Poaching may seem like an old-fashioned cooking technique, but this gentle, moist-heat method is perfect for preparing chicken, keeping the meat juicy and tender. Knowing how to poach chicken comes in handy whenever a recipe calls for cooked chicken.
Choose a lidded sauté pan large enough to comfortably hold the food in a single layer. Add enough liquid—water, broth, juice or a combination—to come about halfway up the sides of the pan. Remember, the liquid will rise when the chicken is added, so don’t overfill the pan. Cover the pan and bring the liquid to a simmer over medium-high heat.
Add aromatic vegetables, citrus and sprigs of fresh herbs to the poaching liquid for more flavor depth. Onions, celery, lemons, fresh thyme or rosemary are all good options.
When small bubbles begin to rise and just break the surface of the liquid, gently slip the chicken into the liquid and cover the pan. Let the liquid come back up to a bare simmer over medium-high heat; the temperature of the poaching liquid will drop as soon as the chicken is added. Adjust the heat to medium or medium-low to keep the liquid gently simmering—but not boiling—until the food is cooked through.
To prevent the poaching liquid from becoming greasy, use skinless chicken breasts or thighs.
Take the pan off the heat when the chicken is nearly, but not quite, cooked through. Let the chicken stand, covered, in the poaching liquid for 2 to 3 mins. before serving—the residual heat of the liquid will finish cooking it through.
Don’t toss that poaching liquid—use it as a base for a sauce or add it to soups or stews.