Want to learn how to poach chicken that tastes great? This step-by-step post shows you how and I share my best tips!
Whether you are trying to learn how to use this tender chicken to top salads, make a sandwich, or in a wrap, you’re going to learn how tender and delicious this simple method makes it turn out.
You’ll also find delicious recipes to use with poached chicken you’ll be excited to eat!
What Does It Mean To Poach Chicken
Poaching chicken involves simmering chicken in water or broth with aromatics and salt. It’s relatively simple, and you might ask, “Laura, why would I choose to poach chicken instead of searing it or baking?”. That’s a fair question, so hear me out.
The myth that poached chicken is bland and dry comes from over-cooked chicken boiled in hot water. Aversions to poached chicken stem from saw-dust dry, over-cooked chicken that was boiled in hot water. When done correctly, poached chicken can be very tender and sliced, shredded, diced, and used to create all sorts of delicious meals.
The best part is that you can poach any cut of chicken, whether it’s boneless, skinless, or bone-in, skin-on, but for the sake of keeping things simple, in this post, I will use boneless skinless cuts.
What Do You Need to Poach Chicken
To poach chicken, you’ll need:
- cold water: it’s important to start with cold water. The gradual cooking will help the chicken slowly and tenderly.
- chicken breasts or thighs: white and dark meat can be poached with perfect results. White meat is super lean, while dark meat is more flavorful and forgiving to cook.
- salt: be VERY generous with the salt!
- seasonings: use dried spices and herbs, peppercorns, dried bay leaves, garlic, lemon- whatever you choose, be generous!
How to Poach Chicken Breast
Follow the recipe below, and your chicken will come out perfectly cooked and ready to use in your favorite chicken recipes!
- Grab a large pot
Place the chicken breasts in a large soup pot. Pour in 3-4 cups cold water, enough to cover the chicken by 2-inches.
- Add the seasonings and spices
Generously season the water with salt and your choice of spices and herbs. *I used peppercorns and thyme in the video but sometimes I like to add dried chilies to add a little spice to the water.
- Bring it to a simmer
Bring the water to a low boil over medium heat, then use a pair of tongs to flip the chicken breasts.
- Turn off the heat
Place a lid over the pot and turn off the heat. Allow the chicken to sit in the hot water to 10 minutes or until cooked through and it reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
- Slice, shred, or dice
Remove the chicken breasts from the water and set them onto a large cutting board. From here, you can slice, shred, or dice the chicken and serve it any way you like.
Watch this quick how-to video to see the full poaching chicken process!
Keep scrolling to check out the recipe and serving ideas!
How to Poach Bone-In Chicken Breasts
When poaching bone-in chicken breasts, follow the same method in the recipe card and adjust the resting time to 25 minutes. Removing the skin, if it has it on, is optional and I recommend keeping it on to provide the poaching liquid with flavor.
Poaching Chicken Thighs
Chicken breasts aren’t the only cut of chicken that’s great for poaching; you can also use this poaching method with chicken thighs. It’s a great option if you prefer the dark meat flavor, and the meat stays super tender.
To poach chicken thighs, follow the same directions above, making sure to swap the amount of chicken pound for pound.
How Long to Poach Chicken
The time it takes for the poached chicken to cook will depend on the amount and size of chicken you are cooking, both breasts or thighs. Once the water reaches a simmer and you turn off the heat, the chicken will need an additional 10 to 15 minutes to cook through fully.
However, you will want to check the internal temperature around the 8-minute mark. It’s better to check sooner than later to prevent the chicken from overcooking and drying out.
How to Know when Poached Chicken is Done
For tender, perfectly cooked chicken, you want to cook it according to its internal temperature and not time for white chicken to an internal temperature of 165F and 175F for dark meat. You do this by removing the chicken onto a plate and measuring the temperature with a meat thermometer.
Learn more about checking if chicken is fully cooked here, even if you don’t have a meat thermometer.
Is Poaching a Good Method for Cooking Chicken
The best part about poaching chicken is that it becomes a tender blank canvas for other recipes. Compared to grilled, roasted, and pan-seared chicken, which tastes amazing as an entree, poached chicken by itself isn’t as flavorful.
Meals can become super tasty depending on how you use the poached chicken. You can slice poached chicken and make epic sandwiches, served over salads with your favorite vinaigrette, or stir it into creamy pasta. Make sure to check out the amazing recipes below.
How to Poach Chicken for Shredding
Poaching is an excellent way to cook the chicken quickly when a recipe calls for shredded chicken. You’ll prepare the chicken using the directions above, and once you remove it from the hot water, the chicken is ready to shred.
Now there are three methods to shredding chicken. You can use your hands, two forks, or a hand mixer. Or just watch the video below and see which method you want to try.
Once the chicken is shredded, toss it with your favorite sauce or use it to make a creamy chicken salad for sandwiches and wraps.
Can Poached Chicken be Reheated?
You can certainly reheat poached chicken before adding it to a salad or recipe. To keep the meat tender, I prefer to simmer it gently in water on the stove-top. The hot water evenly reheats the chicken and helps the meat retain moisture.
To do this, you will simply add enough water to a large skillet to cover the bottom and set it over medium-high heat.
Add the chicken to the skillet and lower the heat to medium. Cover with a lid and cook until heated through. Remove from heat, drain the water, and serve.
When it comes to cooking chicken, it’s always a good idea to cook extra. In this post, you can learn how to reheat chicken to keep the flavors intact and the meat juicy and tender. You’ll find additional methods and tips on which one to use for certain cuts.
Is Poached Chicken Healthy?
Poaching is one of the healthiest ways to cook chicken since you are simmering chicken in water or broth with no added oil or fat, which creates super tender lean protein.
How Many Calories are in Poached Chicken
3.5-ounces of poached chicken provides:
- 140 calories
- 2 grams of fat
- 0 carbs
- 28 grams of protein
That’s a lot of protein, no carbs, and low in fat!
How to Use Poached Chicken
Poached chicken can be used in everything from pasta to tacos, soups, sandwiches, and salads. Below, you’ll find a few super delicious recipes to make ASAP. That hardest part is choosing which one to make first:
- Chicken Caprese Salad
- Chicken Cordon Bleu Pasta
- Thai Chicken Pasta Salad
- Asian Chicken Salad Lettuce Wraps
Tip: to prepare the recipes above, swap the original cooked chicken with the same amount of poached chicken.
You could also shred 1 lb of poached chicken, toss it with ½ cup of my homemade buffalo sauce (or storebought) and use it to make these recipes:
- Buffalo Chicken Sliders
- Buffalo Chicken Loaded Sweet Potatoes
- Buffalo Chicken Power Bowls
- Buffalo Chicken Salad
How to Poach Chicken
- 1 pound chicken breasts, boneless, skinless
- 3 to 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons peppercorns
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- herbs and spices of your choice
- Place the chicken breasts in a large soup pot. Pour in 3-4 cups cold water, enough to cover the chicken by 2-inches.
- Generously season the water with salt, peppercorns, thyme, and your choice of spices and herbs.
- Bring the water to a low boil over medium heat, then use a pair of tongs to flip the chicken breasts.
- Place a lid over the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the chicken sit in the hot water for 10 minutes or until cooked through, and it reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the water and set them onto a large cutting board. Allow it to rest 5 minutes before slicing, shredding, or dicing.