How to Poach Chicken Breasts

Using an Oven or Stovetop

Poached chicken breasts
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Poached chicken breasts are easy to make and they can be used in all kinds of recipes, like chicken salads, chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie, and all kinds of pasta recipes. Poached chicken breasts are a perfect healthy staple to add to dishes throughout the week. 

Chicken breasts are already very lean, and poaching them means you cook them with zero added fat, so they turn out juicy, succulent, and very healthy. Instead of chicken breasts, you can also poach a whole chicken.

There are two simple methods for poaching chicken breasts. The first method is done solely on a stovetop in a large, wide pan. The second method uses the oven instead of the stovetop. Both recipes use the same ingredients and kitchen tools; only the cooking method varies. Feel free to try both and see if you notice any difference, or use the oven method when you are already cooking something else on your stovetop.  

Method #1: How to Poach Chicken Breasts On the Stovetop

  1. Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Place the chicken breasts at the bottom of a wide pan. The wider the pan, the more chicken breasts you can fit. Don't overcrowd them. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably poach two to four chicken breasts this way.
  2. Add enough water so that you cover the chicken breasts with at least two inches of water.
  3. Add some chopped onion, carrot and celery, as well as some fresh herbs like thyme or tarragon, along with a bay leaf and a few whole black peppercorns. Finally, add about a tablespoon of Kosher salt.
  4. Bring the water to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. You should see a few gentle bubbles rise up from time to time, but definitely not a full rolling boil.
  5. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot tightly and let the chicken breasts stand in the hot water for another 15 to 20 minutes until completely cooked through. The time will depend on how big the chicken breasts are.
  6. Note: Some variations on this technique will suggest that you let the chicken breasts cool all the way in the cooking liquid. That would create a food safety hazard, so do not leave the chicken in the pan until the liquid is completely cool. After 15 to 20 minutes, take the chicken breasts out and either serve right away or pull/shred/chop them into pieces, run them under cold water, drain, and refrigerate.

    Method #2: How to Poach Chicken Breasts In the Oven

    1. Preheat the oven to 325 F.
    2. Follow steps #1 through #3 described above, but be sure to use an oven safe pan.
    3. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for five minutes. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer it to the oven.
    4. Poach the chicken breasts in the oven for about 15 minutes, then remove and either serve or cool as described above.

    The second method is a little quicker, and it also frees up space on your cooktop.

    Finally, don't discard the cooking liquid. You can reduce this liquid to make a sauce or a simple gravy for your chicken dish.