What is a poached egg?
It is an egg that has been cracked open and cooked in simmering water. It produces a lovely delicate white casing that encapsulates a creamy yellow oozing yolk. Poached eggs are a healthy option for any breakfast dish and act as a fancier alternative to other cooking methods such as soft-boiled or over-easy.
We have tested all techniques from swirling vortexes to heaps of vinegar, and we have found the sweet spot to create a perfectly cooked, quick, and easy poached egg.
Consider pairing with our thyme hollandaise.
Ok, young Padawan, it’s time to learn how to poach eggs with ease.
The Fresher the Eggs, the Better
Ensure your eggs are fresh. Ideally, it is best if you buy them the day before or the day of cooking. As the eggs age, the egg white becomes less firm. In other words, part of the egg white separates and becomes watery, morphing into the dreaded “wispy white strings.” The egg white must be firm to achieve the perfect poach.
A Small Sieve is Key
The use of a small sieve is an essential step in the poaching process. The purpose is to use the sieve to remove the egg white liquid, which will minimize the amount of wispy white strings that appear in the hot water after the eggs are added. It will also help ensure the poached egg stays together throughout the cooking process.
Skip the Ramekins!
Although some people like to use a ramekin to hold the egg before adding it to the hot water, I do not find it necessary for the poaching process. In my experience, using a small bowl is more than sufficient to keep the egg white firm and the yolk intact.
The more equipment we need to poach an egg, the less likely we are to poach them. Poaching should be approachable, accessible, and straightforward. For this reason, I am advising you to skip the ramekins if you don’t have them.
A Splash of Vinegar Will Go a Long Way
I find that the use of vinegar helps keep the egg intact throughout the cooking process. You don’t need more than one tablespoon for a whole pot of water. On occasion, at a restaurant, I have ordered poached eggs that tasted like vinegar. For me, this is hugely off-putting. Using only a small amount of vinegar will ensure that your eggs are not spoiled with an unnecessary tang.
Barely Simmering Water is Critical
The trick to poaching is adding the eggs to barely simmering water. How can you tell if the water is barely simmering, you ask? Look for small bubbles that form at the bottom of the pot, which intermittently rise to the surface, every 2 to 3 seconds. The water’s temperature should be between 160 and 180 degrees Fahrenheit (70 to 80 degrees Celsius).
This method allows the egg whites to retain their delicate nature as the white and yolk slowly cook. Keep the water barely simmering during the poaching process. If it begins to boil, turn down the heat to low or medium-low or pull the pot up off the element to slow the boil.
The Swirling Vortex is Your Friend
Whisking the water in a circular motion, which creates a “swirling vortex,” has proven to be a fool-proof method to achieve the perfect poach. If you plan to add one to three additional eggs to the pot, place them in the water around the vortex center to ensure all eggs are separated.
They may collude in the center due to the swirling vortex, but don’t worry. Their natural behavior will not impact your final product. I would not suggest poaching more than four eggs at a time.
It’s All in the Timing
I prefer my poached eggs to have a thick oozing yolk. I recommend cooking for 4 minutes to achieve this. If you prefer a runny oozing yolk, cook for 3 minutes instead. Whether your “perfect” is the former or the latter, adjust the cooking time as you see fit.
With these tips, you will not only achieve the perfect poach but master this technique with confidence.
Perfect Poached Eggs
- 4 eggs farm fresh
- 1 tbsp white vinegar
- 6-8 cups water
- salt to taste
- ground pepper to taste
1. Prepare the Water with White Vinegar
- Fill a medium pot with water about half or three-quarters full. Ensure the water is deep enough to submerge the eggs (approximately 4 inches or 10 cm deep). Pour vinegar into the water.
- Place the pot on the stovetop at medium-high heat.
2. Drain the Egg White Liquid from the Egg
- Crack eggs, one at a time, into a small sieve and remove the egg white liquid. Most of the egg white should be firm and sit nicely in the sieve without draining through it.
- Slide each egg into its own small bowl.
3. Add the Eggs to Barely-Simmering Water
- When the water begins to form small bubbles at the bottom of the pot that then rise to the surface intermittently, you are ready to poach your eggs!
- Place a whisk in the water and swirl quickly in a circular motion to create a swirling vortex.
- Remove the whisk from the pot and place eggs into the swirling vortex. You may get one egg into the center of the vortex before the vortex dissipates while the water continues to swirl in a circle. After it dissipates, simply add each egg, one by one, into the water (as it continues to circle) in separate areas of the pot.
- Time 4 minutes on your timer.
4. Cook for 4 Minutes
- You may see a white foam forming on the top while the water begins to boil. If this happens, turn the water down to medium or medium-low to slow the boil. After 4 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the water and place them onto a towel-lined plate to remove the excess water.
- Serve and enjoy!