Poaching is a cousin to simmering and boiling. What sets these cooking kin apart is the water temperature. Boiling is the hottest cooking method, with the temperature at 212°, followed by simmering at 185°-205° and poaching at 160°-180°.
For poaching, the surface of the liquid should merely suggest the hint of a bubble. Slow, small bubbles that occasionally rise to the surface indicate a simmer. Vigorous bubbles that rise to the surface and break it signify a full boil.
You can poach the most delicate of foods—eggs, fish and even fruit—once the poaching liquid is at the right temperature. The easiest way to do this is to bring the liquid (water, stock or wine) to a boil first, then reduce the heat to poaching temperature before adding food.
Poached foods are mild in flavor, so you might want to enhance the poaching liquid with herbs or other seasonings.
- Using a fat skimmer or metal spatula, lower food into cooking liquid. It should be completely submerged.
- Most foods can be poached in a large skillet—but don't poach food in a cast-iron skillet. The metal lends an off-taste.
- Don't let liquid boil after food is added. Rigorous boiling could cause tender foods to fall apart or toughen.
- Poaching liquid can be used as a light sauce for fish. Just remove the fish and boil the liquid until it's reduced by about half and the flavors have intensified.
A flavorful herb-flecked sauce enhances the mild, poached-to-perfection fish fillet in Poached Orange Roughy with Tarragon Sauce from our Test Kitchen.
When making the Poached Salmon with Tarragon Sauce (shown above right), fixing the sauce first allows the herb seasonings to meld and enhance the mild-tasting steaks, suggests Laura Perry from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.
With caramel sauce draping a tender poached pear, Pears with Spiced Caramel Sauce is pretty to look at but even sweeter to eat, promises our Test Kitchen staff.