How to Boil Chicken


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You have decided to take a crack at cooking chicken. The recipe that you are using calls for shredded chicken. You aren’t experienced with cooking chicken and going to the store is out of the question, so what do you do?

The answer is simple — You boil the chicken. Don’t fret, this guide will tell you everything that you need to know on how to boil chicken.

a collage of chicken and vegetables in a pot with title text reading How To Boil Chicken

What is boiling?

The cooking technique used when cooking food (in this case chicken) in a boiling liquid. Boiling is reached when the temperature of the liquid is 212°F.

You will see large steaming bubbles rise to the surface of the liquid. When these bubbles erupt and break at the surface, it is considered a rolling boil.

water boiling in a pot

Anytime you boil food or liquid you will typically bring it to a boil and then cook it at a simmer or rapid simmer. What’s the difference?

A simmer is small, fine constant boiling bubbles clustered together (like in the picture below). A rapid (vigorous) simmer, often referred to as a gentle boil, is small constant bubbles that break the surface of the liquid (as seen in the picture above).

overhead view of water simmering in a pot on the stove

Going over the basics

Before getting started, let’s go over the basics of cooking chicken. Chicken is considered done when it reaches 165°F. You can pull the chicken at 155-160°F as long as you let it rest(sit) for 5-10 minutes.

This is the carry-over process, where the heat is being redistributed internally and the temperature will continue to rise. You should always use an instant digital thermometer to check the temperature of the chicken.

Getting started

Now that we have covered the basics, let’s go ahead and get started with boiling chicken. You can boil any part of the chicken, thigh, leg, breast or the whole chicken.

The more meat and the thicker the meat is, the longer it will take to cook the meat. You can always cut the meat to help cook it faster, however, if you are shredding the chicken afterward, don’t cut the pieces too small.

You want to use a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a lid. Remove the meat from the package and place it in the pot.

The liquid will be added after the chicken is in the pot. Make sure the pot is big enough for the chicken, you want to have a single layer of the chicken at the bottom of the pot.

Next, you want to put your liquid into the pot and be sure to cover all of the chicken. I say liquid, because some people may prefer to boil the chicken with broth or white wine. You don’t have to use water.

Once you have covered the chicken with the liquid of your choice, you can add the seasonings and spices that you choose to use(try using parsley, bay leaves, rosemary, salt, peppercorns, and sage).

You can add vegetables, like carrots, celery or onions to help with the flavor. Make sure that the liquid you used covers everything that is in the pot.

whole chicken and vegetables in a pot on the stove next to a spoon

Place the lid on the pot. The lid needs to fit tightly to help seal in the vapor from the water which is what helps cook the chicken.

Put the pot on the stove and turn the burner on medium-high. When it comes to a boil, you lower the heat to a simmer.

If you boil the liquid too long, it will evaporate, so make sure to turn the heat down as soon as it starts boiling.

To reiterate, the type of chicken that you are using will determine the length of time it should cook for. Here’s a little guideline to get an idea of how long it will take to cook the chicken:

  • Breasts with bone/skin: 30 minutes
  • Whole chicken- 1 hour: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Breasts skinless/boneless: 20-25 minutes,
  • Breasts cut in half: 15-20 minutes

After about 10 minutes of the chicken simmering, check it with the meat thermometer. Be careful while doing this, so that you don’t burn yourself.

You will need to remove the lid, using tongs pull out a piece of chicken and stick the thermometer into the center of the meat. If the temp is under 155°F, place the chicken back into the pot, replace the lid and continue cooking.

**Some people will say if you don’t have a thermometer to cut into the chicken and if the chicken is still pink keep cooking it. It’s highly recommended to have a meat thermometer for a more accurate reading.

chicken, onions, and broth in a pot with a meat thermometer stuck in one piece of the chicken

Another quick reminder, you will see recipes telling you to wait until the chicken reaches 165°F and then remove it from the heat. Once again while it is in the resting period the temperature will continue to rise. You don’t want to over boil the chicken, because it will end up like rubber.

You should keep checking the chicken after 5-10 minutes. Once the chicken has reached 155-160°F, remove the pot from the stove and slowly drain the liquid from the pot using a colander. You can either save the liquid for future use or toss it.

Place the chicken on a plate and let it sit for about 5-10 minutes. After 5-10 minutes you can shred your chicken. When shredding your chicken use two forks, to make it easier to shred.

Cooking tip- The broth will be packed full of flavor, so you can drain it into a clean dish and freeze for a future recipe. Just remember to toss veggies(if you used them).

Wrap up

There you have it, a quick and easy guide on how to boil chicken. Your chicken will be juicy and full of flavor and ready for you to serve with sides or shred for a recipe that you are making.

It’s a perfect way to make chicken that is moist and tender and quick enough to make if you need shredded chicken in a pinch. The uses for the chicken are limitless, you can make chicken quesadillas, chicken salad, you can make soup, or even add it to a sauce such as alfredo and pour it over pasta.

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