Poaching a large quantity of chicken

I would like to poach a big package of chicken to use for enchilada filling. All of the advice online says put only a single even layer of chicken at the bottom of a pot so it all cooks evenly. I just don’t have the time or patience to do that with a lot of chicken, especially on a hot day like today. I’d have to do at least four batches and that’s not happening. I’m thinking of throwing the whole lot in there and just going for it. The chicken gets shredded and mixed with sauce and cheese anyway. Thoughts?

Its kind of a tricky answer . . . depends on how much chicken we are talking and how small of a pot you need to use . . . . You can definitely do more than a single layer on the bottom, but not if that means the chicken is so packed in to the pot that you hardly have any water/stock room left in the pot . . . .

You want plenty of fluid to move around the chicken and enough space so that the chicken isn’t packed in on top of each other - they should be able to move around if you were to stir up the liquid (not so much like a fish tank - the chicken being the fish - but you get the idea I hope). And just stir the chicken around a little more than you normally would to be sure everything is cooking evenly.

the issue comes in if there are several pieces piled on top of one another with no fluid moving between them making some areas essentially 2-3x the thickness of other areas. You’ll end up with raw areas and some areas over cooked . . . .

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Thanks. Makes sense when you explain it like that. Hearing that, I may just wait until after this heat wave passes. The thought of turning on the stove at all is making me sweat more.

It can be done - didn’t mean to talk you out of anything.

But in the summer, if I need a lot of cooked chicken I head right to Costco for their cooked rotisserie chicken. It is essentially $5 for the whole chicken and they are big meaty birds. It’s a steal and no cooking necessary. (I know not everyone has a costco nearby)

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Last weekend I made a whole bunch of enchiladas using sous vide chicken, with a circulator and a big tub I keep in the garage. I made four big bags and held it at 145 degrees until I needed it (once past the pasteurization point).


Just because it’s on the internet… :wink:

I agree that in summer, a supermarket rotisserie is the easiest way to get some nicely cooked chicken for a dish. However, if you’ve already bought the chicken, just boil a large stock pot of water, add salt and the chicken, and simmer away.

Even easier is to use the Chinese technique to poach chicken, which is to bring the chicken to a boil for 10 minutes, then cover and let sit in the liquid until done (anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or so).

Here is a recipe that describes the basic technique to poach a chicken.


I’ve used both methods, and the most important part is to use a meat thermometer so you can remove the chicken pieces as soon as they’re done. Good luck! Let us know how it turns out. :slight_smile:

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Also if you just want/need breast meat they sell it picked in the deli section

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I simmer chicken breasts for enchiladas and chicken salad. I don’t bother with poaching for things like that (if I was eating it plain, or topping a salad or something, sure).

I just put the BLSL chicken breasts in a pot, add enough water to cover, and throw in some salt, peppercorns and some roughly chopped onion. Bring to just under a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer with a lid on until done. I’ve never had an issue with some of the meat being undercooked while other parts are done, etc.

One of my short cut enchilada recipes requires some of the cooking liquid in the sauce, so I strain and reserve some if needed.

I’m assuming you’re using breasts for this. There’s no reason you can’t poach a large quantity at once. As long as you’re able to give the whole thing a stir and circulate the water it should not be an issue. Not sure what your application is but here’s what I would do:

Start the pot cold, add chicken, and water to cover. Salt as needed.

Set heat to high, stir occasionally as pot comes up to temp. Just as you see bubbles pop up, turn off and remove from heat. Give it a few minutes and you’re done.

Whatever you do, save that tasty chicken broth.

Thanks everyone! Yes, it’s chicken breasts, a big package from Costco. I like making a big batch of the enchiladas because assembling them takes a while. I think if I do two pots the chicken will probably have enough room. Here in NY we have been having some brutal heat and humidity so it really is hard to get motivated to cook anything at all. Hoping in a day or two it’ll break and I can get my enchiladas in the oven!

I have to say that for things like this, with the heat wave we have been having, this is where sous vide shines.


We grill the chicken and then shred it- extra flavor from the grill- no simmering hot water in the house!

You can, as others have mentioned, grill or roast it too. Just yesterday I had to cook off a large package (about 4#) of boneless skinless chicken breasts. I used a large covered frying pan. I briefly sauteed them to achieve a little color then I added a small amount of water and covered tightly. they were one in about 10 minutes and I had some nice cooking liquid left over that I used to make rice for lunch. If I had a very large amount to cook, I’d use a turkey roasting pan using the same stovetop method or in the oven.

The package was even bigger than I thought, almost six pounds. I divided them into two large pots and poached them. They didn’t seem crowded at all and I made sure to swirl them around a bit. So far so good… And the kitchen didn’t really get that hot either. Enchiladas for dinner tomorrow! Thanks all.

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Bessarabsky Market, Kyiv. Ukraine
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