The Perfect Poach

In this class, students learn chicken poaching basics as well as how to develop flavorful sauces. This page serves as a digest of what we cover in class.

Poaching is a very gentle cooking technique perfect for tender foods. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts, delicate fish, eggs, and young vegetables are all good candidates.

Because poaching imparts only a little flavor and no browning, poached foods have subtle, delicate tastes. If bold flavor accents are desired, they must be added in the form of a sauce, garnish, or accompaniment.

Sauces add flavor and moisture and can unite disparate ingredients. They don’t have to complicated, but they should be well-balanced, taking into account the flavors of the sauce ingredients and what it will be accompanying.

Key Takeaways

These concepts capture the most important aspects of this gentle cooking technique; remember them whether you’re following a recipe or making your own dish.

Armed with a thermometer and a little technique know-how, you can successfully make a poached dinner any night of the week. The gentle cooking method means that the process is easy-paced, allowing you to take your time as you learn the basics. Poaching is foolproof because the steps are very few and very easy.


STP_HowXWorks_3780Poaching keeps tender foods tender. It won’t transform the tough into the tender, though, so selecting the right foods to poach is critical. Chicken breast, fish, eggs, asparagus, and fruit are all great candidates.


Poaching guarantees tender and moist protein, but the flavor is subtle. We like to complement the texture and delicacy of poached items with flavorful, well-balanced sauces. To make a good sauce, you need to understand balancing flavors like salt, acid, freshness, and bitterness. What you don’t need to know is complicated techniques. Trust your palate. Don’t worry too much about your knife skills.

Basic Equipment

Poaching recipes’ ingredient lists are usually short, as is the list of essential equipment.

ThermometerThermometer: The key to successful poaching is relying on temperature, not cooking time. Check the temperature of your water and protein regularly and you will get tender, moist results.

kitchen timerKitchen timer: Setting reminders to check the temperature will ensure that you don’t forget about the pot while you answer email, make a sauce, or help your child with homework.

Dutch OvenA 6-quart saucepan or Dutch oven: For poaching chicken, we use lots of water and residual heat, so a large pot is a must.

lidded skilletA skillet with a lid: When poaching eggs and fish, we use less water than when poaching chicken. The lid keeps the heat in while the protein gently cooks.

TongsTongs: We like 12-inch stainless steel tongs with rubber grips. They are long enough to reach into big pots of hot liquid safely and the rubber grips are less likely to tear the delicate foods we poach.

Basic Technique

Different foods follow slightly different poaching rules. Chicken, for example, cooks gently in ample water while fish cooks just as gently in relatively little liquid.  To poach eggs, you slip them into boiling acidic water and remove the pan immediately from the heat to finish cooking quietly.  However, there is one important shared technique: gentle cooking in liquid over moderate heat. (Notice we used “gentle” three times in this paragraph—we want you to remember that word!)

Poaching is also really easy and produces tender, moist food that serves as a fabulous backdrop to flavorful sauces and accompaniments. We know poached chicken has a bad rap, but follow our recipe, and you’ll be making it all the time. We do!

Practice Recipes

Start fine-tuning your poaching skills at home with the recipes we prepared in class:

After perfecting the in-class recipes, continue practicing with these related recipes:

  • Classic Chicken Salad – this uses our Perfect Poached Chicken recipe as a base, which means you could make poached chicken with sauce for dinner and transform leftovers into this salad the next night.
  • Poached Salmon

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