Your body needs healthy fats to keep it running smoothly, but it makes sense to cut back on butter or oil when cooking if you can. Poaching or steaming boneless chicken breasts allows you to do just that, whether you need shredded chicken for enchiladas, chicken salad or chicken soup, a chicken breast to slice for sandwiches or a breast to turn into an entree for dinner. While you're at it, cook three or four breasts so you'll have extra on hand. Cooked chicken stays safe in your refrigerator for three to four days.
Poached to Perfection
Trim off large deposits of visible fat from the chicken with a sharp paring knife. Place your cutting board in the dishwasher or the sink and wash with hot, soapy water.
Bring a pot of water to a full, rolling boil and slip the chicken into the pot. Allow the water to heat up again just until it is shaking, but before any bubbles begin to rise to the surface.
Turn off the heat and cover the pot. Let the chicken remain in the pot for 25 to 30 minutes, depending on the number and size of the chicken breasts.
Remove the breasts from the pot with a slotted spoon and test for doneness with an instant-read meat thermometer, which should register 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the chicken rest for at least five minutes before serving or shredding.
Steamed to Succulence
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cut a large piece of parchment paper for each chicken piece. A piece about 15 by 24 inches will hold one chicken breast plus vegetables. Fold the paper in half lengthwise and draw a half-heart shape with a pencil. When you unfold the paper, you should have an entire heart.
Place the chicken breast on one side of the heart, on top of firmer vegetables, such as carrots or cabbage. Top the chicken with softer vegetables, such as sliced onions, peppers and zucchini. Season the chicken with salt, pepper, lemon juice and spices such as thyme or oregano.
Fold the parchment over the chicken and vegetables and fold all the edges in three or four narrow folds. Twist the base of the heart tightly and tie it with baking twine if you think it may not be tight enough.
Place the parchment packet to an ungreased baking sheet and place it in the preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes for a 6-ounce chicken breast. Let the packet rest outside the oven for five minutes after it is finished.
Remove the twine if you used it and place the packets on individual plates for each person to cut open.
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- When poaching, use a large enough cooking pot so the breast is surrounding by a few inches of water on all sides.
- Steaming chicken in foil also works for campfire cooking, because you can place foil packets directly on coals or on a grill.
- Ready-to-use parchment bags are also available in some stores that allow you to skip the process of making your own.
- Don't use foil for steaming if you plan to add acidic foods such as lemon juice or tomatoes, because chemical reactions can occur and result in odd flavors or colors.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.