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An overhead shot of ingredients in a large Dutch oven: raw chicken, carrots, celery, onion, peppercorns, fresh herbs, garlic and bay leaves. The Dutch oven sits atop a wooden board on an off-white surface. A glass measuring cup of water is being poured over the ingredients in the Dutch oven.

Perfect-Every-Time Poached Chicken Breasts (Always Juicy & Tender!)

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  • Author: Jess Larson
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: 12 ounces (2 heaping cups) 1x
  • Category: Techniques & How-Tos, Chicken Recipes
  • Method: Poached, Stoveop
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Gluten Free


I have two go-to methods for tender, juicy, and extra-flavorful shredded chicken. This Perfect-Every-Time Poached Chicken Breasts recipe is one of them, and it’s a great alternative to buying store-bought rotisserie chicken.

Gently simmering bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts with aromatic vegetables and herbs results in the perfect all-purpose shredded chicken for soups, salads, tacos, and more – with a bonus small batch of homemade chicken broth!

The secret to especially juicy and tender results is maintaining a verrry gently simmer, so be sure to watch the poaching pot carefully and adjust heat as needed.

I’ve written this recipe the way I like it most, with classic vegetables, poultry herbs, and bone-in chicken breasts, but you can make it with lots of other seasonings. Check the Blog Post, above, for plenty of guidance to get you started. ♡ Happy cooking!


  • 2 bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts (approx. 1 ½ pounds)
  • 1 medium carrot, roughly chopped into 45 large pieces
  • 1 stalk celery, roughly chopped into 45 large pieces
  • 1 yellow onion, quartered
  • 8 cloves garlic, smashed open
  • 1012 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 23 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 46 cups cold water


  1. Prepare the chicken for poaching: To a medium saucepan, add the chicken breasts, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, thyme, salt, and peppercorns. Pour cold water over top – the total amount of water needed depends on the size of your saucepan and chicken breasts, use just enough to cover the chicken and vegetables by 1 inch (typically 4-6 cups).An overhead shot of ingredients to poach chicken in a large Dutch oven: raw chicken, carrots, celery, onion, peppercorns, fresh herbs, garlic and bay leaves. The Dutch oven sits atop a wooden board on an off-white surface. A glass measuring cup of water is being poured over the ingredients in the Dutch oven.
  2. Poach the chicken breasts: Transfer the prepared saucepan to the stovetop over medium-low heat. After about 10-15 minutes, the water should reach a low boil. Use a spoon to skim any foam or scum that rises to the surface of the water and discard. Adjust heat as needed to maintain a very steady gentle simmer. Continue to simmer the chicken 20-25 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the chicken breast (without hitting the bone) registers an internal temperature of 160 degrees F. Remove the saucepan from the heat. (Note: This step is nearly entirely hands-off, though you will want to check in occasionally, adjusting the heat to ensure a steady simmer is maintained and/or adding more water as needed to ensure the chicken breasts stay fully submerged.) [gallery columns="2" link="none" size="full" ids="49486,49488"]
  3. Rest: Use tongs to remove the chicken from the poaching liquid and transfer to a plate. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes – the chicken’s carry-over heat will raise the internal temperature to a safe 165 degrees F.An overhead shot of two pieces of chicken on an off-white stoneware plate with two forks atop an off-white surface. A Dutch oven full of broth sits alongside the plate.
  4. Shred the chicken: Once the chicken is cool enough to handle, carefully remove the skin and breast bone, then shred the chicken into bite-sized pieces. You can do so using 2 forks, or my favorite trick: pop the chicken breasts directly into a stand mixer & let the paddle attachment do the work for you (I swear this works!).An overhead shot of two poached chicken breasts on an off-white stoneware plate. Two forks are shredding one of the chicken breasts into large pieces. The plate sits on an off-white surface, and is surrounded by fresh herbs on a small blue plate and a blue and white striped cloth.
  5. Serve immediately as desired: This all-purpose shredded poached chicken is one of my favorite staple recipes – use it any time you need shredded chicken. I love adding it to a salad for an extra kick of protein, it’s awesome for quick & easy chicken soup, casserole, tacos, & so much more. You can also easily zhuzh it up to make taco-style, BBQ, or buffalo shredded chicken – check the Recipe Notes, below, for more guidance. Enjoy!An overhead shot of shredded chicken with a fork in a shallow stoneware bowl atop an off-white surface. The bowl is surrounded by a small blue bowl of herbs, a dish of salt and a blue and white striped cloth.


Jess’ Tips & Tricks:

  • Recipe bonus! ⇢ Small-Batch Homemade Chicken Broth: One of my favorite things about this poached chicken breast recipe is the fact that the poaching liquid is effectively the loveliest small batch of homemade chicken broth – a fun, built-in bonus! Simply strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve into a quart-sized container or jar. Seal and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week, or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Chicken: While you can poach boneless, skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs using this recipe, I’m highly partial to bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. They are a bit more forgiving and create a more delicious poaching liquid.
  • Easy recipe variations: While I most often make prepare my poached chicken as described above – it results in the most perfect all-purpose shredded chicken that tastes just like a garlic herb rotisserie chicken! – you can easily adjust this recipe based on your preferred seasonings. Instead of fresh herbs, use your favorite spice blend or dried herb seasoning. If you’re using shredded chicken for a Tex-Mex-inspired dinner, season the chicken poaching liquid with a generous amount of taco seasoning. Toss the cooked & shredded chicken into your favorite sauces & condiments, like BBQ sauce, buffalo sauce, or salsa. Sky’s the limit with this versatile recipe!

Storage & Freezing:

  • Storage & Reheating: Leftover poached chicken will keep, stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator, for up to 4 days. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.
  • Freezer instructions: Shredded poached chicken is also a wonderful freezer staple since you can quickly thaw it out and use it on sandwiches, tacos, nachos, salads, quesadillas, etc. for an easy dinner down the road. To freeze, transfer cooled shredded chicken to a freezer bag or container, or divide between multiple freezer containers for smaller portions – these are my absolute favorite freezer containers! Freeze up to 3 months. Defrost by placing in the refrigerator overnight to thaw, or by submerging the freezer bag/container in room temp water for 20-25 minutes. Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop until warmed through.