Poached eggs get an unfair reputation for being hard to cook. The truth is, with the proper technique and a little practice, poaching an egg is an easy way to turn a salad into a meal or a breakfast into a memorable occasion.
The main problem people run into with poached eggs is creating wispy, thin whites instead of the perfect round container that you get at a restaurant. Follow our step-by-step instructions and you'll get a perfect poached egg every time.
Things You'll Need
- A pot
- A slotted spoon
- 2 eggs (the fresher the better)
Step 1Boil the water, adding a tablespoon of vinegar. Meanwhile, crack your eggs into a small cup so they're ready to go when the water reaches the right temperature. Eggs poach quickly, so you have to move fast.
Step 2When the water reaches a boil, reduce it to a gentle simmer. Dip the bowl with the egg into the water, and let the water cook the egg for a moment before you let it drop into the water. This will help prevent the wispy whites. Drop in the second egg in the same way, and try to keep track of the order they went in. The first egg in should be the first egg out.
Step 3Gently keep the water moving with a spoon while the eggs cook. Take the eggs out after three minutes for soft poached, or let them cook to five minutes for a more solid yolk. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain as much of the water as possible - the egg should wobble, but just a little, if you move the spoon around. Place the cooked egg on a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.
This one is optional—if you're cooking eggs for a crowd, don't stress. Poached eggs can be held in an ice bath for up to an hour. When it's time to serve, put them back in the hot water until they warm up (about 45 seconds) and serve.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best temperature for poaching eggs?
When cooking poached eggs, the water should be kept at a low simmer at around 180°F (82°C). Doing so will prevent the egg whites from separating from the yolks. After the eggs have been added to the saucepan, gently cook at this temperature until they reach the desired doneness, anywhere between 3 and 5 minutes. Experimenting with temperature and cooking time can help you find the perfect poached egg to suit your tastes.
How long should I cook poached eggs for?
Poached eggs should be cooked for 3-5 minutes, depending on how firm or soft you prefer your yolks. Keep the water temperature at a low, gentle level to prevent the egg whites from separating from the yolks. You can use a timer to dial in your perfect cook time. If you overcook poached eggs, they can become tough and rubbery, so it's best to check the eggs regularly to avoid an overdone egg.
How can I keep the egg whites from getting wispy while poaching?
The easiest way to avoid egg whites “feathering” is to add a small amount of vinegar to the poaching water. If the flavour it imparts isn't for you, you can try the vortex method. Stir the water in a clockwise motion with a spoon to create a whirlpool, then carefully drop the egg into the centre. Let it cook for 3 to 5 minutes and the whites will wrap around the yolk, resulting in a compact and well-formed poached egg. You can also rid yourself of the thin part of the egg white by cracking the egg into a fine-mesh strainer and let the excess liquid drain off before slipping the egg into the poaching water.
Do I need to use vinegar in the poaching water?
Using vinegar in the poaching water can help the egg whites coagulate faster and reduce feathering, however, it is not a necessary ingredient. Some prefer to poach their eggs without vinegar for a more delicate flavour. Ultimately, the choice of whether or not to use vinegar is a personal preference.
What are some popular ways to serve poached eggs?
Poached eggs are often served for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, and can be served in a variety of ways. Some popular options include on top of toast with avocado and smoked salmon, in a classic Eggs Benedict with ham and hollandaise sauce, on top of a salad, or in a bowl with grains and vegetables. They can also be served simply with salt, pepper, and butter as a side dish. For more delicious ideas, check out our section on poached eggs.
How do I store and reheat leftover poached eggs?
To store leftover poached eggs, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To reheat, gently place the eggs in a saucepan of simmering water for about 30 seconds or until heated through. Alternatively, you can reheat them in the microwave for about 20-30 seconds on medium power, being careful not to overcook them.
Is it possible to cook multiple poached eggs at the same time?
Cooking multiple poached eggs at the same time can be challenging, as each egg requires its own water bath to maintain the proper temperature and prevent the whites from spreading. One way to cook multiple poached eggs is to use a poaching poacher or multiple poaching cups in a large saucepan filled with simmering water. Another option is to crack the eggs into separate bowls and gently slide them into the water one by one, allowing each egg to cook for a couple of minutes before adding the next one. Regardless of the method you choose the key to success is to maintain the proper water temperature and keep the eggs separate to prevent them from sticking together.
What are some common mistakes people make when poaching eggs?
Common mistakes people make when poaching eggs include using water that is too hot or too cold, stirring the water, or overcrowding the pot. Focus on making sure that your water is at a low simmer (not a boil) when you start poaching, and that you set a timer to make sure that you don’t overcook them. Even a minute can mean the difference between a perfect poached egg and an overcooked one.
Can I use other liquids besides water to poach the eggs?
While water is the most common liquid used for poaching eggs, some applications specifically call for poaching eggs in things like broth, coconut milk or white wine. Some of the more popular variations are Shakshuka and Eggs in Purgatory, in which the eggs are poached in a spiced tomato sauce. If you decide to experiment with different poaching liquids, remember that the cooking time and method may vary when using alternative liquids, so it is important to do some experimentation to find the best results for your preferred taste and texture.