I wanted to quickly share my favorite technique for cooking chicken. It makes foolproof, juicy chicken every time without much fuss. Granted, poaching lacks the carmelized flavor and color of roasting or pan-searing, but it also lacks the propensity for dry meat. For sandwiches or sauced dishes, this is my go-to cooking method. The best part is that it’s totally low-maintenance!
Poaching chicken takes, literally, two steps.
1) Fill a sauce pan about 3/4 of the way with water (eyeball it; if you are cooking multiple chicken breasts, use a bigger pot). Add any aromatics you might want to use (garlic, pepper, parsley, onions, thyme… the possibilities are limited only by your imagination) and set on medium-low heat until the water is hot and begins to steam just a tiny bit. If the water begins to bubble, turn the heat down!
2) Once your water is hot but not bubbling, throw in your chicken. You can use boneless, skinless chicken breasts or whatever you have lying around. Keep the water low and walk away for 10-15 minutes.
Seriously, that’s it. The nice thing is that you don’t have to watch it. If you walk away for more time, you’ll be fine as long as your pan is low and the water is not bubbling. Trust a girl on this one; if your pan bubbles, your chicken will be tough and stringy. If you happen to see a bubble, turn the heat down – you’ll probably be fine. But if your pan is boiling vigorously (as mine has done before), you’ll probably want to throw in some veggies and make your own chicken broth (which is yummy too, and easier than you’d think, but a totally different post), because the chicken meat itself will be toast.
This morning, I poached three chicken breasts in a medium sauce pan for a potluck work luncheon (it was panini!day!). They took about 15 minutes, during which time I went and took a shower. Yes, this method is that low-maintenance. They came out super-tender and juicy, and were easy to slice for sandwiches. If you prefer, you can always toss pieces of poached chicken in salads or just in a nice flavorful sauce (I like to mix a 2:1 ratio of honey to dijon mustard and just warm it up and pour it on).
My favorite part about poaching, aside from the oh-so-tender meat, is that you can literally throw a frozen chicken breast in the water with no prep and have dinner on the table within a half hour (frozen chicken takes longer). You just toss it in and ignore it. You can also poach chicken in a microwave (in fact, that’s even easier, since the microwave generally won’t get hot enough to boil the water), in a bowl. Which means, of course, that if you’re really strapped for time, you can make this dish at work for lunch. Most fish can also be poached, since it’s a gentle cooking method that doesn’t dry out the meat.
Like I said, it’s not the prettiest stuff in the world, but poached chicken is a pretty fabulous addition to a busy girl’s lunch or dinner repertoire. And since you don’t need to add any fat, this is a very lean preparation too. I just couldn’t help but share!