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How to Poach a Whole Chicken and Prepare an Easy Chicken Salad

Updated on October 21, 2015
Gordon Hamilton profile image

Gordon loves cooking and experimenting with food. He loves making new dishes, particularly with unusual or under-used ingredients.

Easy and Tasty Summer Chicken Salad
Easy and Tasty Summer Chicken Salad

The Unenviable Reputation of Poached Chicken

Why should it be that poached chicken has such an unenviable reputation in some quarters? Is it because it is often perceived to be bland in taste and/or dry in texture? Perhaps it is because it is often associated with the elderly or infirm, in the sense that a "nice bit of poached chicken" will be unlikely to upset a delicate stomach? Maybe it just doesn't look as good as a roast chicken?

Where we fail to realise, however, that while poached chicken can be dry and tasteless, it does not have to be, we are depriving ourselves of a very simple and delicious way to enjoy chicken. Cooking pots since caveman days have poached chicken to perfection and a step back from modern cooking techniques is therefore perhaps what is required when poaching chicken. This page will firstly show a very easy and effective way to poach a whole chicken, before going on to provide a serving suggestion which is perfect for a light summer lunch or even a family picnic.

The onion, carrot and celery are roughly chopped in preparation for poaching the chicken
The onion, carrot and celery are roughly chopped in preparation for poaching the chicken
The whole chicken is laid on top of the vegetables in a large pot
The whole chicken is laid on top of the vegetables in a large pot

Poaching a Chicken


1 3lb chicken
1 medium onion
1 large carrot
2 sticks of celery
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
½ tsp salt
3 to 4 pints of cold water


Peel the onion and wash the carrot and celery. Roughly chop and add to a large soup or stew pot, comfortably big enough to take the chicken. Ensure that any giblets are removed from the cavity of the chicken and lay the chicken on top of the vegetables. Scatter with the slat and peppercorns. Carefully pour in enough cold water to ensure the chicken is covered.

Put the pot on to a high heat until the water boils. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour. Check the chicken regularly and skim off any impurities which form on the top of the water with a large spoon. Top up with more boiling water if and when required.

After one hour, turn off the heat under the pot. Place the lid on and leave the chicken to cool with the liquid. This will help the served chicken to be deliciously moist and falling off the bone tender.

The chicken can be left to cool in this way for anything from one to three hours. After that time, use a couple of large slotted spoons or equivalent to very carefully lift the chicken on to a large plate with riased edges. It is a great bonus if you have someone to help you at this point, simply to hold the plate. Leave the chicken to drain on the plate while you prepare the salad.

The salad is tossed in a bowl before being added to a serving platter
The salad is tossed in a bowl before being added to a serving platter

Preparing the Salad for the Poached Chicken

The salad ingredients are down very much to personal choice. In this instance, the salad consists of a large bag of mixed green salad leaves, two large tomatoes cut in to segments and a dozen pitted and halved black olives. Toss the ingredients in a bowl with some salt and freshly ground black pepper before laying in a serving dish. Extra virgin olive oil can be drizzled over the top of desired for the perfect Mediterranean summer feel.

Carving the Poached Chicken

If you wish, you could transfer the chicken to a chopping board and carve it in a traditional fashion, laying only the meat of the chicken on top of the salad. For a more rustic effect, however, why not simply chop the chicken in to portions to be served?

Pull each leg in turn slightly outwards and snap the leg/thigh portions off at the joint with the main body of the chicken. Remove the wings in similar fashion. Use a large cleaver to carefully cut down either side of the breast bone, following the ribcage carefully as you go, and remove the breast fillets.

Lay the chicken pieces on top of the salad and finish with a scattering of freshly chopped chives or your herb of choice.

Chicken salad ready to be scattered with fresh herbs and served
Chicken salad ready to be scattered with fresh herbs and served

What's in your Summer Salad?

If you are one of the many people who think that poached chicken is a little on the bland side, I hope that you will at least give this option a try. Chicken cooked in this way is incredibly tender and delicious, allowing the natural flavours of the meat to shine through and can be a refreshing change from grilled or roasted chicken.

Thanks for visiting this page and any comments or feedback may be left in the space below.


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    • Gordon Hamilton profile image

      Gordon Hamilton 6 years ago from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom

      You're absolutely right, Tony. The natural flavours are delicious - and the bonus is you have a pot of perfectly natural chicken stock which can be strained and frozen. Thanks for the visit and comment,


    • tonymead60 profile image

      Tony Mead 6 years ago from Yorkshire

      Hi Gordon,

      this is a new one for me, i've never poached a whole chicken is this way. YOu should get a more pure chicken flavour than roasting and using oils to help cook. Very interesting, I'll have to give it a go, we have a local farm shop that sells nice free range poultry.