A slow, gentle poach in an oven isn’t as sexy as a fast cook over the jumping flames of a burner or grill. There’s no caramelization, no glistening black at the edges, no siren song of sizzling. But for perfectly silky chicken breasts, cooked without drying out or turning rubbery, a placid poaching is the most reliable way to go.
Most poached chicken recipes are done on the stovetop, turning the heat to its lowest setting, and letting the liquid in the pan gently firm up the fowl’s flesh.
This technique is different. It’s done in the oven, where the heat is even and lower than the wispiest burner flames. It does take around an hour to fully cook, but it’s a hands-off, stress-free hour: You can leave the kitchen should you desire, and not worry about whether your dinner will overcook.
It won’t. Instead, it will emerge from its warm bath juicy and flavorful.
This is especially true if you use chicken stock as the poaching liquid. Well-salted water will work, but it won’t give you the same depth of flavor. Save the poaching liquid. If you used stock, it will be double-strength and rich. If you used water, you’ll have a light broth for a soup base.
While the oven is on, stick in something else that benefits from the relatively temperate 275-degree heat.
Garlic confit works beautifully. Covered in oil, the peeled cloves need about as much time as the chicken to soften into velvet. They turn golden and caramelized, and will keep, covered in their oil, for weeks in the fridge. I use them right away to season slow-roasted tomatillos and jalapeños. Everything gets diced up with cilantro and lime juice into a salsa .
Crisp, salty chicken skin is another win. The low heat renders the fat without burning, letting the skin get as crunchy as a potato chip. I use the shards of skin to add texture to a fresh parsley and red onion salad. Roasted cherry tomatoes, condensed and honeyed, are served alongside. The cooking method may not be sexy, but your dinner — tender, rich and zesty — will be.