The BBC Good Food logo
Poached chicken breast in a bowl with veg

Poached chicken breast

A star rating of 2.7 out of 5.10 ratingsRate
loading...
Magazine subscription – your first 5 issues for only £5!
  • Preparation and cooking time
    • Prep:
    • Cook:
  • Easy
  • Serves 4

Cook a chicken breast in an infused liquid for a beautifully tender, lightly seasoned piece of meat that's perfect for adding to salads, soups and sandwiches

  • Gluten-free
Nutrition: per serving
HighlightNutrientUnit
kcal133
low infat1g
saturates0.4g
carbs0g
sugars0g
fibre0g
protein30g
salt0.31g
Advertisement

Ingredients

  • 1 carrot, roughly sliced
  • 1 celery stick, roughly chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • ½ small bunch parsley
  • ½ small bunch dill
  • 4 skinless chicken breasts
  • 1l cold water

Method

  • STEP 1

    Tip the carrot, celery and garlic into a large saucepan. Tie the herbs together in a bunch with a piece of kitchen string, then add to the pan with the chicken breasts, water and 2 tsp salt (adding a little more water if it doesn’t quite cover the chicken). Bring to the boil, then immediately lower to a simmer and cook over a very low heat for 10-12 mins, or until the juices run clear in the thickest part of the breast.

  • STEP 2

    Remove the pan from the heat and scoop out the chicken breasts from the poaching liquid. Slice or tear the chicken into pieces and use in salads, soups or sandwiches.

How long does it take to poach chicken?

It should take around 10-12 minutes to poach chicken breasts over a very low heat on the hob, or until the juices run clear when pierced in the thickest part. If the chicken breasts are very large, or your pan is on the small side, it could take a little longer. Don’t be tempted to increase the heat to cook the chicken more quickly as this can make it tough.

How do I know the chicken is cooked?

Remove from the cooking liquid using a slotted spoon. Insert a skewer into the thickest part of the breast, remove the skewer and press the meat to encourage the juices to escape. They should run clear. If pink or cloudy, you need to cook it for a bit longer. If in doubt, cut into the thickest part and check the flesh is opaque with no pink parts. If cooking chicken breasts of different sizes, check the largest one.

I’m in a hurry, can I cook it more quickly?

By cutting the raw chicken breasts into thin strips you can poach them in a matter of minutes. Follow the recipe, stirring after a minute, and check to see if they’re cooked after 2-3 minutes.

Is poaching chicken healthy?

Yes. This method of cooking doesn’t use any oil (as with frying and roasting) so is a healthier, low-fat way of cooking chicken.

Is poached chicken the same as boiled?

Rather than boiling at high temperatures, poached chicken is very gently simmered in water until cooked through. This gentler cooking technique allows the protein to cook without seizing up, resulting in meat that is more tender and moist.

How to flavour poached chicken

This recipe (above) cooks the chicken in a simple broth of carrots, celery, garlic cloves, parsley and dill, so it should have a subtle herby flavour. You can swap the herbs for whatever you have available. Woody herbs such as oregano, thyme or rosemary work well, a blend like ‘herbes de Provence’, or an Italian herb mix. You can also add dried red chilli flakes, black peppercorns, or slices of lemon.

For even more flavour, you could add a splash of white wine or light beer to the water, or even poach it in chicken stock (the latter would have enough flavour to be used as the base for a soup; just shred the cooked chicken and return it to the stock).

For a Chinese-inspired flavour, add sliced ginger, spring onions, soy sauce and a star anise to the poaching water or stock. For a Thai-inspired dish, add bashed lemongrass, ginger, dried or fresh chilli and, if you like, coconut milk, fish sauce and lime juice.

How do you store poached chicken breast?

Remove it from the cooking water and leave to cool, then you can keep it covered in the fridge for up to three days. You can leave the chicken breasts whole or shred them before chilling. Whole chicken breasts will stay slightly moister.

Can I freeze poached chicken breast?

Yes, you can freeze it on the same day it’s cooked. Seal it well in a freezer bag or airtight container, then you can freeze it for up to three months. It’s important to defrost it in the fridge (not at room temperature) and this can take a few hours. Defrosting in the fridge overnight is ideal, then you know it will be ready the next day. If you want to reheat it, you’ll need to do this in water or stock to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Ensure it is piping hot all the way through before serving. Or use it cold once defrosted in salads or sandwiches etc. Either way, use within 24 hours of defrosting.

What can I do with poached chicken?

  • Use the poached chicken to make one or more of our colourful, healthy chicken salads – ideal for a packed lunch, light dinner or casual entertaining. Try our pesto chicken salad, green goddess chicken salad, niçoise chicken salad, chicken & pistachio salad or pile it on top of a perfect caesar salad. For something with a little spice, try Thai chicken salad or use it in place of chicken legs in our sesame, edamame & chicken noodle salad.
  • For packed lunches, picnics and easy meals, mix with mayonnaise for a sandwich filling, jacket potato topping, or to pile on top of lettuce for a salad. You can add sweetcorn, chopped peppers or diced celery to the mayonnaise for extra crunch. Our easy coronation chicken takes it up a notch with spices and sweet mango chutney.
  • For something heartier and family-friendly you can add poached chicken to different pasta, rice or noodle dishes. Try our chicken & bacon pasta or chicken & mushroom risotto, or add it to another favourite dish, ensuring it is thoroughly reheated. You can also use it as a filling in your favourite burrito, taco or fajita recipe.
  • Our lemon chicken soup is perfect for using up any leftover cooked chicken, or you can add a handful of the shredded chicken to any other vegetable soup for a protein hit – again, making sure to reheat it until piping hot. You can also use the cooking liquid as the base for a simple chicken noodle soup by cooking the noodles in the poaching liquid and adding the shredded chicken back to the stock.
  • For a simple and elegant meal serve the poached chicken breast hot with an English mustard sauce and steamed veg.

More poached chicken recipes

Our Chinese poached chicken & rice uses chicken legs, which take longer to cook but are extra moist and full of flavour. It makes an easy dinner and you can use any leftovers to make our cold chicken noodle salad the next day. Our aromatic chicken noodle soup uses the poaching liquid as the base for the soup with flavourings of garlic and ginger.

Also check out our collection of poached chicken recipes for more ideas.

Goes well with

Advertisement

Comments, questions and tips

Rate this recipe

What is your star rating out of 5?

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Choose the type of message you'd like to post

Overall rating

A star rating of 2.7 out of 5.10 ratings
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content