Perfect Poached Chicken Breasts

From Cook's Illustrated | March/April 2014

Why this recipe works:

Poaching can be the best way to gently cook superlean modern chicken breasts, but the standard approach isn’t foolproof and offers little in the way of flavor or pizzazz. We took the guesswork out of poaching by starting the chicken breasts in cool water, bringing the pot to 175 degrees over… read more

Poaching can be the best way to gently cook superlean modern chicken breasts, but the standard approach isn’t foolproof and offers little in the way of flavor or pizzazz. We took the guesswork out of poaching by starting the chicken breasts in cool water, bringing the pot to 175 degrees over medium heat, and then removing the pot from the heat and cooking entirely with gentle, residual heat. We used lots of water (4 quarts) to ensure plenty of reserve heat, which would do the cooking, and raised the breasts off the bottom of the pot with a steamer basket for even cooking from top to bottom. To up the flavor ante, we added salt, soy sauce, sugar, and garlic to the poaching liquid for meaty, rich-tasting breasts. Finally, to boost tenderness, flavor absorption, and juiciness, we took an unusual approach and brined the breasts directly in the poaching liquid before turning on the heat and cooking them. The result is supertender, juicy chicken breasts that pair well with simple sauces.

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Serves 4

To ensure that the chicken cooks through, don’t use breasts that weigh more than 8 ounces each. If desired, serve the chicken with one of our sauces (see related content) or in a salad or sandwiches.

Ingredients

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