 220°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
- Pat chicken breast with paper towel and brush with a little oil, roll in a dry rub or simply season with salt and pepper. Place onto lined baking tray in a single layer
- Cook for 15 minutes for a medium breast fillet, adjust time by 2-3 minutes for smaller or larger breasts.
- Place a meat thermometer in the centre of the chicken. When it reaches 60-63°C remove chicken and stand for 3-5 minutes. The internal temp will rise to 65-70°C
- If you don't have a thermometer, once the surface is golden and caramelised remove chicken from oven and stand for 3-5 minutes. The residual heat will continue to cook the chicken without drying out. After standing, serve immediately.
How to panfry chicken breasts
- Start by pounding the chicken breast to an even thickness, around 1.5-2cm. To flatten the chicken breast, place between two pieces of cling wrap and gently pound with a mallet, rolling pin or heavy saucepan, starting from the centre outwards.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper or spice rub.
- Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a non-stick frying pan or cast-iron pan over medium-high heat.
- Place chicken into pan and do NOT move for four minutes. The edges of the chicken breast will become opaque. Not moving the chicken is essential to produce a good golden crust.
- Turn chicken over and cook a further three minutes. When just cooked, the chicken will spring back when gently pressed.
- Place chicken onto a plate and stand for three to five minutes to complete cooking, then serve immediately.
How to poach chicken breasts
- Choose a pan large enough to hold your chicken breasts in a single layer.
- Add aromatics such as lemon slices, fresh herbs, peppercorns, and garlic.
- Add chicken to pan and cover with cold water. Make sure that the chicken breast is fully submerged
- Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once simmering, immediately turn heat down to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes. There should be no boiling or bubbling as this will toughen the meat.
These are the most simple ways to cook delicious chicken breast! For more complex chicken breast recipes, check out the videos and suggestions below.
Frying chicken breasts is a great way to get a crunchy coating with juicy, tender insides as the chicken steams inside the cheesy breadcrumb crust.
Cook your chicken breasts with veggies and sauce like in this recipe for nachos with a delicious twist.