It is this poached juicy chicken dish that shows what poaching can do to keep meat juicy and the skin springy and textured. No wonder virtually everyone in China is familiar with this wonderful dish.

Origin of poached juicy chicken

One of the famous traditional South Chinese dishes offered at Chinese new year is Bok Chit Gai in Cantonese dialect (Bai Qie Ji in Mandarin). It goes directly translated as ‘white cut chicken’. This dish is a whole poached chicken, served with a ginger scallion sauce. China serves chicken in bite size pieces with the bones cut through, for which a Chinese cleaver comes in handy.

The art of making poached juicy chicken

Most important is to have a broth that will be kept at 180 F (82 C). You may start with water even to which you have added some vegetables and salt. The chicken will release its flavor and you end up with a nice chicken broth. You may also first start with a vegetable broth, in which the chicken is poached. Please pay attention that in the beginning the temperature will drop when the still cold chicken is added. Add heat and carefully stir and pour broth over the chicken if the temperature is still too low.  Check the temperature of the broth regularly, especially in the beginning of the poach. For a whole chicken follow the recipe’s instructions.

After poaching, remove carefully the chicken and let it completely cool down. First by rinsing in cold water. Thereafter by adding ice.

Special equipment

  • thermometer (range 0-100 C)
  • Chinese cleaver
  • metal hook to let the chicken drip from
poached chicken photo: ©️Nel Brouwer-van den Bergh

Poached, juicy chicken, South Chinese style

Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 4


Ingredients for the poached chicken

  • 3 lbs (1.4 kg) whole chicken with head on
  • 2 tbsp chicken fat
  • 4 spring onions
  • 0.7 oz (20 g) ginger root
  • 2 tsp rice wine (Shaoxingjiu)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 gallon (4 liters) ice water (some ice)


Instruction to poach the chicken

  • Clean the cavity of the chicken, reserve some of the fat
  • Wash the chicken, rub the skin with salt, rinse and then let it drip dry for about 10 min
  • Marinate the inside with a mixture of 1 tbs of salt and 2 tsp of the rice wine that is rubbed for about 5 min and let sit for about 20 min
  • Prepare a big pot of water and add the chicken fat, ginger, spring onions, white pepper. The pot should be able to hold the immersed whole chicken
  • Prepare a second big pot of boiling water. Also this pot should be big enough to be able to fully immerse the whole chicken
  • Fully dip the chicken, hooked at the neck in the boiling water of the second pot ensuring the water also enters the cavity and then pull the chicken quickly up and drain the cavity. Give a pull at the legs. Repeat this dipping 4 times, ensuring to pull the legs also the second rinse. Thereafter this is not needed anymore
  • After the last dip pour a scoop of cold water over the skin
  • Then dip the chicken in the boiling first pot and pull back and drain the cavity. Bring back to the boil and immerse the whole chicken in the broth and switch off the fire and partially cover with the lid, leaving a small space to breath. Check the temperature now and then and keep it around 82 C
  • After 50 min, take the chicken out of the poaching liquid, drain the hot water from the cavity and rinse for 5 minutes under cold running water and remove any scum as well
  • Then transfer to a big bowl with ice water, letting the skin shrink until springy and the cavity is fully cooled down. Turn the chicken during this process a few times and add ice if needed
  • Let the chicken drip dry and optionally coat with a thin layer of vegetable oil to prevent further drying out
  • Cut the chicken in pieces and serve in the shape of a chicken. In China the chicken is cut through the bones, in the west you may prefer to debone the chicken before serving, but the whole dish is focussed at preserving the skin
    Serve with ginger scallion sauce.


Method: poaching
Food allergy & intolerance information: msg (but can be omitted)


  1. When poaching only chicken legs following a similar procedure. Poaching time max 45 min.


Leave A Comment

Recipe Rating