Photo: VICUSCHKA (Shutterstock)
Poaching is one of my favorite cooking methods. You won’t get a hard sear, crispy skin, or any amount of browning, but that’s alright. Instead, you’ll be rewarded with juicy, tender proteins that are infused with the delicate flavors of whatever you add to your poaching liquid. (Plus, the skin of a poached chicken crisps up into the most delightful cracker, as it’s pre-rendered. All you have to do is remove it and toss it in the air fryer.)
But in order to get the most out of your poaching liquid, you have to treat those aromatic add-ins as more than an afterthought. Bay leaves, peppercorns, onions, lemon slices, and garlic don’t instantly impart flavor the moment they’re added to a pot of water; they need a moment to luxuriate. When you add them to the water at the same time as your protein, you don’t give them enough time to do their job. Give them a little head start and simmer them before your chicken breasts, fish, shrimp, or eggs hit the water.
If you’re poaching a whole chicken, this isn’t as much of a concern. Our method calls for an extended steeping time of two to four hours, so the bird has plenty of time with the aromatics. But for quicker cooking proteins like fish filets, shrimp, or chicken parts, you’ll start by adding your aromatics to your water, bringing it to a boil, then reducing the liquid to a simmer. If you want to give your poaching liquid an extra jolt, add a tablespoon of Worchestershire sauce. (It doesn’t need to be part of the pre-simmer, however.) Let everything get to know each other for at least three minutes (up to five), then add your protein and poach to your desired doneness for a more thoughtful, flavorful meal.