To cook fully immersed in barely simmering
water. Do not mix up poaching with boiling, which in turn causes most
meats to become dry and hard and delicate seafood fillets and eggs to
Just about any liquid may be used for poaching, however water and stock
are classified as the most often used. One common poaching liquid is the
vegetable stock known as court bouillon, made from simmering fragrant
veggies like carrots, onions, leeks and fennel with a bouquet garni in
water with some white wine. Some other poaching liquids include meat or
fish stock, light sugar syrup (for fruits), and most basic of all, water
flavored using natural herbs and a little white wine or wine vinegar.
Occasionally the poaching liquid is served around the poached foods in
wide soup dishes so that the liquid can serve as a delicate stock-like
gravy. For many poached foods, particularly poached meats, like French
pot-au-feu or Italian bollito misto, the poaching liquid is served
individually as a first-course bouillon. The poaching liquid may also be
stored and used for making soups or gravies.
For even cooking, begin large whole fish and larger parts of meat in
cold liquid and smaller, quicker-cooking foods, like small whole fish
and fish steaks, in hot liquid. There are numerous reasons behind this.
If a large fish begins in simmering liquid, the surface of the fish will
cook before the heat has a chance to permeate to the inside, so that the
outside will overcook prior to the inside is cooked. If however, a small
fish begins using cold water and the water slowly heated, the fish can
overcook before the liquid even reaches the simmer. Starting up in cold
liquid induces slow-cooking meats to throw off scum that may be properly
skimmed to help keep the stock clear. However quick-cooking of tender
meat cuts would be best started in simmering liquid in order that the
outside cooks quickly, leaving the inside rare to medium-rare.