How Long to Boil Chicken
This post may contain affiliate links. Please read the disclosure policy.
Learn how long to boil chicken and get tender and juicy meat, whether you are cooking chicken breasts, thighs or a whole chicken. You can slice or shred boiled chicken for use in sandwiches, salads and many other recipes!
Boiled chicken is a kitchen staple that’s tasty, healthy and easy to make. Just slice the meat and service with some rice and vegetables to make a fabulous lunch. Or shred it and make a salad, chicken noodle soup or sandwiches like chicken roll-ups or pulled chicken. My neighbor even boils chicken to feed it to their dog. The possibilities are truly endless!
The cooking process is straightforward and you can start with either fresh or frozen chicken. However, in order to avoid getting rubbery meat you’ll need to follow a few simple tips. So let’s get started!
Reasons for Boiling Chicken
Boiled chicken is a time-honored tradition around the world for so many good reasons:
- Simple: It’s easy to prepare with no special equipment other than a large pot.
- Fast: Boiling is one of the quickest ways to cook chicken.
- Frozen: You can boil frozen chicken directly without thawing.
- Healthier: No added fat is required unlike with fried or baked chicken.
- Extra Broth: You also get homemade chicken broth to use for soup or other recipes.
As long as you don’t overcook it, the meat will turn out tender and juicy!
How to Boil Chicken
When preparing boiled chicken, select a large enough pot so that the chicken fills it halfway at most. Next, add optional vegetables like chopped carrots, celery, onions along with seasonings such as bay leaves, black peppercorns and/or fresh herbs.
Pour cold water or broth to cover the chicken by an inch or so. Then bring to a boil over high heat. As soon as it boils, cover and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Use a skimmer to remove the brown froth that rises to the surface.
Once the chicken is done, remove to a carving board to cool for several minutes before shredding or slicing.
How Long Do You Boil Chicken
Use the chart below to figure out how long to boil chicken after the water has reached a boil:
|Chicken Breasts||15-20 minutes||20-30 minutes|
|Chicken Thighs/Wings/Legs||20-30 minutes||30-40 minutes|
|Whole Chicken (< 4 lbs)||30-40 minutes||60 minutes|
|Whole Chicken (> 4 lbs)||40-60 minutes||60-90 minutes|
|Chicken Tenders (fillets)||5-10 minutes||10-15 minutes|
Note: Larger and bone-in pieces will come in at the upper end of the ranges above, while smaller, boneless pieces will be at the lower end of the ranges.
How to check doneness: If you’re in doubt, you can always insert an instant-read thermometer into the middle of the meat. As soon as it reads 165°F, the chicken is done.
How to Avoid Rubbery Chicken
Rubbery chicken is a sign of overcooking. Here are a few tips to keep boiled chicken tender:
- Temperature: Don’t allow chicken to boil over high heat. Instead, reduce the heat to a low simmer once the liquid reaches a boil.
- Choose Bone-in: Bone-in, skin-on chicken is less likely to overcook than boneless meat.
- Salt: Add 1-2 teaspoons of salt to the water, as it will act as a tenderizer during boiling.
If you really want to go all-out, you can always brine the chicken for a few hours to overnight to help the meat to stay moist during cooking.
Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Make Flavorful Chicken Broth? Simply add fragrant vegetables such as chopped carrots, celery and onion along with seasonings such as fresh rosemary, thyme or sage and black peppercorns. Keep the onion skin on for added color. After boiling, pour it through a fine-mesh strainer and/or cheesecloth to clarify. Also consider putting it through a fat separator.
- How Long Can I Store Cooked Chicken? It will last for up to 2 hours at room temperature and 3-4 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.
More Tips on Cooking Chicken:
View more chicken recipes
How Long to Boil Chicken
- 3-4 pounds chicken, whole chicken, chicken breasts, legs, wings or a combination (fresh or frozen)
- cold water, to cover
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- 1 medium onion, halved
- 1 large carrot, or 2 medium, roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- sprigs rosemary, or thyme, sage
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
- parsley stems
- Place the chicken in a large pot (see note) along with the optional vegetables and seasonings. Add the salt and enough water or broth to cover.
- Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Remove the grey residues that float to the surface using a skimmer/spoon and discard.
- Reduce heat to low and simmer until cooked: 15-20 minutes for chicken breasts, 20-30 minutes for thighs/legs/wings, and 40-60 minutes for a whole chicken depending on size. (For frozen chicken, see notes.)
- Remove the chicken to a plate to cool for several minutes. Use a fork and knife to cut up the meat or two forks to shred it.
- Pot: The chicken should take up 1/2 to 2/3 of the pot. Too small of a pot could lead to spillage, while too large of a pot will take a long time to boil.
- Frozen Chicken: Boiling times are: 20-30 minutes for chicken breasts, 30-40 minutes for chicken thighs/legs/wings, and 60-90 minutes for a whole chicken depending on size. To verify doneness, you can always insert an instant-read thermometer into a large piece and look for a reading of 165°F.
- Tips for Making Broth: Homemade chicken broth as an added benefit of boiling chicken. To make it flavorful, be sure to add as many of the suggested vegetables and seasonings as possible. Also, using bone-in meat will add flavor, while leaving onion skins on will add beautiful color. To concentrate the flavor, you can continue boiling after the chicken has been removed until volume is reduced by half. To clarify the broth, pour it through a cheesecloth and use a fat separator.
Please read our nutrition disclaimer.