Method: My Adventures in Poaching an Egg

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Wow. There's a lot of advise out there on how to poach an egg, much of it controversial. Some add vinegar, some don't. Some swirl the water, some don't. Some insist on 2-to-4-day old eggs and others say that's a bunch of hooey. And the plastic wrap debates go on for pages. Not to mention the silicone cups and egg poaching machines (unitaskers!)

But there was one method that caught my eye because it involved turning off the flame and letting the egg gently poach for 10 minutes in the residual heat. I liked this method because it allows for some hands-off time to get my accompaniments (toast, asparagus, etc.) ready and waiting. So I gave it a try.

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The instructions I used came from an unusual place: Delia Smith's Complete How to Cook page on the UK Amazon site. In her short slide show, Delia recommends pouring hot water from a kettle into a large, shallow pan and heating it until little bubbles start to form. Then break the eggs one by one into the water and let them barely simmer for exactly one minute. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the eggs to sit in the hot water for another 10 minutes.

I tried this and the eggs were quite good: the whites were set, the yolk was pleasingly runny. But they had cooled down a little too much during their 10 minute soak. So I experimented by covering the pan after one minute and reducing the sitting time from 10 to 6 minutes. Perfect.

I also had incorporated advise to crack the eggs into individual cups ahead of time and gently lower them into the water. This helped to prevent the whites from scattering and avoided the mess of adding a broken yolk, not to mention it helped me to get the eggs in the water in a quick succession.

Finally, even though I was very satisfied with my 6 minute egg, I wanted to try using a splash of vinegar in the water because it's so highly thought of as an egg white coagulator. After giving it a try, I found this to be totally unnecessary. My egg white wasn't any more coagulated than when I didn't use the vinegar, which created a strange thin skin-like texture that I found unpleasant. So here's my take on:

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Delia's Perfect Poached Eggs, for 4 eggs:

Place a large skillet over medium heat and fill it with hot water from a kettle, at least 1 inch deep. Crack four eggs into individual cups. When little bubbles start to form in the skillet, gently lower the eggs into the water. Let the skillet sit on the flame for one minute. Use a timer because it's hard to really know how long one minute is. Then turn off the heat and cover the skillet and set your timer to 6 minutes.

Meanwhile, put a folded paper or kitchen towel on a plate and have a perforated spoon handy. Get your toast and other accompaniments ready. Remove the lid, scoop up an egg and rest the spoon on the kitchen towel for a few seconds to drain the water. Repeat with remaining eggs.

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Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.

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