How to Poach Chicken Breasts

Poached chicken breasts
Poached chicken breasts. Lisa Hubbard / Getty Images

Poached chicken breasts are easy to make and you can use them in all kinds of recipes, like chicken salads, chicken enchiladas, chicken pot pie, and all kinds of pasta recipes.

Chicken breasts are already very lean, and poaching them means you cook them with zero added fat, so they turn out juicy, succulent and totally healthy.

I'll describe two methods for poaching chicken breasts here. If you want to poach a whole chicken, see How to Poach a Chicken.

How to Poach Chicken Breasts: Method #1

  1. Start with boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Place the chicken breasts at the bottom of a wide pan. The wider the pan, the more chicken breasts you can fit. Don't overcrowd them. Depending on the size of your pan, you can probably poach 2 to 4 chicken breasts this way.
  2. Add enough water so that you cover the chicken breasts with at least two inches of water.
  3. Add some chopped onion, carrot and celery, as well as some fresh herbs like thyme or tarragon, along with a bay leaf and a few whole black peppercorns. Finally, add about a tablespoon of Kosher salt.
  4. Bring the water to a boil, then lower it to a simmer. You should see a few gentle bubbles rise up from time to time, but definitely not a full rolling boil.
  5. Simmer for about 10 minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot tightly and let the chicken breasts stand in the hot water for another 15 to 20 minutes, depending on how big the chicken breasts are.
  1. Note: Some variations on this technique will suggest that you let the chicken breasts cool all the way in the cooking liquid. But that would create a food safety hazard, so you don't want to do it that way. After 15 to 20 minutes, take the chicken breasts out and either serve right away or pull/shred/chop them into pieces, run them under cold water, drain and refrigerate.

    How to Poach Chicken Breasts: Method #2

    1. Preheat your oven to 325°F.
    2. Follow steps #1 through #3 described above.
    3. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer for five minutes. Then cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and transfer it to the oven.
    4. Poach the chicken breasts in the oven for about 15 minutes, then remove and either serve or cool as described above.

    The second method is a little quicker, and it also frees up space on your cooktop.

    Finally, don't discard the cooking liquid. You can reduce this liquid to make a sauce or a simple gravy. Here's a list of sauces for chicken and poultry.