How to Poach an Egg

I’ve been totally obsessed with poached eggs lately.  This was a problem since I didn’t actually know how to poach an egg, so I asked my friend Edward, the chef at Holy Cross Monastery, how he poaches eggs.  I’ve been practicing his technique in my own kitchen and I am happy to share what I’ve learned with you now.  If you have your own tips for producing a perfectly poached egg, please let me know in the comments section below.

According to Edward, the key to the egg holding together in the water is to acidulate the water by adding some distilled white vinegar to it.  I add about 1 tablespoon to a small, 1 1/2 quart pan of water, but I don’t think there’s a perfect amount (if there is and you know what it is, please share).  I recommend using a relatively shallow pan, since there is less room for the egg to swim around in the water, leaving a cloudy  wedding train of egg white behind it.  I have since found out there’s a fair amount of culinary controversy about this method and purists think it is a needless step.  I took this as a challenge and tried it both ways with pretty different results–hence I am now telling you to acidulate your water.

Heat the acidulated water until just before it would start to boil.  You can tell that it’s ready when there are little bubbles forming throughout the water, but none are starting to really bubble up to the surface yet.  If you’re in a hurry, you can put the lid on the pan to heat it up faster, and if it does start to boil just turn the heat down until the boiling has subsided.  Once the water is to temperature, begin stirring it in circles so that you create a little tunnel in the middle of the water.  You don’t need a whole vortex, but rather, just a little indentation in the center (see picture below).

You should have your egg already cracked and waiting in a little dish so you can pour it right into the water when the temperature is reached.

I was only poaching one egg this time, but I cooked four at a time the other day ( I told you I’ve been obsessed) and I cracked two eggs in each of two dishes and then just tipped one in at a time, which worked fine.  In any case, you’ll want to act quickly, so have them already cracked and ready.  You’ll want to pour the egg right into the center of the pan.  The swirling action will help the egg white wrap around itself rather than float around.  If you are doing more than one egg, you will loose some of this, but not enough to take the time to do them all individually.  Incidentally, you can poach eggs ahead of time and then reheat them in hot water just before serving them, so if you’re cooking for a crowd just set the poached eggs on a towel or sheet pan and set them aside until you need them.

The picture below is what the egg will look like once it starts to settle down.  Make sure the water continues not to boil.  It will take about 3 – 4 minutes for the egg to cook enough so that the white is totally set but the yolk is still runny.

If you like the yolk a little more cooked, just keep it in longer.  I overcooked my egg on this particular occasion, as I got distracted taking pictures of my toast before I put it in the oven, but look how pretty that bread is…

I had some left over French bread from the other night’s Valentine’s Day treat of toast with chocolate so I cut a piece in half, sprayed it with my Misto of olive oil, sprinkled it with sea salt, and toasted it in a 500 degree oven for about 4 minutes.  Perfect.

I figured that my breakfast wasn’t complete without a bowl of fruit, and I needed something healthy to offset the refined, white carbs from the hunk of bread that I was going to eat, so I diced up a half of a banana and added it to a few blueberries.

And since I only poached one egg, but had two pieces of toast, I opened a new jar of the apricot jam that I canned over the summer to sweeten up my extra piece of baguette.  The sweetness of the apricot with the saltiness of the sea salt I had put on the bread made it all the more savory.

You can see that my yolk wasn’t very runny, but it was delicious nonetheless. If I hadn’t been trying to take pictures of the process I could have made the whole breakfast in less than 15 minutes, which isn’t bad for a delicious start to your day.  But this would make an elegant yet simple lunch or even dinner, too.  We eat eggs any time of day that we can, so don’t limit yourself to thinking eggs are just for breakfast, or even to thinking that breakfast is just for the morning.  I could eat breakfast all day long!  What’s your favorite breakfast meal?

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2 thoughts on “How to Poach an Egg

    • Glad the photo helps. The swirling is key to having the egg turn out properly, otherwise the whites just kind of spread out and you have something more like a fried egg that’s been boiled.

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