By A.J. Andrews

The basic chicken-poaching technique is the foundation for thousands of preparations: Any dish that uses chicken stock or shredded chicken starts here. It also serves as the master recipe for all broth-based chicken soups -- chicken pho, chicken noodle and tomato-chicken soup, for example, all build off the same technique, as do numerous sauces and gravies -- you simply add the ingredients after the chicken cooks. Most soup ingredients can't handle the 1 hour and 15 minutes it takes to boil a whole chicken, so add them to the broth in order of longest-cooking ingredient to quickest-cooking.

simmering chicken soup with seasoning vegetables
credit: VvoeVale/iStock/Getty Images
For chicken-tomato soup, add 2 cans of crushed tomatoes and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste to the broth after you start it.

Basic Technique

Step 1

Chop 1 pound of onions and 1/2 pound each of carrots and celery for each chicken used. Place the chicken in a large stockpot and cover it with 1 or 2 inches of water or chicken stock.

Step 2

Bring the water to a rolling boil and skim the froth that collects on the surface for about 5 minutes. Lower the heat until the water simmers.

Step 3

Add the vegetables and basic broth aromatics: a couple bay leaves, parsley stems and peppercorns.

Step 4

Simmer the chicken until the flesh effortlessly slides off the bone with a fork -- a visible sign of doneness -- about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Take the stockpot off the stove.

Step 5

Grasp the chicken using a pair of tongs -- insert one tong all the way in the cavity and the other near the backbone for a solid grip. Lift the chicken above the water and let it drain for a few seconds and set it in a shallow dish.

Step 6

Strain the broth into a food container or dish. Set aside for soup or reserve for broth.

Step 7

Break the chicken down into parts -- thighs, wings, legs and breasts. Discard the skin and pick off the meat.

Step 8

Shred the chicken with your fingers or two forks in a mixing bowl after it cools enough. Discard the bones and fat.

Soup Variation

Step 1

Simmer the whole chicken with 1 pound of chopped onions and 1/2 pound each of celery and carrots for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Season the water to taste with kosher salt before you add the chicken to it.

Step 2

Prep the soup ingredients you want to add while the chicken simmers, and set them aside. Keep starches, such as potatoes and parsnips, in water with a squeeze of lemon juice to prevent them from browning.

Step 3

Take the chicken from the broth using tongs and set it in a shallow dish. Strain the broth and return it to the stockpot.

Step 4

Pick the meat from the chicken and shred it. Add the soup vegetables to the stockpot and simmer them until cooked through.

Step 5

Return the chicken to the stockpot and add the finishing herbs -- chopped parsley, rosemary and thyme -- for example. Simmer the chicken for 5 minutes and serve.