Eating well is as much about great quality and nourishing produce as it is about forethought and planning. It can all go pear-shaped when you run in the door, much later than you had hoped, and have to get your head around preparing something nourishing for yourself and often others.
Poached chicken is one of the keys to us eating well as a family. It is the superhero of my kitchen and means I can throw together a very impressive dish in no time at all. It is hugely versatile and there are certainly enough recipes among these pages for you to try it. It’s hero qualities lie in the fact that you poach the chicken in advance — maybe on a Sunday or Monday. This way, you have succulent poached chicken waiting to inspire you for all manner of wonderful dishes.
Poaching chicken is easy. It involves covering a whole chicken or chicken pieces with liquid and allowing it to simmer until cooked through. The low temperature and moist-heat cooking method prevent the chicken from overcooking too quickly, resulting in moist and tender poached chicken.
You can serve your chicken immediately or refrigerate for later, as poached chicken can be served hot, room temperature, or cool. It can also be served whole, or it can be sliced or shredded for your particular recipe.
Reserve the cooking liquid always. Strain it and stash it away in your freezer for stock and soup.
Good poached chicken is essential for …
- A great chicken salad — Asian or Western inspired flavours, such as Vietnamese chicken salad.
- Nourishing chicken soup
- A tasty and nutritious fried rice
- Add sliced poached chicken to your sandwich or wrap — it’s way better for you and tastier than any deli meat.
- This chicken shreds beautifully, so it is great for quick weeknight tacos
- Toss it through pasta with a simple tomato sauce and serve with parmesan and fresh basil or parsley.
- Poached chicken can also be sliced and enjoyed in rice paper rolls (a quick and super healthy mid-week dinner).
You need to banish all thoughts of stringy, tough, sad chicken from your mind. For our chicken salads, sandwiches / wraps and quick weeknight meals, we want nothing but the best. And for that, this recipe here for poached chicken is definitely the way to go.
How to poach chicken:
1 litre water or chicken stock (you can even add a splash of wine if you have some on hand)
1 garlic clove, peeled, halved
1 fresh bay leaf or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
5 black peppercorns
4 or 5 x 250g chicken breast fillets (for a whole chicken, see method below) **
Place the chicken and aromatics in a pot: Arrange the chicken in a single layer on the bottom of the pot. It’s fine if they overlap a little, but they cook more evenly if they are in a single layer. Add the garlic, herbs and peppercorns.
Cover the chicken with water or stock. If using wine, pour this over the chicken first. Pour in enough cool water to cover the chicken.
Place the pot of chicken on the stovetop over medium-high heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Once boiling, turn heat down to reduce to a simmer and cover with a lid. Let cook for 12-15 minutes. The chicken is cooked when opaque through the middle and an instant-read thermometer in the thickest part of the meat registers 75°C.
Remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and place it on a cutting board to rest for a few minutes.
** Poaching a whole chicken (as pictured) is just as easy. Place the whole chicken in the pot and cover with water or stock as well as the aromatics. You could also add some chopped carrot as well as a stick of chopped celery if you have some in the fridge. Bring to the boil, cover and then simmer for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The poaching liquid can be put through a strainer and bagged up for your own nicely portioned stock for whenever the need arises (often in my case!) which is thrifty for my kitchen both at home and at Relish Mama cooking school. Perfect for risotto or an instant soup too that you could add some lovely wontons to or add some asian greens, a little fresh chilli, cooked noodles, baby corn, peas and this is a winner but add some of your shredded poached chicken as well and you guessed it……“winner, winner, chicken dinner”!