Quite often I make recipes that call for diced, cooked chicken. Like Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup, Chicken Salad, Chicken Enchiladas, topping for BBQ Chicken Pizza, etc. When I don’t have the time (or energy) to run to the store to buy a rotisserie chicken, I make this! I believe it is actually less expensive, pound for pound.
This chicken poaching technique was taught to me by my dad. (Haha! This came from the guy who hardly ever cooked!) I think he heard about this technique on TV or read it in the newspaper a long time ago. I’m not really sure where he learned it, but it works really well to make tender, cooked chicken breasts. I’ll bet you can think of a lot of recipes that you could use this for!
I like to make it ahead of time, dice it up and keep it in the freezer.
Start a big pot of water to a rolling boil (about 8 cups.) Add 1 t. salt and a couple of bay leaves.
DON’T skip this step! Take your boneless, skinless chicken breasts and put them in a strong plastic bag. Use your rolling pin (or meat tenderizer tool) to pound the chicken breasts so that they are of an even thickness. About ¾” thick is best. There are two reasons why you should do this before cooking. First, the pounding of the meat tenderizes it and second, the meat will cook more evenly if the thickness is the same. I’m sure you’ve noticed that most chicken breasts are thin on one end and thick on the other. If you cook it like that, the thinner end gets over-cooked while the thick part of the breast may be under-cooked.
Now that the water is boiling, carefully add in the chicken breasts. The water will stop boiling hard because the chicken will cool down the water when it goes in. Watch for the water to come back up to a boil. Then, cover it with a lid and turn OFF the heat! Do not remove the lid or peek for 20 minutes!
After 20 minutes, remove a chicken breast and test it by cutting into the center. If it’s done, the juices will run clear. The internal temperature should read just about 160° (the temperature will continue to go up even after you remove it from the boiling water – ultimately it will reach 165°.) If it’s not quite done, return it to the pot, cover it again and check it again in a minute or two. When done, remove the chicken to a platter and allow to it cool.
When it’s cool enough to handle, dice or shred the chicken to use in your favorite recipe. The texture will be perfect! It will be tender, not rubbery!
And don’t even think about throwing away the cooking liquid. This is perfect for making delicious soup!