When I eye a dish and think, "That would be so much better with an egg on top," what I usually have in mind is a poached egg. Poached eggs are cooked by slipping them naked into a bath of gently simmering water, and they come out with silky, easily pierced whites, and golden, gooey yolks.
I dearly love poached eggs, but they have a reputation for being difficult or finicky. Hardly. Let me show you how I poach an egg; there's really nothing to it.
The big difference between an easy poached egg and a slightly more difficult one is your tolerance for imperfection. I admit it's tough to get the perfectly round, satiny smooth poached eggs you see adorning restaurant dishes. But if all you want is one delicious egg, albeit one with a little extra white trailing off to the side or wrinkled top underneath the salt and pepper, we have you covered.
One big key to success with poached eggs is also using fresh eggs. As eggs age, the composition of the whites change and becomes more fluid. The fresher the egg, the "tighter" it will poach; the older your egg, the more ghost-like wispies in the water. A spoonful of vinegar helps the situation by encouraging the whites to coagulate quickly. If you're new to poaching and want a guarantee of success, we recommend adding vinegar. Don't worry — just a splash won't change the flavor of your egg!
You can also poach several eggs at once, but make sure there's room in your pan for each one to have a little elbow room. Crack them into separate measuring cups and slip them into the water one by one. You'll also need to extend the cooking time by about 30 seconds for each extra egg.
The most basic poached egg is so simple that a child could make it, and there's no reason not to, as it really is one of the most delicious and satisfying tasks in the kitchen.
Fill the saucepan about 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
How To Poach an Egg Easily
Makes 1 poached egg
What You Need
1 large egg
1 tablespoon rice vinegar or other mild-tasting vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Small measuring cup
Paper towel, optional
- Heat the water: Fill the saucepan about 2/3 full with water and bring to a boil.
- Take the water down to a simmer: Turn the heat down and let the water relax into a brisk simmer. You should see bubbles coming up to the surface, but it won't be rolling. (It's easier and quicker to control the simmer if you bring it to a boil first, then reduce the heat rather than trying to get it to the perfect simmer from the get-go.)
- Crack the egg into a small cup: Crack the egg into a small measuring cup, preferably one with a long handle. This will help you ease the egg into the water.
- Add vinegar to the water: This step is optional, but many people like to add vinegar to the boiling water because it helps the loose, billowy white cohere to itself and cook into a more compact shape. The taste is not noticeable in the finished egg, although you might notice a firmer, more "squeaky" texture to the white.
- Ease the egg into the water: Use the measuring cup to carefully lower the egg into the water and then tip it out into the water. Make sure the water is at a bare simmer.
- Cook for 4 minutes: The final cooking time for a poached egg is very much up to you, and it depends on how well you like your eggs done and how hot the water is. But 4 minutes, give or take, in lightly simmering water, will give you a firm white and a gooey but still runny yolk.
- Remove the egg: Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg from the water.
- Pat the egg dry: This is optional as well, but I like to pat the egg dry lightly with a paper towel.
- Season and eat! Place the poached egg on a salad, piece of toast, or a plate and season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat immediately!
- Poaching Multiple Eggs: If you want to poach multiple eggs at once, make sure your pan is big enough to accommodate all your eggs without crowding them; poach in batches if necessary. Crack each egg into its own measuring cup before you start and slip them into the water one after the next. Add an extra 30 seconds or so to the cooking time for each extra egg.
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(Image credits: Leela Cyd)