Go Back
+ servings
Water being poured into a silver skillet with cooked chicken.

How to Poach Chicken

Move over, rotisserie chicken—once you learn how to poach chicken, you can make the most amazing chicken salad, scrumptious chicken tacos, and tender, velvety chicken for a week’s worth of healthy lunches.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword chicken
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 88kcal
Author Meggan Hill


For Chicken Breasts:

  • 4 skinless chicken breasts bone-in, or boneless
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Complimentary aromatics: black peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh herbs, ginger, garlic, onion, or kaffir lime leaf optional

For Whole Chicken:

  • 1 4-5 pound whole chicken cut in pieces
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • Complimentary aromatics: black peppercorns, bay leaf, fresh herbs, ginger, garlic, onion, or kaffir lime leaf optional


How to skillet-poach chicken breasts:

  • Dry the chicken with paper towels and sprinkle both sides with salt and pepper (I like 1/4 teaspoon each). Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  • Add the chicken in a single layer and cook until golden-brown on one side, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, add the water and aromatics (if using), and cover.
  • Reduce heat to medium and continue to cook until the chicken registers 160 degrees when pierced at the thickest part, about 10 to 15 minutes longer depending on the thickness of the chicken.
  • Remove to a cutting board and cool slightly. Slice, chop, or shred as desired.

How to poach a whole chicken:

  • Add chicken to a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Add aromatics and salt. Fill pot with cold water, until water covers the chicken by about an inch.
  • Bring water to barely a boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any white foam and discard. 
  • Reduce water to low, cover, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Chicken is done when opaque through the middle and a thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken registers 165 degrees.
  • Remove chicken from pot. Shred chicken, discarding skin and bones (you should have about 4 cups chicken). See notes for how to save the remaining chicken stock.


  1. To reserve chicken stock (and you SHOULD), pour through a fine-mesh sieve. Transfer to the refrigerator and cool overnight. The next day, scrape the layer of accumulated fat off the top and discard. Divide broth into freezer-safe containers and freeze.


Calories: 88kcal