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Chinese White-Cooked Chicken with Ginger-Soy Dressing

4 Servings

2 hours 30 minutes active

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It’s easy to take a skin-deep approach to chicken, paying lots of attention to getting a golden brown crust only to end up with dull, bland—and too often overcooked—meat. We avoid that trap by adopting the Chinese technique of whole-bird poaching to create a chicken with simple, clean flavors and a silky, tender-but-firm meat primed for a variety of vibrant sauces. Simmered without soy sauce (and therefore white), the classic Cantonese dish is known as white-cooked or white-cut chicken. Poaching—
in which the chicken is slowly cooked in liquid just below a simmer—delivers heat evenly, so no worries about dry breasts or pink thighs. The whole process takes about the same amount of time as roasting, most of it hands-off. In fact, the last 30 minutes of cooking occurs off the heat entirely. Poaching results in blond skin that you may wish to discard (though Chinese cooks leave it on and consider it perfectly tasty). The bright aromatics of raw scallions and ginger worked best in a soy sauce–based dressing, which we thinned with some of the poaching liquid.




Don’t use cooking sherry for this recipe; it usually has added sodium and little, if any, actual sherry flavor. Look for a high-quality (but affordable) dry sherry, and keep the remainder refrigerated to use in pan sauces, soups or even cocktails. Mirin, a rice wine, is a decent stand-in and usually is available in the Asian foods aisle of the grocery store. If possible, opt for hon-mirin over the sweeter aji-mirin.

2 hours

30 minutes active


  • 1

    3½- to 4-pound chicken, giblets discarded

  • 1

    bunch cilantro


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sally w.
August 2, 2022
Moistest .. Most Delicious .. Chicken .. Ever
This is my go to way to cook a whole chicken not only for this recipe but any time I'm looking for cooked chicken, it' s hit. When I am wanting a more generic flavour, say chicken caesar salad, I use white wine instead of sherry or mirin, add half an onion along with the scallions and follow the recipe!
Kat T.
September 11, 2022
Use Sauce to Make to Work
I did use sake because I couldn't find mirin; however, I did buy a sweeter sake that was delicious to drink. This chicken was good, but not amazing. It was really the sauce on top via the video Episode 1 Season 1 that made it work.
Kathryn A.

I have a hard time getting a consistent simmer on my electric stove so cooked it in my large crockpot. I got distracted and did not turn it down from High and it was cooked in 5 hours. I added 2 T each fish sauce and soy sauce and 1/4 t cayenne pepper to the broth.

Tricia S.

I have made this many, many times since the recipe first appeared. I live in a remote area without ready access to decent mirin or sherry; I use a fruity, unoaked white wine, with very good results. The stock is excellent, and the chicken is very tender and flavorful. If you do not use an organic [leaner] chicken, go ahead and cut the biggest, flabby skin flaps off the chicken before poaching.

Jo Ann K.

Can you use chicken pieces instead of a whole bird?

Lynn C.

Hi Jo Ann -

I definitely think you could poach chicken parts instead of using a whole bird. However, because this recipe is so timing-specific, since some of the cooking is actually done off the heat, it would be very challenging for us to give you appropriate timing for pieces without significant testing.

The Milk Street Team