The secret to perfectly poached chicken

Perfectly poached chicken

Keeping with the theme of getting the best bang for your buck when opting for the slightly pricier but more nourishing option of pasture-raised chicken, poaching is another way to make use of the whole bird. Sourcing and cooking chicken this way is by far the most cost effective and offers an endless array of creative meal possibilities, to boot.

Whenever we roast or poach the whole bird, we can easily stretch the meat and broth into 2-3 family meals. It’s such an efficient and economical way to cook and drastically reduces the weekly meal planning and associated mental load.

Gradually getting familiar with a few nose-to-tail cooking techniques is particularly empowering in times like these, when potential shortages are on the horizon and soaring food prices are becoming a very real possibility. Our Grandmothers wouldn’t have batted an eyelid. Rekindling a few of their kitchen skills will serve us in good stead.

We’re taking a break for Easter next week, but when we return, I’ll be back with two consecutive weeks of multiple recipes over a new double-page format. The idea is to help you springboard from poached whole chicken (or the roast chicken from last week) into several mouth-watering meals. So, stay tuned for that.

The secret to flavourful and succulent chicken

So, what is the secret to perfectly poached chicken? Well, naturally – there’s a few tips around technique, which I’ll share below. However, the real edge is provided by your farmer.

There is a vast difference in the nutrient profile and resulting depth of flavour between conventional and pasture-raised birds. The succulent meat and velvety texture of the broth that you’ll soon become accustomed to is due to the huge amounts of collagen found in animals that have lived a healthy life.

Good collagen production is a sign of health in humans, too, by the way. In fact, it’s one of the most visual indicators of health in old age. Think about it – when we see an elderly person with good joints and plump skin (rare, in this day and age!), it’s mainly down to collagen.  

Poached chicken recipe

I say recipe, but this is more of a formula because you can use any array of vegetables, herbs or spices that you like. My choice of mirepoix (flavouring ingredients) are always random – I use whatever I have on hand. Onions and garlic are the only strictly essential components in my house.


  • 1 pasture-raised chicken
  • 2-3 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 leek, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 4-8 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • Any selection of fresh herbs: bay leaves, parsley, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, tarragon (I love to use up all my parsley and rosemary stems in this way)


  1. Place all the ingredients, including the chicken (breast-side down) in a large pot with enough cold water to cover. Set it over medium heat and bring to the boil.
  2. Reduce the heat to low and allow it to gently simmer. Skim and discard any scum that forms – usually in the first 10-20 minutes. You’ll notice a much cleaner foam from pasture-raised meat (which is generally indicative of impurities). As a cooking guide, allow 50 minutes for small birds (1.2-1.4kg), 60 minutes for medium birds (1.5-1.8kg) and 70 minutes for larger birds (1.9kg +).
  3. Use tongs to remove the chicken from the pot and place it on a large plate or bowl to cool slightly. Return the vegetables and stock to the stove and continue to gently simmer for an additional hour.
  4. Once the chicken has cooled slightly, remove the meat from the carcass and set it aside, then place all the bones and cartilage back into the pot to further enrich your stock.
  5. Strain the stock and you can either discard the vegetables or serve them as a simple meal, seasoned with some of the broth and shredded meat.

You can store the meat and stock for up to 4 days in the fridge and use it in casseroles, soups, stir-fries and salads.

Have a relaxing Easter and I’ll see you on the other side with more recipe ideas in that direction.  

Georgia Lienemann

Georgia is a clinically trained nutritionist, wholefoods chef, columnist and mum. She’s been featured in Body & Soul and had TV appearances on ABC Breakfast and Studio 10 for her unique approach to food and health. She’s known for reinventing traditional foods for the modern kitchen and was instrumental in a radical new approach to sports nutrition with a program for the NRL Parramatta Eels, kickstarting their ascent on the ladder in recent years. Find out more at