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how to make chicken breast better when cooking in water

goute Jun 23, 2011 11:14 AM


I'm on a diet and haven't used any added oil in the past 15 days. Like many dieters I also rely on chicken breast s (and beans) to support my intake of protein.

The chicken breast has been cooked into a soup or just plain water. The taste, everyone can expect, is pretty bad.

I've tried to marinate those meats with some wine, salt and soy sauce and it tastes better, but i'm wondering if there's any non-baked recipe that adds no extra oil to chicken breast? (i don't have an oven)

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  1. s
    smtucker RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 11:22 AM

    Have you tried to make a flavorful broth instead of just water? When I make a poached chicken breast, I first start by simmering my water with some leeks, bay leaf, carrots, fresh or dried thyme, and even some lemon. Anything I have in the fridge, then add the chicken to poach. If you are making poached chicken regularly, then strain the broth and save until the next time. After doing this two or three times, you can have some soup.

    1. ennuisans RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 11:49 AM

      Something I do that you could adapt is cook chicken thighs in either cooked-down tomatoes or canned tomato sauce/crushed tomatoes. The citrus breaks down the chicken just like lemon or lime would. I usually saute some vegetables first, toast some rice and then add the tomato and water, let that cook for half an hour or so before putting the chicken in to cook.

      Also look into getting a dutch oven or similar heavy metal cookpot. You'd have to experiment, but if you can find a way to elevate the chicken off the bottom of the pot (a couple of wooden sticks soaked in water might work) you could essentially bake your chicken on the stovetop. A deep frying pan with a lid could give you a similar effect as well if you already have that.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ennuisans
        goute RE: ennuisans Jun 23, 2011 09:42 PM

        I think you're right that i should take some chicken thighs (skinless) and it tastes better, although its protein is 16% lesser than the breast and contain more fat percentage. Anyway, I will try some. After all, any diet must be sustainable on my tongue if i want to keep it going.

        thighs (66% protein, 30% fat , 119 calories per 100g)

        breast (84% protein 10% fat, 110 calories per 100g

      2. Karl S RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 11:57 AM

        Cook it on the bone.

        1. l
          LauraGrace RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 12:00 PM

          If you have a nonstick pan, you can saute the chicken breast in it without oil, rather than poaching.

          The goal is to get flavor IN, whereas your current method is doing nothing but taking flavor OUT of the chicken. So if you must poach, don't use plain water -- use wine, the flavorful broth smtucker recommends, miso broth, spicy tomato sauce, curry paste, etc.

          You might just try poaching the chicken in boxed chicken broth with whatever spices strike your fancy. You could add cumin, shredded carrots, golden raisins, and onion for a North-African flavor. Or rosemary, lemon juice, garlic, and chilli flakes.

          Good luck!

          1. ROCKLES RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 12:14 PM

            I would first of all use a whole chicken and cut it up--there is much more flavor in the whole bird than in pieces that have already been cut up. Adding soy sauce will not help you on your diet so I suggest staying off of that. I cook a whole chicken with cut up herbs, onions , spices etc in a crock pot with water and let it simmer all day. The chicken flavors its self plus I get the added benefit of having chicken broth that I strain and then let sit in the refrigerator overnight, skim it and then freeze it in containers for later use. The chicken can then be used for other purposes, however its generally very soft so better as chicken sandwich or added to your beans etc.

            1 Reply
            1. re: ROCKLES
              goute RE: ROCKLES Jun 24, 2011 10:40 PM

              herbs and onions (and garlic too) really boosts the flavor of the plain chicken breast and i enjoy it, but i still couldn't resist to use some soy sauce which is quite good for me. The sodium level is a concern but i've limited my use of it carefully.

            2. w
              wattacetti RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 12:21 PM

              You can also steam a whole bird and then make white-cut chicken among other things.

              1. j
                JeremyEG RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 12:25 PM

                If you need lots of flavor, you could make a rich veggie stock as others have suggested. I sometimes thrown in a couple cut of lemons or limes as well as some whole dried chili peppers. That can add a real kick with not fat at all. Good luck!

                1. ROCKLES RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 12:32 PM

                  or another thought--barbecue it

                  1. m
                    madkittybadkitty RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 12:36 PM

                    grill it! pound a bit so they're even, and then marinate in a fat-free marinade (fat-free salad dressings are easy and work well), then throw them on a grill - medium, not too hot. you won't even miss the grease.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: madkittybadkitty
                      pine time RE: madkittybadkitty Jun 23, 2011 02:03 PM

                      Rethink the no-oil rule. Even Weight Watchers now requires 2 Tbl. of healthy oils daily. Could make a world of difference.

                      1. re: pine time
                        themis RE: pine time Jun 23, 2011 05:22 PM

                        I will ditto this. There are certain nutrients that are only fat-soluble; that is, our bodies do not process or absorb them without fat. Going completely fat-free saves you a smidge in the way of calorie density but is unhealthy in the long run, as most of the phytonutrients you've bothered to eat go right through you. That's things like lycopenes, carotenoids -- things that people call antioxidants, that make food superfoods, and help fight inflammation and disease.

                        A salad without vinaigrette is a sad thing, I think, not to mention a nutritional waste. It's just blank roughage.

                        Personally, I can't abide the smell of boiling chicken and always poach in stock or broth.

                        1. re: pine time
                          Vetter RE: pine time Jun 24, 2011 11:48 PM

                          I third this. Fat is not bad. Read Gary Taubes Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. Eye-opening stuff, and the science is solid.

                          If I had to eat low fat chicken breast, I'd at least marinate and grill it. Carefully.

                      2. mamachef RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 02:15 PM

                        More important even than marinades, etc. is to buy really good chicken and then poach it carefully; once your water comes to a low boil, turn it all the way down, I mean literally almost off; cover and let go for about 20 minutes for a good medium-sized breast. Also it does help if there are aromatics in the water. You could even try making tiny slashes in the breast and doing a rub then, so it could penetrate into the meat if you don't boil the hell out of it. And skin-on, bone-in does help also....just remove the skin and bone, and defat the broth before using it for something else.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: mamachef
                          Uncle Bob RE: mamachef Jun 23, 2011 06:14 PM

                          10-4 !!!! If the water is moving...turn it down1 Better yet...turn it off!! ~~ I put chicken breast in boiling water...put the lid on....turn it OFF..don't peek for about 20-30 minutes

                          Switch to thighs... and can we get some celery, garlic, and onion in the water? IMO chicken without Celery is like a day without sunshine...... like mustard/turnip greens without pot likker and cornbread....:)

                          1. re: mamachef
                            goute RE: mamachef Jun 23, 2011 09:36 PM

                            20 minutes for chicken breast....would it be too long?

                            When cooking in the water, it often takes only 30 seconds to make the sliced chicken breast done and the texture sometimes turns out chewy and dry if i simmer it for a longer time (2 minutes) .

                            1. re: goute
                              mamachef RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 10:05 PM

                              To me it sounds as if you're slicing the chicken into strips before you cook, do I get that right? That's the problem, if that's what you're doing. But: for a fairly large chicken breast (and we get big uns out here....8 ounces plus, big plump knockers. And UncaBob has the right ideas, absolutely. 20 minutes is dandy. But never ever try to boil or poach pre-sliced breast....so not worth the trouble, little chewy dry strips of tastelessness. Keep practicin and use whole breasts! Cheers!

                          2. ursy_ten RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 02:19 PM

                            Ditto on the other suggestions, but I have one to add: brine it first.
                            It adds juiciness as well as flavour.

                            1. boogiebaby RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 02:48 PM

                              I don't understand the "no oil" thing. You need some oil in your diet, whether it be naturally occurring like in fish, or added, such as olive oil. It helps keep things "lubricated" inside. I do Weight Watchers and one of the rules is to make sure you get 2 tablespoons of oil into your diet daily.

                              That being said, you could use a cooking spray or an oil mister. Use a brush to lightly oil your pan and then saute your food. Grill it. I can't imagine poaching in plain water would ever be appealing, unless I needed bland chicken for a recipe with a lot of spices. You said you used wine and soy sauce, but I'd rather use oil over wine any day to get better flavor for the same amount of calories.

                              If you want soup, saute the chicken in a touch of oil or cooking spray until browned (or grill it) and then add it to your soup. The simple act of browning will ad a ton of flavor. Use lots of lemon or other citrus, garlic, and fresh herbs wherever you can. If you are going to eat bland chicken, serve it with flavorful, lowcal/nocal ingredients.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: boogiebaby
                                chefathome RE: boogiebaby Jun 23, 2011 05:11 PM

                                "I don't understand the no-oil thing. You need some oil in your diet..."

                                Exactly. You need fat to absorb minerals and vitamins properly.

                                Anyway, as others recommend, I would brine bone-on first (a nice combination is vanilla beans and rosemary) and then sear or grill. You could perhaps glaze with something interesting such as pomegranate molasses or reduced apple cider and sprinkle with pepitas for crunch. Why not serve it with a savoury salsa such as mango and mint or roasted cherry or even roasted grapes and fresh thyme? Or how about going more Middle Eastern and grill as kebabs with tons of yummy spices and wrap in bibb lettuce leaves and drizzle with a bit of yogurt/garlic sauce?

                                1. re: chefathome
                                  goute RE: chefathome Jun 23, 2011 09:31 PM

                                  I actually got some fat from my diet snack like sunflower seeds and many types of beans (kidney, soybeans, black, pinto) , 300-500g chicken breast a day, and 1 egg yolk. That's why i don't want to add extra oil to my diet.

                              2. s
                                S_K RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 04:02 PM

                                You can steam it using the same marinades as you would when you bake. The texture and taste will be different, but it's an idea. A lot of the ideas already posted are really good and you can save the cooking liquid for soup or sauce or even freeze it for later use.

                                1. l
                                  lrhr RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 05:20 PM

                                  Whatever liquid you use, don't boil it. Cook it at a low simmer. Boiling sucks all the moisture (and flavor) out with it. Only boil if you are trying to get flavor into the water (soup stock) and are planning on tossing the chicken (or fish...). Took me ages to understand why my poached salmon was dry when it was cooked under water. I wasn't poaching: I was boiling.

                                  1. cowboyardee RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 06:59 PM

                                    Suggestion A - Ghetto sous vide: season the chicken breasts as you see fit, seal in ziplock bag under water to get all the air out. Fill your biggest stockpot with water and get it to a consistent temp on the stove in the 140-145 degree range. Submerge the bag, keeping the 'zipper' part out of the water, maybe pinched under the lid of the pot. Keep the temperature in this range and cook the chicken for an hour, hour and a half if it's fairly thick. Take it out and it will be super tender and flavorful and well seasoned.

                                    Suggestion B - as others have pointed out, using plain water saps the flavor, and you're better off using some other liquid, be it stock or wine or vegetable broth. But also, you can save this liquid in the fridge and reuse it every time you simmer chicken. The liquid should get more and more flavorful as you continue to use it. The concept is pretty similar to Chinese master stock for cooking chicken.

                                    Just make sure there is decent saltiness to the liquid, make sure you cool it quickly before refrigerating, and make sure you bring it to a boil at least once a week if you haven't used it.

                                    1. Kajikit RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 07:28 PM

                                      SEASON IT! If you're cooking the chicken breast with water you want a broth, not plain water... you can add some onion and celery to the pan at the same time as you put the chicken in (or use tomato, peppers or any flavourful vegetable), or use dried herbs and spices. For zero effort on your part, add a generous amount of Mrs Dash - or you can approximate it from your own spice rack. My go-to combination is as follows: onion powder, garlic powder, ground coriander, a little oregano, and pepper with just a touch of salt.

                                      If you like your chicken browned, cook it in the broth until the water is all gone and it will brown up nicely at the very end of the cooking time when a little fat has rendered out of the chicken.

                                      1. f
                                        fourunder RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 09:03 PM

                                        Pound your chicken breast to1/4 inch thickness and fill or spread with any type of vegetable, dairy or other protein your diet will allow. Roll the breast and filling into a roulade/rouladen, tightly spin wrap in plastic film/saran ......and tie the two ends together. Poach in liquid. Unwrap and slice on the bias and fan out on the plate. The visual presentation will make it taste better.....:0)

                                        1. g
                                          goute RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 09:34 PM

                                          Thanks for everyone for all the suggestions. Today i tries to use a few drop of water to "fry" the chicken with some garlic, and use the low heat to cook the breast with some bean soup. It tastes much better.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: goute
                                            mamachef RE: goute Jun 23, 2011 10:09 PM

                                            So very nice to hear and so nice of you to report back. And bonus: now you know that the "fried" chicken will work with any herb or spice you choose, plus or without garlic.

                                            1. re: mamachef
                                              goute RE: mamachef Jun 24, 2011 02:12 AM


                                              I've actually had some experiences in cooking but i have troubles cooking with a way lesser salt, oil, sugar and other seasonings that contains fat and sodium. i just tried to fry it again and this time, I started to add very limited oil to cook first time in the past 15 days.

                                              Fried Curry Chicken Breast

                                              30% Chicken breast : marinated with wine and garlic
                                              70% chopped garlic , onion, some chili pepper flakes
                                              Seasoning: some ground curry powder (box mix, oil free, )
                                              Oil: 1/2 teaspoon oil (only for frying the onion-garlic mix until brown)

                                              I fried the onion and garlic with the limited oil (usually i will use much more), then added the curry powder mix , and water (i would use chicken broth in the past). When it nearly dried out, i put the chicken, and stir-fried it .

                                              It's spicy n tasty and reasonably low fat.

                                          2. Bryan Pepperseed RE: goute Jun 24, 2011 05:06 AM

                                            I'm basically repeating both the steaming and BBQ suggestions made by others, but thought I'd mention beer can chicken and crockpot options.

                                            EDIT: Almost forgot the sous vide option.

                                            1. Naguere RE: goute Jun 25, 2011 05:09 AM

                                              How about en papillote, but use foil and put under the grill, turning half way through,

                                              or, wrap twice in foil and drop in to boiling water.

                                              Both ways would allow you to sprinkle stuff on the breast, anoint with flavours and so on, without leaching away anything.

                                              A la Chinoise, place in a steamer, sprinkle ginger, scallions,garlic on and steam for 20 mins.

                                              Job jobbed.

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