What Are the Best Tips for Boiling Chicken Breasts?

Lee Johnson

The best tips for boiling chicken breasts are to wrap the breasts in plastic wrap before boiling, to season the meat well, to add ingredients such as ginger or sake to the water, and to turn the heat off before adding the chicken. Some chefs alternatively suggest keeping the chicken simmering water at a low heat for between eight and ten minutes, but the general rule is to boil the meat until the inside is free of pink bits. Most recipes which call for boiling chicken breasts then require the chef to slice the breasts up into pieces to be included in the dish.

Chicken breasts are high in protein.
Chicken breasts are high in protein.

Seasoning is very important when boiling chicken breasts. The main issue that chefs are likely to encounter with boiled chicken is a bland flavor. Boiling in water doesn’t add any flavor to the meat, and chicken breasts usually have a subtle flavor regardless of how they were cooked. Salt and pepper are frequent seasonings, and chefs can also add herbs and spices such as oregano, basil, thyme, or cumin to increase the flavor. This is particularly useful when wrapping the chicken for cooking.

Chicken breasts should be wrapped in plastic before being added to boiling water.
Chicken breasts should be wrapped in plastic before being added to boiling water.

Wrapping the chicken in plastic wrap prior to dropping the meat in the water can help to lock in the juices present in the meat and keep the seasoning on the breast. Chefs boiling chicken breasts should prepare the breasts by adding herbs and seasoning and then wrapping them in a microwave-proof plastic wrap. The plastic-wrapped parcel is then dropped into the boiling water, which allows for more gradual cooking and infused flavor. Chicken boiled in a plastic wrap often retains more of it natural juices.

Many chefs do not use a plastic wrap when boiling chicken breasts, and this can make the meat difficult to season. The best tip for infusing flavor into chicken breasts that aren’t wrapped up with seasoning is to season the water the meat is being boiled in. Raw ginger, salt, and sake or sherry can be added to the water to infuse flavor into the meat. It is also possible for chefs to use stock instead of water when boiling chicken breasts.

Turning off the heat to the hob once the water is boiling is a useful tip to avoid over-cooking the chicken. Most recipes suggest slowly heating the water with the chicken in it, and then turning off the heat once the water begins to boil. After pulling the meat off the heat, a lid should be added to the cooking pot, and chefs should leave it to cook for between 10 to 15 minutes. Other chefs prefer to get the water up to boiling before adding the chicken, take it off the heat, and then add the chicken to cook for 15 minutes.

Sake can be used to add flavor to chicken breasts that aren't wrapped with seasoning when boiled.
Sake can be used to add flavor to chicken breasts that aren't wrapped with seasoning when boiled.

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Discussion Comments


I don't do boiled chicken unless I'm making chicken soup or stock. I just don't think the results are very good. Never heard of using plastic wrap, either. I'd think it would be difficult to handle.

Bony pieces generally do better with boiling, I think.


I have never heard of boiling a chicken breast in plastic wrap. I suppose it isn't any different from using a boil-in-bag method or using an oven bag for a turkey.

I would say seasoning is definitely the most important aspect of boiling a chicken breast because the water can leach the seasonings out in a hurry. I'd season the water as well, if I were boiling chicken.

I really prefer broiled chicken. You get the same result and you don't lose the seasoning completely.

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