Introduction: How to Poach Chicken Breasts

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Poaching chicken breasts is one of the easiest things you can do when it comes to cooking! In this instructable, I'll show you how I poach chicken breasts so they come out moist and tender every time.

You can use poached chicken breasts in loads of ways, but I tend to only shred them and use the chicken in enchiladas or chilaquiles. (I may be addicted.)

I admit I normally prefer chicken thighs to breasts, but poached chicken breasts come out so nicely I can't really fault them. :D

Step 1: Tools + Ingredients


  • 1 pound chicken breasts (for me, this was three breasts - make sure to trim them of excess fat.)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Aromatics you like: I used crushed garlic, crushed peppercorns, and a bay leaf.
  • Water to cover chicken - 6 cups for me

You can use all kinds of ingredients in the water to flavor the chicken, or even use stock or broth to poach the breasts. The possibilities are pretty endless. :)


  • 2-4 quart saucepan with lid
  • Instant read thermometer
  • Tongs

The thermometer is the real key here! While timing things certainly helps, the thermometer will ensure you don't overcook the breasts and dry them out.

Step 2: Lay the Breasts in the Pan and Cover With Seasoning

Place the chicken breasts down into the pan around the edges. It's okay if they overlap a little bit.

Once they're in, throw the salt and aromatics you've chosen on top.

Step 3: Add Cool Water to Cover

Add enough water to the pan to cover the breasts with 2-3 inches of water.

We're going to cold-start the breasts in order to keep them more tender. If you drop a raw chicken breast into boiling water, it will seize up immediately and you'll end up with a rubbery outside. We want these breasts to come up to boiling gradually instead of right away.

Step 4: Bring to a Boil, Cover and Simmer

Once everything's in the pot, set it over medium-high heat just until it comes to a boil.

A bubbly foam will start to form on the top which you can skim away if you want to use the liquid for something later. I admit since I normally use water I don't worry about it - it's just coagulated proteins!

As soon as the pot boils, cover it and set the heat to low. (160-180 F is the most often given temperature range for the poaching liquid.)

Now we're going to simmer the breasts for 10-16 minutes.

I know that's a wide time frame, but cooking will depend on the size of your chicken breasts. Mine were about 1/3 pound each, and cooked in 12 minutes.

I would suggest checking the thickest bit of meat at around 10 minutes to see where you are, temperature-wise. We want the chicken to come up to 165 F / 73 C internal temperature.

Step 5: Uncover and Check the Temps

Once it's simmered for 10 minutes, wrestle out a chicken breast with a pair of tongs and use your thermometer to check the temp. (Make sure to check the thickest part!)

Depending on what the thermometer says, you can either pull the breasts out of the liquid or cook them a little longer.

Step 6: Enjoy!

And there you go! Super easy and fast poached chicken breasts. :)

They don't require any resting time, so feel free to use them right away or put them into the fridge for later use.