How do you poach an egg?

Poached Egg

Poached Egg

I think my friend Kelly is making fun of how many eggs I eat, or how I’m fanatical about photographing everything I eat these days, because this is the second time she’s asked me how to make an egg dish.  But you know how I am… ask me a question and get a blog post.  I had taken a gazillion photographs of some poached eggs I made a few weeks ago, trying to capture the steam off them (which is why I used a dark bowl).  I’m not a good enough photographer (yet!) to get that. (UPDATE 4/18/13 – At the end of this post, I added more pictures to give you a play-by-play of this process.)

Here’s how I poach an egg.

  • Step 1: Gather a deep pot to boil water in.  I use a 2.5 L Visions glass sauce pot (that’s about 20 years old at this point).  It measures 4.25″ from the counter to the rim on the outside of the pot.  I wouldn’t use one shallower than that, you’ll be sorry.
  • Step 2: Fill pot 1/2 way up with water and start to boil.
  • Step 3: While water is heating up, crack your egg into a saucer (not a bowl, a saucer, you want it kind of flat to easily slide the egg from the saucer into the water later).  If you’re making more than one egg, use a separate saucer for each egg, or do them consecutively (I tend to poach my eggs one at a time, because I’m not good enough to do multiple eggs yet).
  • Get something to stir the water (like the handle of a wooden spoon, a chopstick, a long spoon, etc.)  Make sure it’s long enough to stir the water well without getting your hand too close to the soon-to-be-boiling water.
  • Get a tool to get the egg out later (long handled strainer, or this thing I have a picture of below).
I don't know the name of this.

This is one of the most useful kitchen tools I have. I have no idea what it’s called. I do know it’s 5″ across though. Go me!

  • Some people add a tsp full of white vinegar to the water because it helps “set the white.”  I don’t.
  • Some people add salt to the water.  I love salt, so I add salt to the water.
  • Just when the water is about to boil (not a full boil), turn the heat down to low.  Be very careful, but stir the water as fast as you can in a circle (without splashing it out of the pot or on yourself), so you get a little water tornado.  When you’ve got a good tornado going, slide the egg carefully from the saucer into the tornado as you stop stirring.
  • Let the egg go around and around.  It’s going to look gross and it’s going to look like egg white got all over the damn place in the water.  Don’t worry about it.
  • Let the egg cook for about 3 minutes (or so when you gently lift it up with The Tool That Cannot Be Named, the eggwhite is not clear).
  • Place it on a plate (not the plate from which you are going to eat it because it will be watery).  Dry it off or shake it in the Tool or whatever, and then plate it.
  • All that gross white stuff that didn’t coalesce into a gorgeous poached egg just stays on the water and all over the Tool.
  • If you don’t do dishes right away, leave the tool in the water, because when that gross eggwhite stuff dries on the tool, it’s hard to get off.
  • Sprinkle Maldon salt flakes over the egg for serving.  Maldon salt should be on all eggs.  Don’t argue with me on this.


Set up your workspace

Make sure you’re ready. Poaching is quick and you need everything handy. Wooden spoon handle to stir water quickly, tool to pull out poached egg, plate with paper towel for draining egg post-poach, maldon salt (in an old honey jar – sorry!), each egg already cracked open on a plate. Don’t forget the salad, or whatever you want to put the egg on.   Poached eggs cool down fast.  You’ve got to be ready to chow when it’s done!

Stir fast!

If you stir slow around the edges and then move to the middle to stir quickly, you’re less likely to make a mess. Be careful! It’s boiling water. It hurts.

Gently slide eggs into center of vortex

Gently slide an egg from the plate into the center of the swirling water.

Egg poaching, cont'd.

It’s going to start to look like a mess. Don’t panic. And don’t let the water come to a hard boil (big bubbles). If it is, shut off the heat and move the pot to a cool burner.

Drain the egg.

Gently place the egg on the paper towel to drain.

Poached egg fail!

If you don’t cook the white enough, the yolk might just slip right out of it, like what happened to me in this epic fail.



In the event of a fail, make another egg and crop your photo!








6 Responses to How do you poach an egg?

  1. Kelly says:

    NOT making fun of you at all! Your eggs always seem to come out perfectly and I wanted to know your seeeeeeecrets! THanks!

  2. Alex says:

    The tool is called a “spider”. No kidding. For better coalescing add some miracle juice (vinegar) to the water before heating.

  3. Alison Syntk says:

    Thanks, Alex. You and I have gone back and forth on the vinegar issue. I know you swear by it, and you’re a trained chef, and I am a somewhat clumsy embodiment of a cautionary tale. However, I honestly have not found that vinegar helps my eggs coalesce, AND I can taste the vinegar in the eggs, even in small amounts.

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