Poached chicken is fantastic to have on hand for salads, pastas and sandwiches. Use it right away or freeze the extras for later. This tutorial will show you how to poach chicken breasts in minutes!
Poaching chicken breasts is a great way to add protein to your meals without adding extra fat. It's an easy technique that yields tender, juicy, and flavorful chicken that you can use in a variety of dishes, from salads and sandwiches to pasta and soups. Plus, you can poach several breasts at once and store them in the fridge or freezer for quick and easy meal prep.
When I first started cooking, my idea of poaching chicken breasts was to throw them into a pot of boiling water and cook the heck out of them. Efficient? Yep. But turned the chicken breasts into rubbery frisbees of poultry. Not exactly what I had in mind for a perfect summer salad.
The beauty of poaching several chicken breasts at once is that you'll have meat for several meals. Either slice or shred the cooked chicken and store it in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.
Alternatively, divide the chicken into meal-sized portions, wrap in plastic wrap and freezer bags, and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Just defrost the packages as you need them and serve the chicken in pasta dishes, on salads or in sandwiches. Easy meal prep!
So, what's the right way to poach chicken breasts?
If you read various cookbooks or cruise around on the internet, you'll find as many ways to poach chicken as there are cooking websites. Some require putting the saucepan in the water while others suggest you remove the saucepan from the heat altogether.
My favorite method is placing the boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large saucepan with a variety of seasoning and aromatics, such as lemon slices, fresh or dried herbs and a dash of salt and pepper. Cover the chicken breasts with cold water, bring to a boil, then gently simmer for about 15 minutes.
You'll be rewarded with tender, juicy and flavorful chicken breasts that are perfect for tossing into a variety of dishes. Perfect for summertime entertaining or quick weeknight meals!
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How to Poach Chicken Breasts
Here's a simple and delicious recipe for poached chicken breasts that you can use as a base for all sorts of dishes. You can customize it with your favorite seasonings and aromatics, such as lemon slices, garlic, herbs, and spices.
COMBINE CHICKEN AND SEASONINGS: Start by placing your boneless, skinless chicken breasts in a large saucepan. Add any seasonings, aromatics, and liquids (such as chicken broth or white wine) that you like.
BOIL AND SIMMER: Cover the chicken breasts with cold water and bring the pot to a boil over medium heat. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low and gently simmer the chicken for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Use a meat thermometer to check the temperature.
COOL, SLICE AND STORE: Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot and let it cool for a few minutes. Then slice or shred the chicken and use it in your favorite dishes, or store it in the fridge or freezer for later.
See recipe card below for full ingredients list & recipe directions.
Tips for Poaching Chicken Breasts:
• Use a large saucepan to give the chicken breasts plenty of room to cook evenly.
• Cover the chicken breasts with cold water before bringing the pot to a boil. This will help them cook evenly and prevent them from drying out.
• Gently simmer the chicken breasts, rather than boiling them vigorously. This will keep the chicken tender and juicy.
• Use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken. It should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure that it's fully cooked and safe to eat.
• Let the chicken breasts cool slightly before slicing or shredding them. This will make them easier to handle and will also prevent them from falling apart.
Storing and Using Poached Chicken Breasts:
Once you've cooked your poached chicken breasts, you can store them in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. To store them in the fridge, simply slice or shred the chicken and place it in an airtight container. To store them in the freezer, divide the chicken into meal-sized portions and wrap each portion in plastic wrap or freezer bags.
When you're ready to use the poached chicken, simply defrost it in the fridge or microwave and use it in your favorite dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
▪️Make a delicious chicken salad by mixing the poached chicken with chopped celery, red onion, mayonnaise, and a splash of lemon juice or add it my family's favorite Thai Chicken Salad.
▪️Add the poached chicken to your favorite pasta dish, such as Skillet Chicken Penne Pasta.
▪️Make a quick and easy chicken wrap sandwich (sub for turkey) by rolling the chicken in a tortilla with cranberry sauce and vegetable.
▪️Use the poached chicken as a base for soups and stews, such as Light Chicken & Corn Chowder or Hearty Chicken Stew with Butternut Squash.
Frequently Asked Questions:
It usually takes about 15 minutes to poach chicken breasts. However, the exact time will depend on the size and thickness of the breasts, as well as the temperature of the water.
To ensure that the chicken is fully cooked and safe to eat, use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature. It should be at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Yes, you can use bone-in chicken breasts for poaching. However, keep in mind that the cooking time will be longer, as the bones will take longer to cook through.
You can add salt to the poaching liquid if you like, but it's not necessary. The chicken will release some of its own juices as it cooks, which will add flavor to the liquid. If you do want to add salt, start with a small amount and taste the liquid before adding more.
Yes, you can use chicken broth instead of water for poaching. In fact, many people prefer to use chicken broth because it adds extra flavor to the chicken. Just be aware that chicken broth is often high in sodium, so you may need to adjust the amount of salt that you add to the liquid.
Yes, you can add other ingredients to the poaching liquid to give the chicken extra flavor. Some common options include lemon slices, garlic, herbs, and spices. You can also add white wine or other liquids to the pot, but make sure to adjust the amount of water or broth accordingly.
How to: Poach Chicken Breasts
- 4 (6 ounces each) skinless, boneless chicken breasts
- 1 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoons ground pepper
- 4 lemon slices
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Place the chicken breasts in a single layer in the bottom of a large saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Top with lemon slices and fresh thyme and rosemary sprigs.
- Fill the saucepan with cold water until it reaches 1 to 1 ½ inches above the chicken breasts. Stir in the soy sauce.
- Bring the water to a boil, then cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low.
- Lightly simmer until the chicken breasts are just cooked through, about 15 minutes. The cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the chicken breasts.
- Remove the chicken from the saucepan and let the chicken cool. Slice or shred the chicken. Serve right away or refrigerate, covered, for 2 to 3 days.
This post was originally published on April 17, 2015. Updated on December 9, 2022.
Disclosure: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
I added a garlic bulb to mine and HOLY BANANAS, this broth. While my chicken cools I poured myself a little mug and am sipping away on it. Definitely a keeper.
I have never tried poaching chicken until I tried this recipe. It was delicious! Thank you!
This is my go to way of making chicken now.... ive always boiled mine! Glad I ran into this recipe! Thx u
Bravo! This recipe is fantastic! Thank you.
Can you use the left over water as chicken broth? And can you use it right away.
Best poached chicken I've ever made! I used to boil the chicken til it was dry and rubbery. Knew there had to be a better way. Glad I found this recipe. Followed exactly (except only 1 tblspoon soy sauce, was a little nervous about that). Cooked perfectly and tasted delicious. Ate half of it by itself! Thanks for sharing!
I am making this now. I suggest, if you agree, edit the instructions to include strain and keep the cooking liquid for another purpose, to use as chicken broth. Thank you for this recipe!
Thanks I just asked about this...
This turned out excellent, delicious and moist. I never had much luck poaching chicken breasts prior to this recipe. This was easy. I made chicken salad and it was delish!
Poached chicken is the best to have on hand. I look at your recipes every couple weeks and in joy your ideas. I want to make a suggestion on your poached instructions though. I notice that you have the chicken breast in the pot before bringing them to a boil. I see this being different stove to stove. Some stoves it takes longer to boil then others. I have found that bringing to a boil and putting the chicken breasts in after it reached a boil for 3 minutes boiling, then putting a lid on and removing pot from heat and leave the chix breasts in for 15 minutes while pot is off burner. This decreases the variance and has yet to fail me. For added moistened chix, I brine my chix breasts in a light salt water solution for 6 or so hours when I can.
I LOVE poaching chicken breasts to shred them up and keep them on hand for easy meal additions. I have never thought to add lemon or herbs to my poaching liquid so I'm totally trying this next time.
I roast chicken breasts to have on hand every week. I've never poached chicken because I envision bland looking, flavorless boiled chicken. Your method of simmering the chicken with aromatics is a total game changer.
Angie | Big Bear's Wife
Thank you so much for posting this!! I'm really bad about throwing chicken into a pot of boiling water and cooking it to death! Doing it this way next time!
Thank you for the recipe.......I noticed in the ingredients you have soy sauce, but no mention of the sauce in the directions...do you recommend the soy sauce?
Hi Bill, I'm sorry about that omission. Yes, I do recommend adding the soy sauce for an extra layer of flavorful and touch of salt. The directions are now edited to include the soy sauce. Thanks for stopping by!
Martha @ A Family Feast
Great tutorial and an essential skill that everyone should master! (Not to mention cooked chicken is so versatile and great to have on hand!)
Renee - Kudos Kitchen
I just poached chicken breasts the other day in order to have light lunches through the week. As always, I cooked them too long and they came out dry. I really need to set a timer and only cook them for 15 minutes as you suggest. I also made the error of putting them in boiling water instead of letting the water come to a simmer with the chicken already in it. It still tasted good (because of all the ingredients I put in the water) but next time I'll take a page from your book and not cook the things to death. LOL
The Food Hunter
I've never made poached chicken...thanks for sharing
Lauren Kelly Nutrition
My mother used to poach chicken and I have never tried it before! I bet this one taste delicious with all of these fresh herbs!
Thanks Dara for this recipe. Have a wonderful weekend!