Poached foods are usually naturally tender.
Eggs, fruits, chickens and fish all come to mind instantly when poaching
is under consideration. The liquid used for poaching must be well
flavored. Stock, broth or court bouillon are all appropriate, depending
upon the type of food and the desired result. Poaching is done within a
range of 160 to 185oF (70 to 82oC) The surface of a
poaching liquid should show some motion, sometimes called "shivering", but
no air bubbles should break the surface.
Steps for poaching
Assemble all ingredients and preparations
Additional or optional items for flavoring,
finishing and garnishing
Items necessary to prepare sauce
Items to be poached are generally naturally
tender. Wrap whole fish in cheesecloth to protect it from breaking apart
during cooking. Stuff poultry or meats, if desired, and truss or tie them
to help retain their shape.
The liquid used in poaching should be
appropriate to the food and well flavored in order to compensate for any
flavor lost during cooking. It is important to use good-quality stocks and
enough aromatic ingredients, such as herbs, wine, spices and vegetables,
to produce a full, pleasing flavor in both the finished product and any
sauce prepared from the poaching liquid. Poached items may also be served
with a pungent sauce prepared separately, as in the custom serving
"boiled" beef with a horseradish sauce.
Assemble all equipment necessary for cooking
Poacher or other pots
Ladles or skimmers
Holding containers to keep foods warm
Carving boards and slicers (optional)
The pot used for poaching should be selected
with attention to the size and shape of the food being prepared. The pot
should hold the food, the liquid and aromatics comfortably, with enough
room to allow the liquid to expand as it heats. There should also be
enough space so that the surface can be skimmed if necessary throughout
cooking. Racks or trivets may be necessary to protect the food from
sticking to the bottom of the pot during cooking. Specially designed fish
poachers can be used if available.
Combine the food to be poached with the
liquid and bring to the correct cooking temperature. Some foods are
allowed to start off in cool water. Others are placed into water that is
already at poaching temperature. The choice is made according to the needs
of the item itself, as well as the overall cooking time. Eggs, for
instance, should be started in water already at about 160 to 170oF
(70 to 75oC). Dense fruits, such as pears, might be allowed to
come up to temperature along with the cooking liquid, to ensure that they
are evenly and fully cooked. Be sure that the item is completely submerged
in the liquid. This is especially important for poultry. If a part of the
food is above the cooking liquid's level, cooking will be uneven, and the
finished product will probably not have the proper color or texture.
Maintain the desired cooking speed
throughout the poaching process. Make sure the liquid does not boil. The
temperature should be checked periodically with an instant-reading
thermometer and the heat adjusted as necessary. If a cover is used on a
fish poacher, the cooking speed must be monitored regularly. Covering a
pot has the effect of creating pressure, which allows the liquid's
temperature to become higher. Setting the lid just slightly ajar may be a
good precaution against the liquid's coming to a boil without anyone
As is true for shallow-poached items, it is
sometimes desirable to complete poaching in the oven, once the proper
cooking temperature has been reached over direct heat. Common sense will
indicate which items can be placed in the oven and which should remain on
top of the stove. For instance, it would be difficult and dangerous to
lift a large pot full of hot liquid off the stove and into the oven.
Skim the surface of the liquid throughout
cooking time, if necessary. This will help the dish to develop appropriate
and attractive colors, as well as keeping the broth from becoming too
Carefully remove the main item to a holding
container and moisten it with some of the liquid to prevent it from drying
out while the sauce is being prepared. Poached foods should be cooked just
until the food is set and a safe internal temperature is reached.
If a poached or simmered item is to be
served cold, it may be desirable to slightly undercook it. Then, the pot
can be removed from the heat and the food allowed to cool in the poaching
liquid. The liquid will retain enough heat to complete the cooking
Once it has reached room temperature, the
item and the broth should be carefully cooled and stored for later use.
The liquid is customarily used in a sauce or as the basis of another dish.
Cut or slice the main item, as necessary,
and serve it immediately on heated plates with the appropriate sauce.