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How to Boil Chicken Breasts

Make versatile boiled chicken breasts your go-to ingredient to get dinner on the table fast. For inspiration, try these meal ideas that use boiled chicken.

Step 1: Choosing chicken

Boiling or poaching chicken means cooking it in hot liquid. This is an ideal quick method for cooking chicken breasts, which can dry out when roasted or grilled. Bone-in breasts with the skin on are a good choice if you want the cooking liquid to become a tasty broth. For a shorter cooking time, opt for skinless, boneless chicken breast halves. For the quickest cooking time, use cut-up or cubed chicken breast.

Make chicken salad with boiled chicken.

Step 2: Thinking through the liquid

The liquid used to cook the chicken can be as simple as water, which works well if you want basic chicken to use in recipes or freeze for later. You can also use other liquids such as chicken broth, apple cider, dry white wine, or a combination. Other ways to flavor the cooking liquid and the chicken include adding onion wedges, carrot pieces, celery pieces, garlic cloves, bouillon granules, herbs, salt, and lemon juice or peel.

Step 3: Cooking the chicken

Place the chicken in a saucepan large enough to hold the chicken pieces comfortably. Add enough cooking liquid to cover the chicken. If desired, add any other ingredients for flavoring the liquid and chicken. Bring to boiling on medium-high heat; reduce the heat. Cover the pan and simmer until the chicken is no longer pink (170 degrees F).

  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts: cook about 30 minutes
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves: cook 15 to 20 minutes
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 2-inch pieces: cook about 10 minutes

Step 4: Drain and use

When the chicken is done, drain through a sieve into a bowl. If you're keeping the cooking liquid for broth, consider lining the sieve with two layers of 100-percent-cotton cheesecloth to make the broth more translucent. Remove the chicken from the sieve and discard any vegetables and seasonings. Serve the chicken as desired. Or cool the chicken completely and transfer to a storage container. Cover and refrigerate for up to three days or freeze for up to two months. To store the broth, place in a sturdy storage container. Cover and chill for up to two days or freeze for up to two months. You can also freeze the broth in ice cube trays to use as flavor boosters.

Tip: For torn or pulled chicken pieces, let the chicken breast cool until easy to handle. If the chicken has skin, pull it off with your fingers and discard. Using your fingers, tear off pieces of chicken. Use torn or pulled chicken pieces as you would chopped chicken.

Ideas for using boiled chicken:

  • Serve whole pieces with barbecue sauce or plum sauce
  • Brush whole pieces with herb butter and place atop cooked rice
  • Slice boneless breasts and add to a stir-fry or fajitas (like these Fajita-Style Quesadillas)
  • Top salad greens with sliced chicken, grated apples, dried cranberries, and vinaigrette
  • Add chopped or cubed pieces to casseroles, stews, and soups, like Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Toss pulled or torn chicken with salsa for tacos (try our Chicken Tacos)
  • Make a Chicken Panini stuffed with sliced chicken, roasted peppers, and basil

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