Poached chicken breasts are easy to make and they can be used in a variety of recipes, like chicken salads, chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie, and various kinds of pasta dishes. In addition, poached chicken breasts are a perfect healthy staple to add to meals throughout the week.
Chicken breasts are already very lean, and poaching them means you cook them with zero added fat so they turn out very healthy as well as juicy and tender.
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 both the stovetop and then the oven, speeding up the process slightly. 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, or vice versa.
- Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts on the bottom of a wide saute pan or skillet with high sides. (The wider the pan, the more chicken breasts you can fit.) Don't overcrowd them.
- Add enough water so that you cover the chicken breasts with at least 2 inches of water.
- 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.
- 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 it should not be at a full rolling boil.
- 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.
- After 15 to 20 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and either serve right away or pull/shred/chop them into pieces and refrigerate.
- Preheat the oven to 325 F.
- Follow steps #1 through #3 described above, but be sure to use an oven-safe pan.
- Place the pan over medium-high heat, bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer it to the oven.
- Poach the chicken breasts in the oven for about 15 minutes, then remove and either serve or store.
Don't discard the cooking liquid. You can reduce this liquid to make a sauce or a simple gravy for your chicken dish. You can also freeze the poaching liquid for later use. Poached chicken can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Instead of chicken breasts, you can also poach a whole chicken.
Using Poached Chicken
Once you have poached chicken ready, you are one step ahead and poised to make a plethora of dishes. Chicken risotto–which can be time-consuming–will be that much quicker with poached chicken on hand, and a variety of chicken salads–such as smoky chipotle chicken salad–will be a cinch to throw together. But you can also serve the cooked breasts with a sauce to create a luxurious meal; impress your guests with a champagne cream sauce or a hollandaise sauce.