How to poach a chicken breast

Poached chicken is one of the most versatile things you can have sitting around in the fridge. Mix with a sauce and toss it in a sandwich. Add some dressing and place it on a salad. Throw it with some pasta and your done!

Chicken Caesar Salad, Chicken quesadillas, Vietnamese chicken salad… Done, Done and Done!

I love making a large batch of poached chicken in the beginning of the week. It gives me tons of dinner and lunch options through out the week. The basic recipe for poaching chicken is below, but you can easily spice it up. Add rosemary, a bay leaf and oregano for Mediterranean chicken. Add some Chile powder and Tabasco for some spicy fun. Kick up the flavor by cooking the breast in chicken broth instead of water. You get the idea. Just remember to always add salt to the water. Also, instead of boneless chicken breast you can also use split, bone-in, skin on breasts… or if you are feeling bold, chicken thighs. The bone-in cuts might need an extra 5 minutes of simmering.

Poached chicken

Ingredients:

  • Chicken (Boneless chicken breast, split chicken breast or chicken thighs)
  • Salt
  • Liquid (Water, broth, and/or wine)
  • Flavorings (rosemary, bay leaf, thyme, oregano, lemon zest, ginger, garlic, celery, onions, carrots… etc)

Directions:

  1. Place chicken in pan.
  2. Add enough of the liquid to cover the chicken.
  3. Add salt and flavorings.
  4. Bring the liquid to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  5. Simmer for two minutes, longer for bone-in pieces (~5 additional minutes)
  6. Remove pan from heat and cover.
  7. Let sit for 30 minutes.
  8. Place chicken in container, cover with liquid and refrigerate.

81 thoughts on “How to poach a chicken breast

  1. Pingback: How To Season Chicken Breast Ternak Puyuh | Ternak Puyuh

  2. Thanks so much for this easy cooking method. I needed a way to have flavorful chicken when I couldn’t find bone in chicken breast at the grocery. This saved me and is very moist. I am making chicken pot pie. Will use this method for many more dishes. Easy easy and so delicious. Thanks from Texas on a cold winter night. :)

  3. Just to thoroughly confuse the issue, there is always the simple, error-proof, delicious, moist, option of “Bake-In” bags. They yield perfect chicken every single time. I use the boxed Italian Dressing mixes as an instant flavoring and you are eating awesome chicken in 30 minutes that tastes tender and moist like poached but with minimal effort. You can also cook sliced potatoes, carrots, etc in the bag.

  4. This works perfectly if you follow the instructions. The chicken is tender and it picks up the herbal flavors well. Great option for chicken used for chicken salad.

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  7. I tried this once, brought to boil then straight off heat for 30 mins like u say. Did I put too much water in the pan? Is it important to only just cover the breasts by an inch? otherwise there is too much residual heat left in the water and it overcook?

    • Mark, it sounds like you may have boiled it too hard before letting it simmer. The amount of liquid really shouldn’t matter. In fact, the liquid, which is now a fairly light stock, is as useful as the meat. I happened upon this post while looking to remind myself of how long to poach a chicken breast, but I’ve not tried the simmer and sit method. I’m going to, but with extra veggies and liquid so I can use it for chicken and dumplings.

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  11. Your step 8 says to store in “liquid” – do you mean the liquid you cooked it in? Or do you mean use a fresh liquid? Thanks!

    • I would store the chicken in the liquid that it was cooked in. Plain water would suck out all the flavour.

  12. I know this post is several years old now but I stumbled on this today. I tried it out with frozen chicken and made it into a salad. My daughter said it was the best chicken ever and when my husband asked how I cooked it… he was surprised. The look of poached chicken is unappealing but definitely taste worthy!

  13. DANGER: Simmer two minutes, let sit for 30. Salmonella warning… not saying you will get sick, but you may. Simmer 10 minutes.

    • Since you are bring the water and chicken up to a simmer, not adding the chicken to boiling water, the chicken stays above 160 for along. Holding it in the hot water also cooks the chicken through. The goal is to cook the chicken through without exposing it to high temperatures which would toughen it up.

  14. Thank you so much for this easy and tasty recipe – I needed to start cooking for my 10 month year old and with no prior experience this was a cinch and she loved it!

    • We have been using this a ton lately to cook for our 16 month old. It makes it really easy to cook up a big batch of chicken for her lunches.

    • Yes, absolutely! I use a traditional Chinese method that you will find if you search for Hainanese Chicken. There are several variations on this recipe. I have been doing it for several years and perfected my own method:
      Take a large 8 litre saucepan. Fill with –
      – one standard 750ml bottle of Chinese cooking wine (you can use a dry white wine instead but will need to add some salt)
      – about 4.5 litres of water
      – grated thumb sized piece of ginger
      – 6 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
      – bring to the boil, turn off.
      – carefully submerge a whole free range chicken (1.4 – 1.6 kg), put on the lid. Leave for 1 hour.
      – after the hour, turn heat back on low for 30 minutes.
      – Turn off heat. Very carefully lift chicken out and place in a large high sided dish.
      Amazingly tender and delicious!
      Really important: Turn heat back on under the stock, boil, reduce by a half. When cool, strain through muslin and store. You now have the best chicken stock ever!

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  16. This is the only thing I can cook that comes out OK. I throw a few carrots in with a bullion cube. I make some Uncle Ben’s rice because that is the only brand that I can cook without it coming out like sludge. Then I boil down the liquid so it is like gravy. It tastes pretty good. I tried it with some kind of a beef roast and used a beef bullion cube but it turned out like shoe leather. So I guess it only works for chicken breast.

    • Kyle, A beef roast is better cooked in a crock pot. Slice some onions. Cut the onion in half, then slice, put them in the bottom, Put a little salt and pepper on the onions, now you have to options…you can brown your roast in a pan on the stove in some butter or oil for about five minutes per side, or you can just throw it in the crock pot. Browning the roast gives you better juices at the end of cooking. Either way, before you put it in the crock pot, season the roast with salt, pepper, and if you have it, garlic and onion powder. (If you don’t have those go Family Dollar and buy some, they are cheap). Then cook on High for three hours. After three hours, add potatoes you have scrubbed (you can peel or not) and carrots (that you should peel) and cook another two hours. Take the roast and vegetables out. Mix two tablespoons of cornstarch with a little bit of water in a small bowl. Add it to the juices in the crock pot and stir until it thickens. You will have gravy. Enjoy your dinner.

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  18. Hi there! I think your receipe looks extremely practical, I am looking to have more options at breakfast instead of just eggs all the time. I think poached chicken will make a nice change!