How to Boil Chicken Breasts

Here's how to boil chicken breasts—(aka poach chicken) it's easy! This is the method to use any time you're looking for poached chicken recipes or boiled chicken recipes. For inspiration, we've also included boiled chicken breast recipes and information on how to shred chicken. Versatile chicken breasts will soon be your go-to ingredient to get dinner on the table fast.

Keeping cooked chicken on hand can save dinner any night when time is tight -- simply add it to pasta, tacos, salads, pizza, or sandwiches for an easy family-friendly meal. Watch as we show you how to boil chicken for perfect juicy results.

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. After you boil chicken breast, you can use it in a variety of recipes!

Make chicken salad with boiled chicken.

Step 1: Pick a Boiling Liquid

The liquid used to cook the chicken can be as simple as water, which works well if you want a basic meat to use in chicken breast recipes or to freeze it 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 2: Boil Chicken

Here's how to boil chicken breasts: 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).

So, how long do you boil chicken? The cook time depends on the size of the breasts and whether they have bones or not. If you're wondering how long to boil frozen chicken, we'd advise you to thaw it first. Either leave chicken breasts in the fridge for at least 9 hours or speed it up using the defrost setting on your microwave.

How to boil bone-in chicken breasts:

  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts: cook about 30 minutes

How to boil boneless chicken breasts:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken breast halves: cook 15 to 20 minutes
  • Skinless, boneless chicken breast cut into 2-inch pieces: cook about 10 minutes

Learn more about cooking boneless chicken breast, you don't have to boil it.

Step 3: Drain and Add Boiled Chicken to Recipes

If you're not saving the liquid from the boiled chicken, you can simply remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, fork, or tongs, letting excess liquid drain off. Then discard the liquid.

If keeping the poached chicken liquid, drain chicken 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 in desired chicken breast recipes.

Tip for quick shredded chicken: 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.

Learn more about shredding meat, including how to shred chicken you've boiled. We think the method here is the best way to shred chicken.

How to Store Poached Chicken

Save boiled chicken for use in recipes for days or months to come by making ahead and storing in the fridge or freezer. Here's how:

  • 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.

Ideas for Using Boiled Chicken

Boiled chicken can be used in all sorts of ways! You'll love having one of these chicken breast recipes for dinner tonight:

  • 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 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

More Poached Chicken Recipes

Remember: Any recipe that calls for poached chicken can be made with boiled chicken; the terms are interchangeable.

Marinara-Poached Chicken

Poached Chicken Salad

Poached Chicken Breasts with Apples


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