How to Cook Poached Eggs Eggactly Right

Poaching an egg can be very intimidating.  If you have followed my blog from the beginning, you have read how difficult I found egg cooking during culinary school (April 18, 2011 “Still Doing Breakfast”), so you are not alone, if you fear poaching eggs.  I will not tell you how easy it is-because I’d be lying-but I will tell you that with practice, you can master it.  All you “waste” is some eggs, a bit of vinegar, and your time.  Approach this with confidence (and when no one else is around to laugh at your octopus tentacled, pan-stuck, or just plain ragged results).  If you’ve got dogs, there will be in egg heaven-and have a beautiful coat to boot.  Here are the keys:

  • A big enough pan, so that the eggs have room to move around-both deep and wide enough.
  • Enough water in the pan to give the eggs room to coagulate without sticking to the bottom.  You will need at least 2 inches of water.  Measure this the first time DO NOT EYE IT.
  • Enough white vinegar to help the eggs coagulate quickly. 1 tablespoon for every 4 cups.
  • The water should come to a boil and then be reduced to a low simmer and kept there for the 3 minute cooking.  You may need to play with the burner controls during the cooking to achieve this.

    Low Simmering Water Barely Bubbles

    Low Simmering Water Barely Bubbles

  • The eggs must be fresh and cold when you drop them in the simmering water.  Eggs that have been sitting in your fridge for a month will not behave well.

    The Egg on the LEFT is old.  The Egg on the Right is Fresh

    The Egg on the LEFT is old. The Egg on the Right is Fresh

  • The cracked egg should be in a small cup that you can easily lower with one hand to the surface of the water.

    A Small Cup Will Help Control the Drop

    A Small Cup Will Help Control the Drop

  • Creating a vortex to pour the egg into by stirring the simmering water at a measured pace.  The vortex should be a gentle swirl-not so slow that you can’t notice it, but it should not look like a cyclone funnel either.  Getting this right will take practice.

How To Cook Poached Eggs:

You will need: egg(s), white vinegar, a slotted spoon, a pan of water-at least 4 cups(I use 8 cups), a small ramekin and a bowl of ice water.

  1. Bring the pot of water with vinegar in it (1 tablespoon to each 4 cups of water) to a boil.  Reduce it to a LOW simmer.
  2. Crack an egg into your ramekin-be sure to be gentle, so the egg yolk remains intact.
  3. Take your slotted spoon and get a little whirlpool going by stirring in a circle toward the middle of the pot. When you see a gentle vortex, quickly lower the ramekin edge to the surface of the water and tip the egg in all at once right into the vortex.  If the egg is fresh and the vortex at the right speed, you should see the egg white wrap itself around the egg yolk in a nice tight package as it swirls around.  Don’t worry if you get a thin tail of white, you can easily trim that off.
  4. Keeping the water at a bare simmer, let the egg cook for about 3 minutes for a large egg, slightly shorter if you like the egg really runny.  However, the shorter you cook the egg, the more delicately you must handle it because the white will still be very fragile and tender.
  5. Have a bowl of ice water handy and scoop the poached egg gently into the ice water.  This will stop the cooking and you can keep a poached egg in water in the fridge for 24 hours.  This is the restaurant way.
  6. To rewarm, heat a pot of water with a little bit of salt to just below a simmer.  The water should be very hot, but not boiling.  Gently drop the cold poached eggs into the water (you can rewarm as many a will comfortable fit in the pot) and leave there for about 1 minute until the eggs are warm.  The salted water will remove any vinegary taste from the eggs that may have been left from the poaching.  Before you use the eggs in a recipe, be sure to drain them on a paper towel.

Voilá.  Congratulations! You have poached an egg eggactly right!!!

Note: Do each egg separately when you are learning.  After some practice, you can try to do a couple at the same time by adding one to the water vortex, letting that one set up for a minute and gently creating another vortex and adding another egg and so on.  Be sure to keep track of the order in which you add the eggs, because that will determine the order in which they will be ready.\

Poached egg on a plate

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Categories: Breakfast, Cooking Techniques, dinner, lunch


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