5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Poached Eggs

published Nov 30, 2015
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(Image credit: Maria Siriano)

Poached eggs seem really tricky and fussy to make, but they’re not at all. You can put away the egg rings — they’re totally not necessary here. As long as you avoid these five mistakes, you’ll end up with perfect poached eggs every time.

1. Using old eggs.

When it comes to making poached eggs, age matters. As eggs age, the whites change and become more fluid. If you use older eggs, you’re more likely to see those ghost-like wispies in the water when poaching eggs.

Follow this tip: Using fresh eggs is the first step to making a successful batch of poached eggs. The fresher the egg, the “tighter” it will poach, and the less you’re likely to end up with those wispy bits.

Not sure if your eggs are fresh? It’s easy to test them and find out; all you need is a large bowl of water.

2. Not using the right-sized pot to cook the eggs.

While you certainly don’t need a big pot full of water to make poached eggs, using a pot that’s too tiny won’t give you the well-cooked eggs you’re hoping for. A pot or pan that’s too small will limit the eggs’ movement around the pot, which may prevent them from cooking evenly.

Follow this tip: Fill a straight-sided skillet or a medium saucepan with 3 inches of water. This will allow the eggs just enough room to move around the pan and cook evenly.

3. Not having the water at the right temperature when you add the eggs.

If you add eggs to water that’s at a rolling boil (when it’s too hot), the egg white will break apart, leaving you with a pot full of wispy bits. If you add the eggs to water that’s too cool, the white and yolk are likely to separate from one another.

Follow this tip: Add the eggs to the pot when the water has reached a simmer (the point when you see bubbles coming up to the surface, without full rolling bubbles).

4. Cracking the eggs directly into the pot.

Making poached eggs is a delicate process. It’s best to carefully ease the egg into the water instead of hastily cracking it into the pot.

Follow this tip: Crack the eggs into ramekins or small bowls, then gently ease them into the simmering water. It’s an extra step, but one that will help keep the whole egg intact and ensure you don’t crack a broken yolk straight into the pot.

5. Cooking the eggs too long.

Overcooked poached eggs have rubbery whites and firm yolks, and just don’t taste good. An ideal poached egg has a firm white and a gooey-but-still-runny yolk. Achieving perfectly poached eggs requires good timing — a minute or even 30 seconds of too much cook time can overdo it.

Follow this tip: Have a timer ready to go (and remember to set it!) once the eggs go into the water. Cook 2 minutes for runny eggs, 3 minutes for a set white with a runny yolk, and 4 minutes for a more well-done egg with a yolk that’s still soft.

Bonus Tip!

For extra insurance, add a tablespoon of rice vinegar or mild-tasting vinegar to the boiling water. It helps the loose, billowy white stay intact, forming a more tight and compact shape. And don’t worry about the taste of the vinegar — it’s mild and unnoticeable in the finished egg.

What are your best tips for making great poached eggs?