What do BBQ pulled chicken sandwiches and chicken salad sandwiches have in common? Yes, it’s chicken. But which kind?
Alright. It’s the shredded chicken. And how do you get that tender and juicy shredding? The trick has always been how you boil a chicken.
But don’t be discouraged by how bland the title this discussion suggests. On the contrary, boiling a chicken is easy enough, whether you are dealing with cuts or a whole chicken itself.
This is exactly what I’m about to prove in our segment today.
How to boil chicken breasts
1. This secret ingredient
Whoever said that boiling a chicken always has to end up in hot water must not have been introduced to this ingredient yet.
When I boil a chicken, I find that chicken broth levels up the game.
2. Also, it’s about seasoning!
The liquid must also be seasoned well with salt and pepper. If you have some onions, carrots, or fresh herbs at your disposal, you may add them as well.
Next, it’s time to place the chicken breasts in a large pot. Ensure that the lid is tight-fitting. The liquid inside must also be sufficient enough to cover them, at least two inches from the top will keep the bird from sloshing the liquid out.
Note that the flavor of these chicken breasts will soon be boasting with will all be coming from what you put in the pot.
3. Boil, boil, and boil!
This is the time when the pot should be bringing water to a boil. During this step, it is paramount that you cover the pot and lower the heat slightly.
This will ensure that the water will stay at a rapid simmer. Let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Next, remove one piece from the pot. If it must, the temperature inside should be 165 degrees. Whenever you feel like the chicken breasts still need more time to go tender to your liking, check them every five minutes.
As it is, make sure that you don’t overcook them. Overcooking will make them rubbery.
4. Fork them up
Let the chicken breasts rest for about 10 minutes. When they are cool enough, you can start shredding them using two forks. If the recipe only calls for them to be sliced up, this is the time to do it.
How to boil a whole chicken?
So, how about boiling a whole bone-in chicken?
Despite the heavier lifting it might bring compared to chicken breasts, boiling a whole chicken is incredibly simple.
Boiling a whole chicken also means a lot of leftovers (usually). As it is, you can make use of them for recipes which call for cooked chicken.
Here’s a recipe on how to boil a whole chicken:
How to boil a whole chicken
- Remove the chicken from its packaging. Ensure that you remove anything in the cavity and trim large pieces of fat.
- Place the chicken in a large stockpot.
- Add sufficient water, just enough to cover the chicken by at least an inch.
- Add the salt, carrot, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns.
- Bring the pot to a boil on medium/high heat.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes. Let it simmer until the chicken is cooked through.
- Turn off the heat. CAREFULLY remove the chicken from the pot and place it in a large bowl or platter.
- Cover the chicken with foil. Let it cool for about 1 hour until it’s cool enough to handle.
- With a paring knife and meat fork, carefully remove the light and dark meat from the carcass. You can separate limbs from the body or take all the meat off the bones. Cover and refrigerate immediately.
- Pour the chicken stock through a fine-mesh sieve. Throw out the vegetables and save the chicken stock.
- Category: Main dish
- Method: Stovetop
Tips from the pros (Q&A)
How long does it take to boil chicken?
Determining the amount of time to boil a chicken depends on a few factors:
- The size of the chicken
- Whether it’s fully thawed or frozen
- The amount of water you have in the stockpot
Let’s say you have a chilled but thawed bird. You’ve removed the neck/organs, and detached any plastic or string that might bind the legs. A 4-lb whole chicken needs to simmer for about one and a half hours. Now, if it’s bigger than 4lbs, expect it to be a little longer.
Meanwhile, boiling chicken thighs or wings separately usually takes about 40 minutes.
When boiling chicken, how do you know it’s done?
One thing that makes your job easier is the use of a meat thermometer. With this instrument, you can check when it is done. For instance, a meat thermometer inserted into a chicken thigh should read 165F degrees when it’s fully cooked.
Can you over boil chicken?
Yes, you can boil a chicken too long, but it tends to be more forgiving. A meat thermometer is great for making sure your bird doesn’t overcook.
Boiling a chicken can produce tender meat that has a “carte blanche”—even simmered in seasoned water you end up with a mild flavor to the cooked meat, which can then be removed easily from the bone for eating alone or using it as an ingredient in salads, stuffing, and pasta dishes.
Though larger chickens require longer boiling times, most cooking methods produce dry meat when the chicken is cooked long enough to become tender.
Why boil chicken?
Boiling can provide a perfectly tender piece of chicken. It also makes the job of cooking chicken faster than having it in a skillet.
And if you’re into shredding chicken meat, this type of cooking is a godsend, whether you’re preparing chicken salad sandwiches or any recipes that call for it.
How to use boiled chicken
Boiled chicken can be used in a variety of dishes. Once the meat is shredded, you can add it to chicken fajitas, chicken noodle soup, or a healthy chicken salad with grapes and Greek yogurt.
Boiled chicken also freezes well, which can then be used later as an add-on to your favorite lasagna recipe or white chicken chili.
The bottom line
Learning how to boil a chicken is one that only requires basic cooking skills - and fun ones at that! The goal is to simply cook it so you can debone and use it in a slew of your favorite recipes.
We hope that the discussion above has elevated your interest in boiling a chicken and given you some helpful tips on how to do it and make use of it as soon as it gets all tender and done!