This moist-heat cooking method is best for
preparing delicate foods such as fish, shell-fish, chicken, eggs, and
fruit. Keeping the cooking liquid just below a simmer is the key to
gentle, even poaching. The cooking liquid should hover between 160o and
170oF. The surface of the water should show some movement and look like
it's just about to bubble, without ever reaching a simmer. Keep the food
completely submerged in the poaching liquid, but don't cover the pot,
which will increase the cooking temperature.
To keep the poached foods submerged in the
cooking liquid, press a sheet of parchment paper directly onto the
surface of the cooking liquid. And to help lift delicate ingredients,
such as fish, from the poaching liquid without damage, wrap the food in
a length of cheesecloth long enough to allow some overhang at each end.
When the food is finished poaching, use the overhang as handles to lift
it from the poaching liquid.
Smaller pieces poach faster than large ones.
In many cases, you can just pour boiling water over the food. To poach
medium-size shrimp, quartered scallops, 1/4" thick slices of fish, or
paper-thin strips of boneless, skinless chicken breast, heat the
poaching liquid to boiling. Pour it over the thin or sliced food. Stir
once, cover tightly, and set aside for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove poached
ingredients with a slotted spoon.