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How to Poach Chicken Legs and a Whole Chicken

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or underused ingredients.

A perfectly poached whole chicken

A perfectly poached whole chicken

Poached chicken can very often seem more like a punishment than a nourishing meal. It is sometimes given to the infirm or the elderly that it may be "light on their stomach" when the truth is that it may often make them feel worse than they did before. Dry, bland, unappetising are just some of the adjectives frequently applied to poached chicken but the good news is that it need not be that way. By taking in to account just a few easy to follow tips and tricks, it is entirely possible to poach chicken in a way that it is served tender, juicy and incredibly tasty. It is above all to those small points that this page is devoted.

How to Poach Chicken Legs

Perfectly poached whole chicken legs

Perfectly poached whole chicken legs

Chicken legs are perfectly suited to poaching. The darker, more naturally moist meat means there is less can go wrong and this is a good place to start when learning how to poach chicken in general.

This recipe sees two chicken legs poached, which are ultimately to be used for two different purposes. The first leg will be eaten warm, with the potatoes which are cooked in the same pot for convenience and additional flavour. The second leg will later be used to make tasty chicken butter. The potatoes can of course be omitted from the recipe altogether without affecting it in any way.

It is important to note that the chicken legs must be poached with their skins on. The skins help keep the juices inside the meat and the legs moist. This is vital both during cooking and while resting, so the skins should be removed only at the last minute before the chicken is to be eaten. It is of equal importance that the chicken always go in to cold water, not hot, which should gradually be brought up to a simmer.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

15 min

40 min

55 min

Makes one chicken meal with leftover chicken

Ingredients

  • 2 whole chicken legs (drumsticks and thighs), skins on
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 stick of celery, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, washed, trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 6 baby new potatoes, washed, skins on
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tbsp frozen peas
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • Freshly chopped coriander/cilantro, to garnish
  1. Lay the chicken legs skin sides up in the base of a large pot. Add the onion, carrot, celery, potatoes, herbs and seasoning, along with enough cold water to ensure everything is comfortably covered.
  2. Put the pot on to a high heat just until the water begins to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for twenty-five minutes.
  3. The chicken legs are now ready to be removed from the poaching liquid. An easy way to do this is to use a carving fork to slide them one at a time on to a large slotted spoon and lift them to a plate, laying them down skin sides up. Great care should be exercised to avoid splashing and potential scalding.
  4. Cover the chicken legs with a plastic food cover and leave to rest for ten minutes while the potatoes complete cooking.
  5. The peas should be added to boiling water for three minutes before being drained and plated. While they are cooking, the skin should be removed from one of the chicken legs and the meat picked off in bite sized chunks. If the chicken leg is too hot for you to handle, you will find two forks a useful way of achieving this goal.
  6. Plate the chicken meat alongside the peas. Use a large spoon to lift the potatoes from the poaching liquid and plate. Add the chilli sauce and the coriander/cilantro garnish.

How to Make Chicken Butter

Chopped poached chicken preserved in butter is delicious spread on hot toast

Chopped poached chicken preserved in butter is delicious spread on hot toast

Butter chicken is a very popular dish in Indian cuisine, so why shouldn't it be reversed to make chicken butter? While the latter may not know any of the grandeur of the former, it more than serves its purpose. It is absolutely delicious spread on hot farmhouse toast for a quick and easy lunch and although it takes an overnight process to make it properly, the hands on time is minimal. This is also a great way of preserving excess poached chicken that may otherwise go to waste.

Cook Time

Prep time: Overnight

Cook time: Less than 5 min

Ready in: Overnight

Yields: Two ramekins, each providing two servings on toast

Ingredients

  • Meat from 1 whole poached chicken leg (see above)
  • 6oz butter (approximately)
  • Salt and white pepper
  1. Wait until the poached chicken leg is completely cold. Peel off the skin and pull the flesh off in clumps. Discard the skin and moderately finely chop the flesh. Divide it evenly between two 3" ramekins, coming to within a quarter inch of the top. Do not press down too firmly as the butter has to permeate and set.
  2. Melt the butter very gently in a saucepan and season with salt and pepper. When the butter is almost completely melted, remove the pan from the heat and swirl gently to finish the job. This prevents it overheating and splitting.
  3. Pour the melted butter carefully in to the ramekins. cover and leave on a level surface until cooled and completely set. This may take up to a couple of hours. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Chicken Butter on Toast with Salad

Chicken butter is spread on hot toast and served with a simple salad

Chicken butter is spread on hot toast and served with a simple salad

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 5 min

Ready in: 10 min

Yields: Two servings

Ingredients

  • 2 thick slices of artisan boule or similar bread
  • 2 handfuls of fresh watercress
  • 6 baby plum tomatoes, halved down through centre
  • 1 small ramekin chicken butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Toast the slices of bread on both sides until golden.
  2. While the bread is toasting, wash the watercress and shake dry. Divide between two serving plates and top with the tomato halves.
  3. Dip a knife in a cup of boiling water and use it to divide the chicken butter between the two slices of toast. If you have difficulty spreading it, simply place the toast under the grill/broiler for a few seconds.
  4. Plate the toast and chicken butter, season with salt and pepper and garnish with the chopped parsley.

How to Poach a Whole Chicken

Freshly poached whole chicken

Freshly poached whole chicken

Cook Time

Prep time: 3 hours 15 min

Cook time: 1 hour 15 min

Ready in: 4 hours 30 min

Yields: Four servings

Chicken breasts are a lot more likely to dry out during poaching than chicken legs. This means that when poaching chicken breasts or a whole chicken, it is better to employ a slightly different procedure from the one used above for chicken legs. The overall process takes longer but the results make the wait worthwhile.

Ingredients

  • 1 3lb prepared chicken
  • 1 medium white onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 large carrot, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 large sprig fresh rosemary, halved
  • 1 large sprig fresh thyme, halved
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  1. Remove any trussing from the chicken. Put half of each herb sprig and a couple of bits of onion, carrot and celery in to the cavity of the chicken but do not overfill. The carrot and celery will expand as it takes on water during cooking and the chicken could effectively burst.
  2. Lay the chicken breast sides up in a large soup or stock pot and add the remaining herbs, vegetables and the seasoning. Pour in enough cold water to comfortably cover the chicken.
  3. Put the pot on to a high heat until the water just begins to boil. Reduce the heat to achieve the gentlest of simmers, put the lid on the pot and simmer for one hour.
  4. Turn the heat off under the pot and simply leave the chicken to cool in the liquid for a minimum of two hours.
  5. Very carefully lift the chicken from the liquid to a chopping board by inserting a carving fork all the way in to the body cavity and lifting with a large spatula or slotted spoon. Be sure to tilt the chicken slightly over the pot to let as much liquid run back in to the pot as possible.
  6. It is possible to carve/portion the chicken by any means you please but you may want to simply cut off the leg portions and wings before slicing off each breast fillet, allowing the bones to guide the knife. You will find that the legs and wings will come free at the merest touch of the knife. The chicken can then be served immediately while still slightly warm or stored in a plastic dish in the fridge for up to a couple of days.
  7. The poaching liquid in the pot should be used to make chicken stock.

Poached Chicken Omelette on Toast

A poached chicken filled omelette, served on toast with a simple salad

A poached chicken filled omelette, served on toast with a simple salad

Poached chicken - just lijke roast chicken - can be served with any number of possible vegetable, sauce or condiment accompaniments. Most people will know what they like to eat with chicken and how they like it served. When it comes to using up leftover poached chicken, however, you may find ideas a little fewer on the ground. If this is the case, why not try making this really simple, poached chicken omelette for lunch the day after you enjoy the bulk of the chicken for dinner? Moist and succulent poached chicken works really well in an omelette and the preparation and cooking times are minimal.

Cook Time

Prep time: 5 min

Cook time: 5 min

Ready in: 10 min

Yields: One serving

Ingredients

  • Meat from half a chicken breast, torn in to small strips
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 medium tomato, sliced
  • 5 or 6 slices of cucumber
  • Handful of green salad leaves, roughly chopped
  • Thick slice of bread from circular loaf
  • Little bit of butter
  • Salt and white pepper
  • Freshly chopped parsley to garnish
  1. Prepare, season and plate the side salad.
  2. Beat the eggs in a bowl but don't season at this stage.
  3. Melt a little butter in a small omelette pan and pour in the eggs. Over a medium heat, draw the egg mixture in from the edges to the centre, just until the eggs begin to set.
  4. Put the bread on to toast.
  5. When the eggs are almost but not quite set, season with salt and pepper. Arrange the chicken over one half of the omelette. You may not need all the chicken. Don't add too much or your omelette will break when you try to fold it over.
  6. Very carefully, fold the empty half of the omelette over the filled half.
  7. Plate the toast and lay the omelette on top.
  8. Season with the parsley for service.

© 2013 Gordon Hamilton

Comments

prince bethel from Africa on February 06, 2015:

Great hub. I will give this a try. Voted up...

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on March 06, 2013:

Hi, randomcreative. Glad you liked it and hope you enjoy poached chicken. Thanks as always for visiting and commenting.

Gordon Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on March 06, 2013:

Hi torrilynn and thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you get a chance to try poaching chicken soon. As I hope you have seen, it is really easy and a lot tastier than it may sound.

Rose Clearfield from Milwaukee, Wisconsin on March 04, 2013:

Thanks for the detailed overview of this topic! I will have to give poaching chicken a try sometime.

torrilynn on March 04, 2013:

Hi Gordon,

thanks for this hub. I know this might sound silly but I never knew you could

poach a chicken due to my lack of cooking and what not. After reading your hub

I was able to learn the proper way to do it and how to serve it with many different foods.

Voted up

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