How to Poach Chicken, the Quick and Easy Way

One 12-ounce (raw) chicken breast will give you roughly 2 cups shredded chicken.

  • Cook time: 15 minutes


  • 1 to 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (roughly 12 ounces each)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Optional seasonings: smashed garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, sliced ginger, sliced lemons or oranges, sliced onions or celery, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme


1 Place the chicken in a single layer in the bottom of a pan. It's ok if the pieces overlap a little.

How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop

2 Cover with an inch of water. Add the salt and any seasonings you'd like to use.

How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop

3 Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. As the water comes to a boil, foam will start to collect on the surface. If you're planning to use the cooking liquid for something else, you can skim the foam off the surface. Otherwise, it's fine to just leave it.

How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop

4 Cover and simmer for 8 to 15 minutes: Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 8 minutes, then begin checking the chicken to see if it's done. Thin cutlets will cook in about 8 minutes; large chicken breasts will need up to 15 minutes.

The chicken is done when it registers 165F in the thickest part of the meat with an instant read thermometer. You can also cut into the chicken to see if it's cooked through. Continue cooking and checking the chicken every minute or so until the chicken is cooked.

How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop

5 Cool briefly, then shred or slice: Remove the chicken from the broth and place on a plate or cutting board. When cool enough to handle, shred or slice the chicken, as needed. Use immediately, or cool completely and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Shredded or sliced chicken can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop How To Quickly Cook Chicken on the Stovetop

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  • Kat

    Awesome! Can’t believe I’ve never done this before. Super easy and good results!


  • Shelly

    This looks like a simple method for cooking chicken breasts quickly. I always forget about poaching chicken when I need to prepare a fast week night meal. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Kieren

    So easy! Though I find putting the lemon in with the peel makes the broth a bit bitter so maybe I’ll exclude the peel next time


  • Natalie

    Would the cooking time be the same for thawed, boneless, skinless chicken thighs?

    • Emma Christensen

      Yes, about the same cooking time! You can always check with an instant read thermometer to make sure they’re done — they should be 165F in the thickest part of the meat.

      • Natalie

        Thank you very much for this reply back!

  • Kristopher

    Awesome Post ! Thank you for sharing

  • Joyce

    I’d never thought of adding lemon slices when poaching chicken. The light and lemony broth was delightful! Thank you!

    • Moses Brodin

      I think the size of chicken breasts has changed dramatically since Julia Child’s day, which could account for some of her shorter cook time.
      Ragerds: Moses Brodin

  • Dan Moore

    Goodness – NEVER let the water boil and NEVER let it simmer! Take the advice of the sous vide crowd:
    The water should be hot but never boil (we’re not making stock here; you don’t want the flavors leaching into the liquid!) – I have found that maintaining 170 degree poaching liquid on my sim burner turned to low and checked with a clip-on thermometer works best. Breasts are done when they reach 150. They are fully cooked, much juicier than the boiled type and far more flavorful. Of course, as the Sous Vide crowd also say, using bone-on with skin chicken pieces taste even better!

    • Emma Christensen

      Yup, sous vide is a great technique for folks that have an immersion circulator in their kitchens!

  • Jo

    Thank you for this recipe/technique this will be very useful when sprouts has one of their great sales on chicken breasts. Over the weekend reading ny times recipes someone mentioned Julia Child’s technique to poach chicken with lemon & garlic now I don’t have to go research her method. Love the blog I always learn something new!

  • Sara @ Last Night's Feast

    I love all the step by step photos- they are beautiful!

  • Laura Brodbeck

    This is really helpful! I tend to bake chicken breasts when I need cooked chicken, but if I’m not careful, they can be dry. Can you start with frozen chicken and increase the cooking time, or is that a bad idea?

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Laura! I’ve never tried cooking from frozen. My gut instinct is that the outside would overcook while the inside is still frozen/raw, plus there are some food safety concerns if the middle doesn’t cook within a certain time period. For best results and safety, I’d stick with thawing the chicken ahead of cooking.

    • Vanessa

      Hi Laura. I actually poached chicken thighs that were still frozen once, and I would advise that you increase the cooking time by at least 45 minutes to an hour. I’d agree with Emma that you shouldn’t do it if possible, but I also understand if you need to poach at the last minute and use frozen chicken. Mine came out fine, but again, I cooked them for significantly longer than I would normally. And do check the temperature with a meat thermometer as well, to ensure the chicken is not still raw or not properly cooked. Good luck!