Perfectly Poached: Some Tips and Tricks for Poaching Eggs

We found that a single poached egg was just the thing to round out a bowl of that Quinoa Salad with Apples, Walnuts, Cranberries, and Gouda from last week. And since that recipe made enough to feed a family reunion, that means we've been poaching a lot of eggs. While it's still fresh in our minds, here are our best tips for perfectly poached eggs!

Poaching is actually our favorite way of consuming the incredible edible egg. It has the runny yolk and versatility of a fried egg, but feels slightly more virtuous. We also like the way it looks: perfectly white with the bright yellow of the yolk just barely glimmering through. It's like a neat little egg package.

So how do we get those perfectly poached eggs? Here's how we do it:

Shallow Water - The shallow water helps keep the egg contained. There's only so far up or down that it can go. We usually poach our eggs in a 2-quart saucepan filled with 2-3 inches of water.

Gentle Simmer - Boiling or even rapidly simmering water will tear apart the fragile egg whites before they have time to set. A bare simmer is a much more gentle environment for cooking those eggs, and the water won't cool so much that cooking times are affected. We usually bring the water up to a boil so we know it's nice and hot, then reduce the temperature so we just see a few tiny bubbles breaking the surface.

Splash of Vinegar - Vinegar, or even lemon, helps the egg whites to set more quickly and we get fewer wispy bits when we add a tablespoon or two to the simmering water.

Use Fresh Eggs - The fresher the egg, the more tightly the whites stay together. The times when we end up with egg drop soup were usually when we were using eggs near their expiration dates.

Cooking Times - When poaching at a gentle simmer, we find that four minutes gives us an egg with firm whites and a runny yolk. Four and a half minutes is perfect if we want a yolk that's just starting to set. Five whole minutes works for the times when we want a set yolk that is still custardy and soft.

The Vortex - We add this tip last because it's a matter of some debate. Theoretically, spinning the water with a spoon to create a vortex and then dropping the egg in the middle helps keep the egg contained, but we've never managed this very successfully. Still, it works for some people and it's worth trying for yourself!

For some visual help with poaching eggs, take a look at this tutorial: How to Poach an Egg: The Video.

What other tips do you have for poaching eggs?

Related: Perfect Fried Eggs: Getting the Whites to Set

(Image: Flickr member Flickr username licensed under Creative Commons)