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Poaching Chicken - or Fish (How To)

  • m

Can someone give me a quick explanation on how you poach chicken? From my childhood ideas of poaching, it's just cooking something in (almost?) boiling water. It doesn't sound very enticing but i'm sure there's more to it than that. I'd assume that for chicken, you might use chicken stock (or broth) and some seasonings or additions.

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  1. In my mind (the mind of an untrained home cook), poaching is done to obtain a particular texture (softer, more delicate than other cooking methods). It doesn't break down the food the way roasting or braising will, doesn't make a "crust" like frying, so it's not suitable for every kind of food.

    From Epicurious:

    Poach: To cook food gently in liquid just below the boiling point when the liquid's surface is beginning to show some quivering movement. The amount and temperature of the liquid used depends on the food being poached. Meats and poultry are usually simmered in stock, fish in COURT-BOUILLON and eggs in lightly salted water, often with a little vinegar added. Fruit is often poached in a light SUGAR SYRUP. Poaching produces a delicate flavor in foods, while imparting some of the liquid's flavor to the ingredient being poached.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Christine

      On rereading your original post, I'm thinking you're looking for a recipe, rather than an explanation. Sorry about that; I've poached fish a number of ways, but never chicken, so I can't offer any recipe help.

      1. re: Christine

        actually, your post was great. thanks for the explanation. it makes looking at recipes easier if you understand the concepts.

        while i've taken cooking classes (albeit few), none had actually touched on poaching aside from eggs.

    2. Here's my favorite recipe for poached salmon:

      Posted by MzMaggie at recipegoldmine.com (6/23/01 12:22:09 pm)
      4 medium-size 1 inch-thick salmon steaks
      1/2 C. good quality dry white wine
      1/2 C. lemon juice
      3 T. dark brown sugar
      3 garlic cloves, finely minced
      1 tsp. dill
      Combine lemon juice, white wine, brown sugar, dill and garlic in a skillet. Next, bring mixture to boil and simmer for a few minutes allowing it to reduce by half. Place salmon steaks and clamp lid down. Cook for about 4 minutes on each side.
      The brown sugar allows the fish to caramelize beautifully! The combination of the lemon juice and white wine is even more awesome - flavor goes to the bone. Enjoy!

      1. When I poach chicken breasts for salad or what ever I use bone in and skin on chicken breasts. I start by making a vegetable stock, cold water, carrots, onions, celery, the onion skin, garlic, parsley, thyme, peppercorns, and a bit of salt and bring to a simmer. I let that simmer for a bit to draw out the vegetable falvors and then add the chicken. Never let the stock come to a boil and remove when done and strain the stock. Now you have a flavorful chicken stock and can use that to make soup or gravy or sauce.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Candy

          I do something similar. Typically it takes about 35-45 minutes to cook the chicken breasts through from the point in which the liquid starts to simmer. Or you could always just use a thermomenter at about 165F.

          Whenver I am making stock I routinely throw a couple of breasts in the pot to poach since they make great chicken salad and its no extra work.


        2. I can tell you my method for chicken...I'm sure there are many variations.

          I put the chicken (whole chicken) in a pot. I put onions, celery, 1 carrot, parsley, sea salt, peppercorns, bay leaf, and a little thyme in the pot around the chicken. Then I cover it with cold water and bring it to a boil, then turn it down to a nice simmer and leave it for an hour or so, maybe longer depending on the size/age of the bird. Then I let the chicken cool in the liquid (this is just laziness, I think) and take it out, strip off the meat, put the bones back in the pot, bring it to a boil again, strain and use the stock for whatever.

          1. Thank you everyone for your comments. When poaching chicken breasts, for approximately how long should they be cooking?

            1. One more recipe for you... Chinese style chicken...


              Great as is, with a simple ginger and green onion sauce on the side (grated/minced ginger, green onion, salt, pulverized and heated in a bit of peanut oil [or with a bit of scorching peanut oil poured on top]


              Link: http://lawandhelp.com/q198-6.htm

              1. Another general explanation of the why of poaching versus boiling of tender fleshes like fish and chicken.

                When you boil flesh, you also raise the temperature of the liquid inside the flesh above the boiling point and it converts to steam. This cooks the proteins in the flesh quickly, and makes them somewhat tougher than they need to be. Thus, much of the natural liquid of the flesh is steamed out of it, making then end product dry. In fact, according to some cooking theories, boiling is considered a dry heat method of cooking for this reason (likewise deep frying).

                Poaching should generally be done at the gentlest of simmers. At this temperature, the proteins of the flesh cook, but more gently and without steaming out as much of the liquid. In ideal circumstances, there is some intake of the flavored poaching liquid. So you get a tender, moist flesh.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Karl S.

                  Good points. I find that if you put the chicken (or whatever meat) in room temperature liquid, and then VERY gradually bring it up to whatever your target temperature happens to be, it comes out especially tender and evenly cooked.

                  I've also had success poaching chicken or chicken parts in a plastic bag (like one of those Reynolds oven bags, or a vacuum bag if you own one of those contraptions). You get the same gentle cooking, but with no dilution of flavor. You just have to weigh down the bag with a plate or something as it will tend to float.

                  Link: http://tomness.blogspot.com