Poached chicken breast is tender, moist and as healthy as it is delicious. These chicken breasts are poached in some salted water with garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns. Poaching chicken is so easy and it’s a great way to trim calories from your diet.
One of the coolest things about this poached chicken breast recipe is its versatility. You can eat it on its own, of course, or with a salad. Another option is to shred the chicken and add it to another dish, or save it for later. You could slice it into rounds and use it for sandwiches, or really anything you can think of. The relatively neutral flavor palate of this chicken recipe means it goes well with a very broad variety of tastes and textures.
What is Poaching?
No, it’s not sneaking onto some English lord’s property and taking trout from the river! Poaching is a cooking method that uses high moisture and low heat. Typically, we’ll have water or a broth at a low heat, typically just above a simmer, that provides the heat to cook food. You’ve probably poached eggs in the past, or had poached eggs at a cafe, but poaching can be done to just about any type of food.
Generally, it’s best to poach your food at 170°F and 180°F, and it’s important not to let the liquid arrive at a rolling boil. The rolling motion can be too aggressive for some delicate poaching foods, and the higher heat risks overcooking the outside of your food. Poaching is best for food that requires moist, thorough cooking all the way through, like chicken.
Poaching, when you get right down to it, is firmly in the family of low-and-slow cooking, like Southern barbecue and soup simmering.
You will need 2 large chicken breasts, peppercorns, garlic, salt and bay leaves.
How To Make Poached Chicken Breast
The trick to perfectly poached chicken is patience and practice. With that in mind, let’s look at the best way to make poached chicken.
You’ll need a wide, shallow pan.
- First, bring a large shallow pan with salted water to a boil. Add the garlic, peppercorns, salt, bay leaves and place your raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts into the pan and cook for a few minutes. Reduce the heat to low.
- Next, bring your water to a simmer over medium heat. Low heat and slow cooking is how we get moist, tender chicken, so avoid the temptation to fast-track the cooking process by increasing the heat beyond what’s necessary. Patience is the key here.
- Upon reaching a low simmer, reduce your heat and cover the pan with a lid. This allows the heat and moisture from the water to remain in the pan and cook the chicken, rather than escaping as water vapor into the air of your kitchen.
- After ten minutes, check your chicken to see if it is done cooking. Using a meat thermometer, preferably an instant-read one, check for an internal temperature of 165 F. If the chicken has reached this temperature inside, you can remove the pan from heat.
- Now you’re going to let your chicken rest in the poaching liquid for a couple of minutes. This allows the moisture trapped in the chicken to permeate its flesh and settle. Ultimately, what that means is you have juicy, flavorful chicken that retains its moisture instead of spilling it all over your plate.
How Do You Know When Poached Chicken Breast is Cooked?
There are a few methods of checking if your chicken is cooked, but our favorite is to use a meat thermometer. Using an instant-read meat thermometer, place the needle of the thermometer in your chicken lengthways. An internal temperature of 165 F means your chicken is perfectly cooked!
Other methods involve cutting into the chicken to see if its insides are white all the way through or are still pink. This is a reliable method but it allows the juices inside your chicken to run out, and you end up with dry chicken.
Is Poached Chicken Healthy?
This is about as healthy a meal as meat gets! We aren’t using any fats or oils to cook this chicken, so there’s no sneaky extra calories, and the chicken is high in moisture from the cooking method.
Water, obviously, is very healthy for you. Chicken breast is also absolutely packed with protein and low in fat, so with this meal you’re getting a pretty healthy dinner. It helps that it tastes great, too!
How To Make the Best Poached Chicken
Think of your freshly cooked white chicken breasts like a blank white canvas. You can do whatever you like! There are as many ways to serve chicken as there are different preferences, so your best bet is simply to cater to your own palate.
If you’re looking for some inspiration to make your poached chicken really stand out, we recommend that you add some zing to your poaching liquid. In the above method, we simply used salted water,garlic, bay leaves and peppercorns but you can really get creative here.
- Herbs: Try adding fresh herbs, like rosemary or thyme, to your water, or rub them into your chicken after you’ve poached it. Fresh herbs are a great way to add flavor and depth to your meal.
- Aromatics: Nice aromatic additions like onion, or peeled fresh ginger are another awesome addition to this meal.
- Broth: If you’re feeling adventurous, you could try poaching your chicken in broth rather than water, as this will massively increase its flavor profile and intensify the meaty, savory taste of your chicken. Broth is the star player in many soups, and this is a similar cooking method, so it works just as well for poaching.
- Some wine or beer: It is another unorthodox way of poaching your chicken. The acidity and complexity of flavor these offer can really make your chicken stand out. Be wary that red wine might color your chicken and make it look pink even when it’s cooked.
- Lemon: Juice or lemon zest added to the water or rubbed into the chicken is another way to add some zing to your poached chicken without altering this recipe very much.
More Chicken Breast Recipes
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