Use Kitchen Scraps for More Flavorful Poached Chicken

published Jun 18, 2016
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(Image credit: Emma Christensen)

Poached chicken adds a quick protein boost to green salads and sandwiches. It’s also crucial for chicken salad, and makes an easy taco filling when shredded. But there’s a secret to making poached chicken that’s not only tender, but also incredibly flavorful: kitchen scraps.

Kitchen Scraps as Flavor Boosters

Vegetable and herb scraps, along with hard cheese rinds like Parmesan, are magical flavoring agents. When you peel that onion or lop the top off of that fennel, toss the scraps into a zip-top bag instead of your compost bin or trash. If you’re planning to poach chicken within a couple of days, that bag can be stored in the refrigerator. Otherwise, tuck it in your freezer and keep adding scraps to it as you have them — herb stems, ginger peels, a Parmesan rind, squeezed lemon halves — until poaching chicken is on your agenda.

When it’s time to cook your chicken, toss the scraps you’ve acquired right into the poaching liquid. They’ll flavor the liquid and therefore flavor the chicken. According to Assistant Food Editor Kelli, who tipped me off to this trick, “It’s like getting a free flavor boost.” And who doesn’t like getting something for free?

Scrap Combinations We Love

The key is to mix and match these flavor boosters. Once you’ve collected enough vegetable and herb scraps, choose a few scraps that complement each other and genuinely enhance your poaching liquid.

A Few Combinations to Try

  • Ginger peels + orange peels + cilantro stems
  • Parmesan rind + thyme stems + squeeze lemon halves
  • Carrot peels + parsley stems + fennel fronds