Poached chicken is one of the most underrated ways of making chicken,
and yet one of the easiest, and lightest. It's as close to effortless and foolproof as
you can get, requires no added fat, always produces the most moist
chicken imaginable, and you get a bonus chicken broth out of it too.
It's the ideal meat for anytime of the day, but particularly lunch as it lends itself so well to salads, noodle bowls, and tacos.
Thighs and breasts make the best poached chicken. Boneless breasts will give you the greatest, most effortless yield, bone-in thighs give you the moistest, most flavorful meat. Personally I use a combination of breasts and thighs. There's one very important difference between poaching breasts and thighs. With boneless breasts you have to watch them, because even though you're cooking them in liquid they will dry out on you if you let them cook even one minute too long. Thighs are much more forgiving and will only get more tender. If you are using breasts be very mindful of this. As soon as the meat isn't pink anymore get them out of the broth. Don't be afraid of undercooking them, you can always cook them again, but you can't rehydrate them once they are overcooked.
Poaching chicken doesn't really require a recipe. Basically you simmer your chicken in a flavorful liquid until it's done. Honestly, in a pinch you could poach them in salt water. Here is the important part though: when you cook meat in liquid, you need to cool meat in liquid. If you remove your hot chicken from the hot broth and let it cool on the counter it's going to dry right out. So here's what I do. Pull the meat from the pot, put it in a heatproof bowl, ladle a few scoops of broth on top, and then cover it in ice. Adding broth to the ice bath ensures that your chicken stays flavourful, adding ice to the broth ensures that your chicken doesn't overcook. once the chicken is cooled you can pull the meat off with your fingers and shred it.
It is now ready to eat on your salads and noodle bowls. If you want to make pulled chicken for tacos or burritos simply saute the chicken for a few minutes in oil, and more seasoning until it gets a little crispy.
Below I've described the basic technique and included a few broth suggestions. In this case I haven't listed quantities because I don't want you to be limited by them. Sometimes you want your chicken to be bold, and sometimes mild. Make the broth accordingly. The only thing that is important is that the broth has a nice flavor, and that it is salty enough. It's salty enough if you could eat the broth out of a mug without wanting to reach for more salt.
Let me know if you have any comments or questions, I love to hear from you!
Poached Chicken Non-recipe
Assemble your broth, bring to a gentle simmer, taste and re-season. Add your chicken. Simmer gently until just cooked through. Remove chicken, place in a heatproof bowl, and ladle hot broth on top, just enough to cover the chicken. Now cover the chicken in ice, and allow it to cool.
Once cooled, shred the meat with your hands. If you've used meat with bones return the bones to the pot of broth, turn the heat back on and simmer for an hour. Now you have chicken broth and pulled chicken.
Keep in mind these ingredients are just suggestions. With poached chicken the key is effortlessness. Use what you have on hand, don't get bogged down in details.
white wine and or lemons, peeled
herbs: any combination of rosemary, thyme, sage, parsley
soy or fish sauce
star anise, cloves, and or cinnamon
fresh chili, whole
paprika or achiote paste
cumin and or coriander