Cooking by Poaching

Cooking by Poaching

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

  1. Assemble all ingredients and preparations for poaching.

    • Main ingredients

    • Liquid

    • 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.

  2. Assemble all equipment necessary for cooking and serving.

    • Poacher or other pots

    • Ladles or skimmers

    • Holding containers to keep foods warm (optional)

    • Carving boards and slicers (optional)

    • Instant-reading thermometer

    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.

Method

  1. 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.

  2. 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 noticing.

    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 cloudy.

  3. 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 process.

    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.

  4. Cut or slice the main item, as necessary, and serve it immediately on heated plates with the appropriate sauce.

More Cooking Guide

Visitors Currently Online: 8