One of the best – and easiest – ways to cook chicken breasts is to poach them. It really keeps the meat moist and is particularly good if you plan to use the chicken cold or add it to a dish already cooked. Because the chicken is cooked in liquid it cannot help but stay tender and delicious. I like to poach chicken breasts and keep them on hand in the fridge or freezer for quick and easy salads and meals.
Like so many recipes, how well your poached chicken breasts turn out is dependant on the quality of your ingredients. Organic, pastured or free range meat is always your best bet, and it’s kinder to the environment as well. I buy my chicken from our local butcher, Greens of Pangbourne.
Good chicken stock is a must. Homemade is wonderful if you have it, but you can use a good store bought stock or even stock made from high quality, preferably organic, stock cubes in a pinch.
How to Poach Chicken Breasts
Place boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a pan that will fit them in quite tightly. You don’t want a lot of space between them.
Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add dried herbs if desired. I usually add a teaspoon of basil or tarragon, and sometimes I throw in some peppercorns as well.
Pour the chicken stock over top of the chicken breasts. It should pretty much cover them.
Put the lid on the pan, turn the heat up and bring slowly up to the boil.
Once the stock reaches a full boil, turn the heat back, keep the lid on the pan and simmer over medium heat for 10 minutes.
After ten minutes, turn the heat off and remove the pan from the heat. Keep the pan covered and let the chicken breasts sit in the hot liquid for 20 minutes.
Remove the chicken breasts from the hot liquid. They should have an internal temperature of at least 165°F or 74°C. Poached chicken breasts can be served or used immediately in recipes or you can cool them and keep them chilled or frozen for later use.
- 4 chicken breasts
- 3½ - 4 cups chicken stock
- salt, pepper and herbs to taste
- Place the chicken breasts in a medium frying pan or saucepan with a lid. You need a pan that they just fit into; you don't want a lot of space around the chicken.
- Season the chicken breasts with salt, pepper and your choice of fresh or dried herbs.
- Cover the chicken with the stock and put the lid on the pan.
- Bring the stock to the boil.
- Turn the heat back and simmer the chicken breasts over medium heat for 10 minutes, keeping the lid on the pan.
- Turn the heat off and let the chicken sit in the hot liquid for 20 minutes. Again, keep the lid on the pan.
- Remove the chicken breasts carefully from the hot stock. Check the chicken is cooked through and no pink remains inside. Either use the chicken breasts immediately or cool and chill or freeze.
How to Use Poached Chicken Breasts
You can use poached chicken breasts in so many recipes. Serve them straight away or chill them and use the meat sliced in sandwiches, chopped in salads or simply serve it sliced as part of a buffet. Poached chicken can also be used in any recipe that calls for cooked, cooled chicken breasts.