Restaurant-Style Poached Chicken

Restaurant-Style Poached Chicken

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A method for poaching chicken which retains all the chicken's flavor and juices without overcooking the breast meat.

Photography Credit:Elise Bauer

As fond as one may be of bacon and butter, sometimes the body just wants something light. What do you make when you want a light meal? I’ve taken to poaching chicken, using a pretty cool method taught to me by Hank Shaw.

The method reminds me of sous-vide, but you don’t need any fancy equipment, just plastic wrap and a big pot of hot water. You take a strip of boneless, skinless chicken breast, season it, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and then drop it in hot water.

That’s it. So easy. The result is tender, moist, perfectly cooked chicken, with no added fat.

The key to the success of this technique is to never put the rolled-up chicken into boiling water; boiling water is too hot and will overcook the meat. Instead, bring the water to a simmer and then turn off the heat.

Once the water stops bubbling, you can add the meat. As the water temperature slowly drops, the chicken is gently cooked all the way through. Small chicken breasts will be perfectly cooked in 15 minutes, but you can leave them in the water for 30 minutes with no loss of flavor or texture.

Make sure that your slices of chicken or other meat are not more than 3 inches in diameter. If they are wider, you can still use this method, but you might need to turn the burner on “low” to keep the temperature from falling below 140 degrees.

Wrapping the meat in plastic wrap seals in the juices and helps infuse the meat with the seasonings while it cooks. Make sure you use a good quality plastic wrap; any that say “microwave safe” on the packaging will do.

Restaurant-Style Poached Chicken Recipe

This recipe is designed for chicken breasts, but you can also do this with turkey breast, pork tenderloin or a meaty fish such as halibut.

You can double this recipe, but if you do, use a larger pot and double the amount of poaching water.


  • 1 skinless chicken breast (1/2 pound)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • A couple pinches of salt
  • A couple pinches of a dried herb of your choice - tarragon, oregano, basil, rosemary, or thyme, or some other seasoning such as cumin or paprika
  • Plastic wrap*

*Use a good quality plastic wrap that can withstand some heat. Look for packaging that indicates you can use the plastic wrap in a microwave oven. If it can handle a microwave oven, it will hold up in boiling water.


1 Trim the fat and coat chicken pieces in lemon juice, salt, and herbs: Trim all the fat from the chicken breast and slice it lengthwise. In a small bowl mix the lemon juice, salt, and herbs.

Add the chicken pieces and coat all over with the lemon juice mixture.

Let the chicken pieces sit in the lemon juice while you heat the water in the next step.

2 Bring a pot of water (2 1/2 quarts of water, 4 quart pot) to a high simmer.

3 Roll up the chicken in plastic wrap: Roll out a long sheet of plastic wrap at least twice as long as the chicken breast slices. Place 1 chicken strip on the plastic wrap, in the middle. Roll up the chicken in the plastic wrap tightly.

Compress as much air out of the chicken as you can as you roll it. Once the chicken is rolled up, rotate it on your cutting board or counter several times to tighten the cylinder even more. Tie the loose ends of the plastic wrap together in a double knot. Repeat with the second chicken strip.

4 Poach the chicken in the hot water: Once the water has reached a high simmer, turn off the heat (keep the pot on the burner though) and drop the rolled-up chicken cylinders in the pot. Cover the pot and let the chicken steep for 15 minutes.

The chicken should be cooked through by then. (If for some reason the chicken is not cooked through, for example if you are using larger than called for breasts, or if you are using frozen chicken that hadn't quite defrosted before starting cooking, you can always put the chicken back in the poaching liquid for a few more minutes.)

5 To serve, snip off the tied ends of the plastic wrap, and unwrap. Note that there will be some juice inside the plastic wrap with the chicken, which has lots of flavor. So you might want to unwrap the chicken pieces over a bowl or something to catch the juice, which you can then pour over the chicken if you want. Or serve the chicken with a sauce of your choice.

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Recipe Summary

  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, halved
  • 1 medium carrot, cut into thirds
  • 1 celery stalk, cut into thirds
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1/2 lemon, sliced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 3 sprigs thyme or parsley
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves, (about 8 ounces each)

In a large, straight-sided skillet or pot, combine all ingredients except chicken cover with water by 1/2 inch. Bring to a boil over high. Add chicken and return to a boil. Cook 3 minutes, then cover skillet and remove from heat. Let stand until chicken is cooked through, 15 to 18 minutes, flipping halfway through. Remove chicken from poaching liquid immediately.

How to Make Perfectly Poached Chicken Breasts

Poaching is a moist cooking technique that works especially well for chicken breasts. Instead of boiling, poached chicken is very gently simmered in liquid (like water or broth), just until cooked through. When done correctly, you'll end up with moist and tender chicken breasts and flavorful cooking liquid. Because poaching doesn't involve any fat, it is a healthy, low-fat method for cooking chicken.

Poached chicken breasts are succulent and tender, making them a great alternative to store-bought rotisserie chicken, which can sometimes be dry and high in sodium. This basic recipe illustrates the proper technique for poaching chicken: Slowly bringing the chicken breasts to a gentle simmer and letting them sit in the liquid before removing ensures that you won't overcook the chicken.

Use poached chicken in your favorite soup recipes, to make chicken salad, tacos, and burritos, or as a sandwich filling. You can also strain and use the leftover cooking liquid to make soup or cook grains or dried beans.


Step 1

Bring chicken, carrots, garlic, salt, ⅓ cup dill, and 5 cups water to a bare simmer in a medium pot over medium heat. (It will take some time for the liquid to come to a simmer. be patient. If you rush it, the chicken will be tough.) Once liquid begins to simmer, reduce heat to low and cook until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced, 10–12 minutes.

Step 2

Meanwhile, coarsely chop remaining ⅓ cup dill. Remove pan from heat and stir in lemon juice pick out and discard dill. Transfer chicken and garlic to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Smash garlic using the side of a chef’s knife and stir back into poaching liquid. Cut chicken crosswise into thin slices.

Step 3

Divide chicken among bowls. Pour some of the poaching liquid over chicken, then top with chopped dill, pepper, and a drizzle of oil.

Step 4

Do Ahead: Chicken can be poached 2 days ahead. Let chicken and broth cool separately. Wrap chicken and transfer broth to an airtight container chill.

Soy Sauce Chicken: Recipe Instructions

Take your chicken out of the refrigerator an hour before you plan to cook. You’ll want it at room temperature when it hits the pot. Remove the giblets, and thoroughly rinse the chicken inside and out.

Grab your stock pot. It will ideally be a tall, narrow pot that will just fit the chicken, since it should be totally submerged in the cooking liquid (if you use a larger pot, you’ll need to increase all the ingredients proportionally to create more cooking liquid). Put it over medium low heat, and add the oil and ginger.

Let the ginger caramelize for about 30 seconds. Then add the scallions and cook another 30 seconds.

Add the star anise and wine (you can use rose-flavored wine (mei gui lu), shaoxing wine, or a mix of both), and bring to a simmer to let some of the alcohol cook off. Add the soy sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt, and water. Bring to a simmer again and cook on low heat for another 20 minutes.

Increase the heat to bring the liquid to a slow boil (i.e. a little stronger than a simmer, but not a rolling boil). Use a large roasting fork inserted into the chicken cavity to lower the chicken slowly into the pot breast side up. Make sure any air pockets in the cavity fill up completely with liquid. The chicken should be entirely submerged at this point.

Once the chicken goes in, the cooking liquid will cool down. Let it cook for about 5 minutes at medium high heat. Next, use your large fork to carefully lift the chicken out of the water and empty the liquid inside the cavity, which will be cooler than the liquid surrounding the chicken. Lower the chicken back into the pot, making sure once again that there aren’t any air pockets in the cavity. If the chicken is not completely submerged, periodically baste the exposed area with cooking liquid.

Bring the liquid back up to a lazy simmer, which should take about 10 minutes. Keep it at this slow simmer (the liquid will be about 210 degrees F) for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the chicken sit in the pot for another 15 minutes. Transfer the soy sauce chicken to a cutting board. If you like, you can use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh to confirm it’s reached 165 degrees F.

Use the sauce from the pot to occasionally baste the chicken and keep the skin moist as it cools. Serve your soy sauce chicken over rice with some sauce from the pot!

We didn’t show it here but some folks like to have this chicken with Scallion Ginger oil from our Cantonese Poached Chicken recipe but personally, I like the purity of the stewed soy sauce for this chicken,

Note: You can also make this recipe with chicken leg quarters and reduce the cooking time accordingly, since they are easier to handle and faster to cook. Also, once you’re done cooking the chicken, you can actually freeze the sauce/cooking liquid for use again later (though you may have to re-season the sauce).

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How to Poach Chicken Breasts That Are Juicy and Delicious, Every Time

Poached chicken breasts are either offensively bad or transcendently good—and, sadly, the scale tips drastically in favor of the former. But that’s just because most people don't know how to poach chicken breasts properly. From this point forward, you will not be one of those people. You will poach chicken perfectly, leaving dry, chewy poached chicken in the rear view mirror.

But wait, what is poaching? It's a cooking method we mention a lot less frequently than roasting or frying or grilling. To poach something is to cook it while submerged in a liquid at a low temperature (read: not boiling). That liquid could be oil, milk, or wine, but we most frequently poach in seasoned water.

Cooking chicken breast in water does not sound glamorous. And most of the time—when people overcook and mistreat their chicken—it isn’t. But the gentle, gradual heat that poaching provides can actually lead to one of the most tender, succulent, perfectly cooked pieces of white-meat chicken you’ll ever eat. Here’s how to nail it every time:

Start with 4 cups of cold water and 2 large chicken breasts (about 1 lb., 4 oz. total) in a sauce pan. (This ratio of water-to-meat is important larger breasts will take longer to cook, and smaller breasts will overcook more quickly. And if you want to cook more chicken, add another 2 cups of water per breast.) Cold water is key here, because it allows the chicken to cook way more gradually than it would if you just dumped them into already-boiling water.

Season the water with 3½ tsp. of kosher salt. This might seem like a ton of salt, but trust us. Only a portion of it ends up on the chicken. Seasoning your water aggressively ensures that your chicken will be well-seasoned and actually taste like. chicken. (But in a good way!)

Turn the heat to medium and bring the water to a gentle boil. As soon as you see the surface of the water start to roll, flip the breasts over with tongs, remove the pot from heat, and cover it with a tightly fitting lid. The chicken breasts will continue to cook gently in the hot water.

Once the chicken breasts register an internal temperature of 150° on the ol' instant read thermometer, remove them from the water. This will usually take about 5-10 minutes, but remember that it all depends on how large or small the chicken breasts are. Always check sooner than later if you're not sure—you can always cook them longer, but you can't uncook them.

Once you’ve removed them from the water, let them rest on a cutting board for at least five minutes. Then slice them up and throw them over rice, in a salad, or onto your grand aioli platter. Whatever you choose, you’ll be adding the best possible poached chicken breast you’ve ever cooked into the mix. In case you haven't noticed, you’re living on the transcendently good side of that scale we mentioned earlier. Welcome, friend: We've been expecting you.

Kitchen Basics: 20 Minute Poached Chicken

I have been following an interesting discussion on another Real Food blog this week about the merits of luncheon meat: that pre-sliced, pre-packaged meat (ham, chicken, turkey) that makes school lunch preparation faster and easier. Two opposing schools of thought arose out of the discussion. The first was that in a true Real Food diet there is absolutely no place for such meats. The opposite viewpoint (and the one to which I subscribe) is that some pre-packaged options are better than others, and if buying such is the difference between a homemade sandwich or processed crud from the school canteen, then luncheon meat wins out every time.

The topic of how these ‘meats’ are made intrigued me enough to raise it with my butcher. It turns out that it was his responsibility to make the ham during his apprenticeship, and I was treated to a gruesome description of the process. Let’s just say it involved lots of additives, fillers, water and not much meat. And if you didn’t get the mixture into the mould (how else do you get square ham?) quickly enough it would set in the container. Thankfully my butcher now makes his own real ham. Apparently it is a pain to slice, but it is all meat with no hidden extras.

So what about chicken? I have always been leery of pre-packaged chicken, even before I started eating Real Food. There is something about the smooth and shiny processed chicken, with no discernible texture, that gives me pause. It is worlds away from any chicken I have ever cooked, which makes me wonder what happened to it before it was tucked into that lovely protective packet. Unlike the ham though, my curiosity is not deep enough to find out and I am more than happy just to avoid it altogether.

It was Sally who introduced me to the concept of poaching a chicken breast to tuck into sandwiches many years ago. She turned up at a mothers group get-together with the best chicken and celery sandwiches I have ever had. The poached chicken breast was moist and succulent, and sat well with the finely chopped celery and mayonnaise in the filling. Having previously poached only a whole chicken, the thought of poaching just the breast struck me as ridiculously simple. And it truly is.

If I am roasting chicken, I add a few extra pieces for sandwiches during the week. If roast chicken isn’t on the menu I poach a chicken breast instead. Chicken breast will poach quietly to one side whilst dinner is cooking, producing meat for sandwiches or salad the next day with minimal effort.

Sometimes I add aromatics to the poaching water. This produces a light broth which I save to tip into soups or to cook grains. If I’m feeling lazy, or the end dish doesn’t lend itself to flavoured chicken, I just use water. Both methods work equally well. Any chicken that doesn’t find its way into sandwiches is frozen to fill crepes or to bulk out soups.

The best thing about a poached chicken breast though is that it contains only chicken. No gums, fillers, stabilisers or other additives. Just chicken. And nobody can argue that that is not Real Food.

Can You Use Chicken Poaching Liquid?

Yes! Save that chicken-y liquid, especially if you tossed some herbs or aromatics. Strain, then refrigerate (if you’re going to use it soon) or freeze the ultra-light poaching liquid and use it as you would store-bought chicken broth. It will be lighter in flavor than traditional chicken broth, but (of course!) much more flavorful than water. Try using it in place of water the next time you cook rice or quinoa, or use it as a delicately-flavored soup base.

How To Cook Bai Qie Ji The Traditional Way

White cut chicken is a whole poached chicken. As in…really whole! Head, feet, and all. It’s a Chinese New Year tradition to serve an entire chicken, as it represents prosperity, togetherness, and completeness. For that reason, this Cantonese dish is often present on Chinese New Year dinner tables!

The best chicken to poach for this white cut chicken recipe is a high quality, smaller , free-range chicken. In my opinion, the best place to go is your local Chinese grocery store because the texture (tender but not mushy) of the chickens sold their are much better than you find in supermarkets. Smaller chickens will yield more tender, evenly cooked results than the mega chickens at your standard grocery store. Give one a try, and you’ll see what I mean!

If you don’t have access to a Chinese grocery store, the next best thing is to use a free-range (preferably organic) chicken from your local supermarket.

Recipe Summary

  • 1 egg white
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound skinless, boneless chicken breast, thinly sliced
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil

Whisk egg white, vinegar, cornstarch, and salt together in a bowl until marinade is smooth. Add chicken cover with plastic wrap and marinate in the refrigerator, about 30 minutes.

Bring water and oil to a boil in a pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium.

Pour excess marinade off the chicken. Add chicken to the pot boil until white on the outside but still raw in the middle, about 1 minute. Strain off excess liquid.

Store in the refrigerator in a sealed container until ready to use, up to a few hours. Heat until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

Watch the video: Κοτόπουλο στο τηγάνι. Γαστρονόμος (June 2022).