This cooking method involves very gentle simmering in some kind of liquid, usually water or stock. As such it resembles gentle boiling and it is one of the least harmful ways of cooking. A large variety of foodstuffs may be cooked in this manner, including red and white meat, poultry, fish of all kinds, eggs, sweetbreads, meat or fish balls, and so on. The actual amount and nature of the liquid used for poaching, will depend on the food to be poached.
- Red meat is usually poached in a white stock, often with vegetables such as celery, carrots, small potatoes, etc, or alternatively in salt water.
- White meat is not usually poached, except if we consider cooking lamb and veal in the manner known as en blanquette, a meat ragout cooked with yolks of eggs and cream, as poaching. But whatever this is called, it is not advocated here.
- Poultry to be poached is first placed into cold white stock. The liquid is then brought to boil, it is skimmed, then seasoned, and simmered very gently.
- Fish may be poached whole or in slices, using very little liquid, and gourmet cooking requires that the fish is subsequently browned, moistened with a very concentrated fish stock called fumet, made from the bones and trimmings of fish much reduced.
- Eggs are poached in boiling salt water to which a few drops of vinegar have been placed.