When you want to gently cook delicate foods without adding other flavors, poaching can be the way to go. But what is poaching?

Properties of Poaching

Poaching is a moist heat method of cooking – that is, heat is transferred through liquid (water) to cook the item. It differs from boiling in that the water stays at a simmer. This lower heat helps maintain the texture and tenderness of food. There are two types of poaching: shallow and deep. No mystery here: in shallow poaching, a bed of aromatics (onions, carrots, celery, herbs etc) is used to keep the food off the bottom of the pot, and then liquid is added to partially cover. In deep poaching, the food is completely submerged.

For neutral food, like the base of a chicken salad, you might want to use water to poach, but a better choice is a flavorful liquid like a court bouillon (water, an acid such as lemon juice or wine, and aromatics) or stock. The liquid absorbs a lot of flavor from the food, so many cooks will reduce the liquid from shallow poaching into a scrumptious sauce.

Poaching is often considered a healthy way to cook food because it doesn’t add fat, as cooking in oil or butter would. A high-tech variant on poaching is sous-vide, a method of cooking where the food is vacuum-sealed inside a plastic bag and then cooked in a water circulator. This provides gentle, even cooking.

Poached Salmon

1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup water
2 pounds salmon fillets, cut into 4 pieces
2 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Heat wine and water over medium high heat in a large non-stick skillet for 5 minutes. Slide salmon pieces into poaching liquid and dot with butter. Sprinkle with dried parsley, garlic, salt and pepper. Bring to a slow boil, reduce heat to medium and poach until salmon flesh is firm, about 10 to 15 minutes.