Mastering the Art of Poaching: A Comprehensive Guide to this Elegant Cooking Method and Technique

what is poaching

Poaching is a cooking method that entails simmering food items, typically in a flavorful and aromatic liquid. This is a moist-heat cooking method which infuses the food with the flavour of the liquid while keeping it tender and juicy.

Types of Poaching

Poaching can be broadly categorized into two types, each offering a unique cooking technique.

Shallow Poaching

Shallow poaching involves cooking food in a small amount of liquid, just enough to submerge the food partially. This method is used to cook delicate foods like fish fillets and chicken breasts.

Deep Poaching

Deep poaching, on the other hand, is a cooking technique where the food is completely submerged in the poaching liquid. This method of cooking is used for larger pieces of meat or whole poultry.

Butter Poaching

Butter poaching is a unique variation of poaching technique where the food, especially delicate proteins like fish or chicken, is slowly cooked in melted butter. This technique infuses the food with the rich flavour of butter while ensuring it stays tender and moist.

The Poaching Liquid

Poaching liquid is a crucial element of the poaching process. This liquid, often aromatic and flavoured, is used to infuse the food being cooked with additional flavour. The liquid can range from water, broth, or wine to court bouillon or even melted butter.

Court Bouillon: A Classic Poaching Liquid

Court bouillon is a classic poaching liquid, often used in poaching fish. It’s a quick-cooking broth usually made of water, white wine, vinegar, and aromatic herbs. This broth adds an extra layer of flavour to the poached food.

Poaching Technique

Steps in Poaching

Poaching technique is a simple yet effective method to cook food without drying it out. Whether you’re poaching eggs, poultry, or fish, the process remains similar.

Poaching Eggs

Poaching eggs involves cracking an egg into a simmering, but not boiling, pot of water and vinegar. The temperature for cooking should be kept as close to the simmering point as possible, to ensure the egg cooks gently and evenly.

Poaching Poultry

Poaching poultry involves submerging the chicken breast or other cuts of meat into a simmering poaching liquid. You can also use bone-in chicken breasts or even thighs or drumsticks. Just ensure to remove the skin before poaching to avoid a greasy broth.

Poaching Fish

Poaching fish is best done using a court bouillon as the poaching liquid. The fish is submerged in the simmering liquid and cooked until it reaches the right internal temperature. Thin fish fillets are perfect candidates for this technique as they poach quickly and evenly.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Poaching

Advantages of Poaching

Poaching is a healthy way to cook food since it requires no fat. It is also a great method to retain the structure and flavour of delicate foods, ensuring they do not overcook or dry out.

Disadvantages of Poaching

However, poaching is often considered a healthy cooking method at the cost of visual appeal. One common complaint is the lack of browning that results from poaching. This can be rectified by finishing the poached items in a hot pan or under a broiler for a brief period if desired.

Poaching is an elegant, versatile and healthy cooking technique that works exceptionally well for cooking delicate items like fish and chicken. While it may lack the visual appeal of other cooking methods, the moist, flavourful results are often worth the trade-off. Next time you plan on cooking, why not try poaching?


  1. What is the ideal poaching temperature? The ideal temperature for poaching is between 160°F-180°F (71°C-82°C). The liquid should be just hot enough to see movement, but not boiling.
  2. Can you reuse poaching liquid? Yes, the poaching liquid can often be reduced and used as a base for a soup or sauce.
  3. What foods can be poached? Almost any food can be poached, but it is most commonly used for delicate foods like eggs, fish, and poultry.
  4. How long does it take to poach chicken? It generally takes about 15-20 minutes to poach a chicken breast, depending on its size.
  5. What is the difference between boiling and poaching? The main difference between boiling and poaching is the temperature of the cooking liquid. Boiling involves cooking food in a liquid at a temperature of 212°F (100°C) whereas poaching involves cooking at a much lower temperature.
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