This gentle method of cooking keeps food wonderfully moist. If differs from boiling because the heat is so low that only the occasional bubble breaks the surface of the liquid. It is ideal for delicate meats, such as poultry and fish, with can overcook and disintegrate if fiercely boiled. Poaching also allows you to skim off the scum and fat that faster boiling would bubble back into the flavour. The slow cooker is perfect for poaching because it keeps the heat constant and steady and needs little attention.
Unlike pot-roasting the slow cooker can be used for poaching large chickens and other poultry, although it is important to check that it will fit comfortably in the ceramic cooking pot. There should be enough space for it to be completely immersed in liquid and room for liquid to circulate around the sides. Because the cavity of the bird well be filled with poaching liquid, the bird will be cooked from the inside and the outside.
1.3kg/3lb oven-ready chicken
2 celery sticks a few fresh parsley stalks
2 bay leaves
6 black peppercorns
2.5ml/ ½ tsp salt
- Remove any trussing string from the chicken. Remove any loose pieces of the from inside the chicken, then rinse the cavity under cold water and place the chicken in the ceramic cooking pot.
- Trim the onion at the stem and root end, but do not peel (the skin will add a rich golden colour to the stock). Cut the onion into six or eight wedges. Wash and trim the carrots, leeks them and add to the cooking pot, packing them in around the chicken.
- Tie the herbs together and add to the pot with the peppercorns and salt.
- Pour in enough near-boiling water to just cover the chicken, pouring it over the vegetables and the chicken. Cover with the lid switch the slow cooker to high and cook for 1 hour.
- Skim off any scum and fat using a slotted spoon. Re-cover the pot and cook for 2-2 ½ hours, or until the chicken is cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part, where the thigh joins the body, it should read 77℃/170℉. (Alternatively, insert a skewer into the thickest part; the they are clear, lift the chicken out of the pot and double-check on the other side.)
- Remove the chicken from the pot using a large fork inserted into the cavity to lift it up. Leave the chicken to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Alternatively. If you plan to eat the chicken cold, leave it to cool completely on a wire rack placed over a large plate to catch any drips, (The wire rack will allow air to circulate around the chicken, helping it to cool more quickly.)
- Leave the cooking liquid to cool for a few minutes, then ladle into a colander set over a large bowl. Leave to drip; do not press the vegetables or the stock will become cloudy. Cool the stock quickly by placing the bowl in cold water
- If you plan to eat chicken cold, as soon as it is cool, cover with clear film (plastic wrap) and store in the refrigerator. (Leave the skin on because this will help to keep the meat moist.) Use within 2 days of cooking.
- When the stock is cool, cover with clear film (plastic wrap) and place in the refrigerator. Any fat in the stock will rise to the surface and can be removed easily and discarded. The stock can be kept for up to 3 days, or it can be frozen in airtight containers for up to 6 months.
Gammon is the cured hind leg of the bacon pig. Once cooked, it is known as ham. When serving the meat in slices, poaching is the beast cooking method poaching is the beast cooking method, producing tender, juicy results. However, if you wish to serve it whole, it can be glazed after poaching and briefly baked.
1.8kg/4lb boned middle gammon joint
2 carrots, haled
1 bouquet garni
10 black peppercorns dry (hard) cider (optional)
- Place the meat in the ceramic cooking pot, cover with cold water and leave to soak for 2-24 hours to remove the salt. (Mild cured gammon shouldn’t need long soaking but it is preferable to soak smoked gammon for the longer time.)
- Drain the gammon, then return it to the cooking pot. Peel the onion, stud with the cloves and add to the pot with the carrots, herbs and peppercorns. If you find it difficult to squeeze the onion down the side of the gammon, halve it.
- Pour in enough cold water, or cider or a mixture of the two, to just cover the gammon. Switch the slow cooker to high, cover with the lid and cook for 1 hour. Skim off any scum using a slotted spoon, them re-cover and cook for a further 4-5 hours. Check and skim the surface once or twice during cooking.
- Lift the ham out of the pot and place on a board. Slice and serve hot, or allow to cool, them wrap in foil and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl and leave to cool. (Taste the stock when hot; if it is very salty, use sparingly in dishes and do not add additional salt.) Chill the stock and remove any fat from the surface. Store in the refrigerator and use within 2 days. Alternatively, freeze for up to 6 months.
After poaching, lift the ham into a foil-lined baking dish and leave to cool for 15 minutes. Snip the string off the ham, then slice off the rind, leaving a thin, even layer of fat. Score in the opposite direction to make a diamond pattern. Brush the warm joint with about 45ml/3 tbsp lime marmalade and sprinkle with 45ml/3 tbsp demerara (raw) sugar. Push whole cloves into the corners of the diamond shapes after glazing, if you like. Bake at 220℃/425℉/Gas 7 for about 20 minutes, until the fat is brown and crisp. Serve hot or cold.
The delicate texture of fish benefits from simple cooking. Poaching brings out its flavour and keeps it moist. Both whole fish and fillets can be poached in the slow cooker, but first check that there is enough room for the fish slice (spatula).
Fish can be poached in cold liquid, but it will retain its shape and texture if added to hot liquid. Large pieces of fish, such as steaks or cutlets, will take no more than 45 minutes on high, or 1/ ½ -2 hours on low, but take care not to overcook and check frequently. Fish is ready when the flesh is only slightly translucent when eased away from the bone, or flakes easily when tested with the point of a sharp knife or skewer.
Apples, pears, stone fruits, such as plums, and soft fruit, such as figs, can be poached whole, halved or sliced. Even fragile fruit, such as rhubarb, will retain its shape when cooked in a slow cooker. Cooking times will depend on the size and ripeness of the fruit, but as a rough guide, tender fruit, such as figs and rhubarb, will take about 1 ½ hours on high; ripe or near-ripe fruit, such as plums, or apples,, will take about 2 hours on high; and harder, less ripe fruit, such as pear, will take 3-5 hours on high, or 6-8 hours on low.
The classic poaching liquid is syrup and usually consists of 1 part sugar to 2 parts water. Flavouring ingredients such as a pared strip of lemon rind or spices can be added to the liquid, as can red or white wine, cider or fruit juice sweetened with sugar.
- Put the sugar, poaching liquid and any flavourings into the ceramic cooking pot and switch the slow cooker to high. Cook for 1 hour, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
- Add the fruit, cover and cook until the fruit is barely tender. Leave the fruit to cool in the syrup, or remove and place in a serving dish. Strain the syrup over the fruit, or simmer gently to thicken.