I have a lot of recipes in my regular rotation that use just a small amount of shredded or sliced cooked chicken, like my go-to lunch salad, these BBQ burrito bowls, and any number of quick weeknight soups.
If I have some leftover chicken in the fridge, I use that for these easy meals. Otherwise, I use this poaching method to quickly cook a few chicken breasts when I need them!
Moist and Tender Cooked Chicken
When you want silky, tender chicken without a lot of fuss or fanfare, this chicken recipe is the way to go. The chicken cooks gently, retaining much more moisture than with other cooking methods. Adding herbs and other seasonings to the poaching liquid also helps season the chicken as it cooks — and you’re left with a tasty broth at the end!
How to Boil Chicken
My method is very simple and straightforward: Just cover the chicken with about an inch of water and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat until the water is simmering, cover the pot, and let the chicken cook. That’s it!
Boiled Chicken vs. Poached Chicken: What’s the Difference?
In this case, “boiled” is a little bit of a misnomer. You’re not boiling the chicken for the whole time (this would result in tough, dry chicken!). You’re only boiling it initially to bring the liquid up to temp, but then you finish it in the simmering liquid.
Technically, this method is called “poaching,” which just means simmering ingredients in a small amount of liquid.
This is all to say that for this recipe, there is no real difference between boiled chicken or poached chicken.
How Long To Boil Chicken
- Thinner chicken breast cutlets are ready in about 8 minutes.
- Larger chicken breasts can take up to 15 minutes.
- Large bone-in chicken breasts will take about 20 minutes.
Check frequently toward the end of cooking either by checking the internal temperature with a thermometer (the chicken should be 165°F) or by slicing into the chicken to make sure it’s cooked through, and continue to cook until its done.
Can This Method Be Used for Chicken Thighs?
I use this method most frequently for cooking chicken breasts, but you can also use it for cooking chicken thighs if you prefer.
- Boneless chicken thighs will take about 10 minutes to cook.
- Bone-in chicken thighs will take about 15 minutes to cook.
Cook as many breasts (or thighs) at once as you like. They cook best when in a single layer, so use a pan big enough to hold everything.
No More Boring Chicken! Ways to Flavor Your Boiled Chicken
For seasoning the poaching liquid during cooking, I most frequently use peppercorns, bay leaves, lemon slices, and garlic. You could also think about using sliced ginger, sliced scallions, fresh rosemary or thyme, or orange slices.
How to Store and Freeze Boiled Chicken
Use the chicken meat right away, or let it cool and refrigerate for up to five days. You can also freeze the cooked chicken for up to three months. I recommend shredding or slicing the chicken before to freezing.
And don’t throw away the cooking liquid! This method will make a lightly-flavored chicken broth, which you can use in place of chicken broth for other recipes or as the cooking liquid for rice and other grains. You can also sip it all on its own!
Recipe Conversion Hints
- One 12-ounce chicken breast will weigh about 8 ounces after poaching.
- This amount of meat will give you about 2 cups of shredded chicken when lightly packed into the measuring cup. (Or about 2 1/3 cups if loosely packed.)
- In other words: 1 average chicken breast = 8 ounces cooked = 2 cups shredded.