Sunday, March 24, 2013

Poached Eggs

Poached Egg on Black Acrylic

Making Them is a Lot Less Scary Than You Think     

How often do you poach eggs?  Rarely?  Never?

Join the club.  Most people think poaching is difficult and fussy, so they never prepare eggs this way at home.  Too bad, because poaching might be the one of the healthiest ways to cook eggs (no added fat).  And poaching is even simpler than hard-boiling — no hot eggs to cool off and peel.  How about flavor?  Glad you asked!  Because poaching may be the best way to showcase an egg’s natural tastiness. 

Poached eggs are great breakfast fare.  They’re also wonderful as a garnish on salad (and a necessity for the classic Salade Frisée).  And if poached eggs didn’t exist, we’d have to invent them just so we could make Eggs Benedict.

By learning just a few simple steps, you can become a poach meister.

Then the next time you’re preparing eggs for brunch, be sure to ask how people want them cooked.  Some wiseacre (you know the one) will say he wants his poached.  You can just smile and say, “Of course.”  It’ll probably ruin his day.


Poached Egg on Toast with fork and napkin in background

Recipe:  Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are simple (really!) to make:  Bring some water to a simmer.  Crack an egg and slip it into the water.  Simmer for a few minutes.  Voilà, poached egg.

But, of course, there’s always a catch.  With poached eggs, it’s this:  Once you slide that egg into the water, the white can billow out into an unsightly, stringy mess, leaving the yolk almost naked.  Eeek!

You’ll virtually never have this problem if your egg is very fresh (the white will cling to the yolk naturally).  But really fresh eggs can sometimes be hard to find.

You can also achieve perfectly shaped poached eggs if you buy some of those forms that are made especially for egg poaching.  The metal ones work well, and the silicone ones are excellent.  Any kitchen supply store carries them.  If looks are important to you, this is the safest way.

But you should be able to achieve a perfectly presentable poached egg even without a form, as we explain in this recipe. 

This dish takes 4 minutes cooking time, plus several minutes to bring water to a simmer — say 10 minutes total, tops.  You can prepare as many eggs as you like at a time, but I suggest trying no more than 4 at first (that number is pretty easy for most people to manage).  You can also prepare poached eggs ahead of time and then rewarm right before serving — see Step 7 of the Procedure.

Ingredients
  • 1 to 4 eggs straight from the refrigerator (room-temperature eggs take about a minute less to cook; see Notes for why you might want to use pasteurized eggs)
  • ~2½ tablespoons white vinegar per quart of poaching liquid (optional; I generally don’t do this, but see Notes)
Procedure
  1. Fill a skillet or saucepan with about 2 inches of water.  It’s easiest if you use a low, wide cooking vessel (i.e., a skillet; if you have a nonstick one, use that).
  2. Add vinegar if using (this helps the egg white coagulate — the eggs won’t taste like vinegar).  Bring water to the barest simmer.
  3. While the water is coming to a simmer, break each egg into an individual small container, such as a ramekin.
  4. When the water is just about at a simmer (with tiny bubbles just rising to the surface), begin poaching the eggs.  Pick up the first ramekin, dip half of it in the water, and slide the egg into the water.  If the white strings out, use a heatproof spoon or spatula to (carefully) push the white over the egg yolk for a couple of seconds or so.  Repeat with the other eggs.
  5. Simmer for 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked eggs one at a time.  If you want to serve the eggs right away, drain them briefly on a towel (at this point, the whites will be set and the yolk will still be a bit runny, but the eggs aren’t as delicate as you might think — you can handle them carefully without worrying about the yolk breaking).  If there are any trailing pieces of egg white, you can cut trim them with kitchen scissors, if you wish.  BTW, if you’re worried about any faint taste of vinegar clinging to the eggs, you can dunk each one in a bowl of warm water before draining it. 
  6. Serve; or, if you want to prepare the eggs ahead of time, follow Step 7.
  7. If you want to prepare the eggs ahead, simmer for 4 minutes as in Step 5.  Then use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs one at a time.  Place the cooked eggs in a bowl of ice water to cool.  If you’re planning to use them within the next hour or so, you can just leave them out on the kitchen counter.  If it’s going to be longer than that, store the cooked eggs in the refrigerator (in the bowl uncovered — they’ll keep for 2 or 3 days).  When ready to use, trim any trailing egg whites if you wish.  Dunk the eggs in barely simmering water for a minute to warm them, then serve.
Poached Eggs on Plate with Bacon and Potatoes

Notes
  • As noted in Step 1 of the Procedure, it’s preferable to use a skillet or other wide cooking vessel — because a wider vessel makes it easier to get the eggs into and out of the water. 
  • Nonstick cookware is best for poaching because eggs occasionally stick.  If they do, no big deal.  If they’re a bit reluctant to come loose when using a slotted spoon, simply slide a spatula under them.  This rarely happens, but in case it does, you know what to do.
  • If you’re using metal or silicone forms for poaching eggs, follow the instructions that came with them.  Typically, the metal ones go right into the cooking water (then you slide the eggs into the forms).  The silicone ones usually float in the water (then you slide the eggs into them).
  • Adding vinegar to the cooking water really does help the egg white hold together.  If I think my eggs are on the older side, I use this method; otherwise I just skip it.  With that said, though, you really do want to use eggs that are as fresh as possible — they’ll look much better no matter what poaching method you use.  Try to find eggs that are no more than a day or two old if you want the best looking poached eggs.
  • Some people like to “swirl” the cooking water with a spoon or a whisk, creating a vortex.  When they add the egg, the vortex action is supposed to keep the egg white intact.  I’ve tried this and it does seem promising — but no more so than the vinegar trick (my sample size is limited, however). 
  • Refrigerated eggs may be fully cooked in under 4 minutes — say 3½ (“cooked” being defined as an egg with the white set and the yolk still runny).  But at 4 minutes you’ll still have plenty of runny yolk, and the egg will stand up to handling, so that’s the amount of time I always use.
  • Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella.  So you may want to use pasteurized eggs if this concerns you.  The issue is particularly important in the case of poached eggs since the yolks won’t be fully cooked, and may not reach the heat level necessary to kill salmonella. 
  • You can identify pasteurized eggs because they have usually a red “P” stamped on them.
  • Some people like to add salt to the poaching water to help flavor the eggs.  I usually just season them at table.
  • Speaking of seasoning, most people like their poached eggs with salt and freshly ground black pepper.  So serve your eggs with these seasonings, and whatever else you prefer.
  • A poached egg on toast makes a great breakfast.  Poached eggs also pair well with other breakfast favorites —bacon, sausage, potatoes, or whatever sounds good to you.
Poached Eggs on Plate with Bacon and Potatoes


Perfect for Brunch — or Dinner

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs took a bite of poached egg and smiled.  “Love the runny yolk!” she said.

We were eating “breakfast” for dinner — something we like to do, as discussed last year in our post on Fried Eggs.

“These really are good,” I agreed. “They’re actually easier to make than fried or scrambled eggs, though people think they’re more difficult.

“They’re great with bacon and potatoes. And I love them on toast,” said Mrs K R. “Maybe we should try them on homemade Baking Powder Biscuits. That’d be a great combo.”

“Or on English muffins,” I suggested. “You know, as in . . . “

“Eggs Benedict?” she said, completing my sentence. “We haven’t had that dish in years! You’ve been holding out on me!”

“Next Sunday is Easter,” I said. “Great day for a big brunch. Maybe we should make Eggs Benedict then? It’s one of the best ways to serve poached eggs.”

“Yes!” said Mrs K R enthusiastically. “That means you’ll have to make them twice! Because surely you’ll want to post about Eggs Benedict on the blog this week, right? So we’ll have that batch. And then again on Easter morning.”

That’s Mrs K R — always thinking strategically.

You may also enjoy reading about:
Fried Eggs
Hard-Boiled Eggs
Baking Powder Biscuits
Easy Homemade Butter
Pancakes
French Toast
Corned Beef Hash
Irish Coffee
No Knead Bread
Irish Soda Bread

82 comments:

  1. When I was a kid, I had two poached eggs and toast every morning for breakfast. My mom had an electric poacher that worked like a charm. I'm dying to try this, however. Perhaps a great lunch for a cold snowy day? Cheers and thank you for a great read.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Amy, I forgot all about those electric egg poachers! They were popular when I was younger, too, although I haven't seen them around lately (although I'm sure they're still there - I've probably overlooked them). Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  2. I have a poaching pan with the metal forms and mine work like a dream but for grins I've tried poaching them in water. I'm so used to the perfection of the forms I haven't loved the results. Thinking vinegar would help, I've tried it too but again, very hard to get as nicely done. Still...one of my favorite eggs; my girls love them too but always associate them with Hollandaise. Makes it a bit more work but always a special breakfast.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Barb, those metal forms really do work! And they're probably the way to go if you want perfection. I get a pretty good looking egg without the forms, but they're certainly not perfect (as you can see in the pictures). Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  3. I love poached eggs, they also fit in so many diets and healthy lifestyles !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sketched Chef, aren't poached eggs nice? And they really are healthy, as you say. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  4. Perfect day for poached eggs. Breakfast, lunch or dinner on this beautiful snowy day. Yours look perfect.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Vicki, the snow we're having today is something! What happened to spring? Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  5. Your poached eggs look utterly delicious :D

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Uru, they were wonderful! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  6. An interesting read. I have metal holders but seldom use them though they definitely make for a nicely shaped egg. I actually had eggs benedict on a hash brown for lunch on Sunday - my son took me out for my birthday. It is one of my favourite dishes (with salmon not bacon).
    I will have to take more care from now on to get my poached eggs just right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Suzanne, those holders are nice if you want the perfect looking egg. I guess I'm not that picky, so I never use them - but they do work. Eggs Benedict with salmon is a nice twist - lovely combo of flavors. Happy Birthday! And thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  7. Your poached eggs look wonderful. I actually just heard about this method. My daughter said that she had found this method on the internet and had tried it. She said that it worked great.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dawn, poached eggs really are pretty easy. And incredibly tasty! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  8. One of my favorite meals is roasted asparagus with poached egg and parmesan cheese. My eggs never turn out this pretty. I've used the vinegar method with mixed success. I like your ramekin method to gently slip the egg into the water. I'll bet this works much better. I can't wait to give it a try. Have a good week. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristi, the nice thing about the ramekin method is you can plop the egg into the water gently, so the white is more apt to cling to the yolk. Definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  9. We love eggs benedict and that's my plan for Easter brekky too :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Maureen, great mind think alike! ;-) That's such a great dish. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  10. Eggs Benny are holiday tradition at our house - we the pan with the cups. It makes you feel good when your grown child says yes we will be over Christmas morning for Eggs Benedict - it not Christmas with out them!!

    Your pictures are beautiful. Actually making your macaroon now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous, Eggs Benedict are great for special occasions, and make an ordinary occasion special! Hope you enjoy coconut kiss macaroons! Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

      Delete
  11. A favorite "go to" meal for The Chef and I? Poached eggs over cheddar grits w/ some crumbled bacon on top ... I so, so, so love it!

    Great tutorial on poaching ... I think so many people are afraid of this cooking technique, and they shouldn't be. I'm sure your post will inspire lots of folks to give it a try!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kimberly, I've never had poached eggs over cheddar grits, but the combo sounds wonderful! The basics are usually pretty easy to learn, but some people do ignore some of them. Too bad, because once you know them, it opens up a whole world of recipes that one might otherwise ignore. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  12. Your poached eggs look picture-perfect. With asparagus in season now, it's the perfect pairing, too. I might have to whip some up tomorrow morning for a special treat. ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Carolyn, poached eggs and asparagus are a wonderful combo! Sounds like you're going to have a delightful meal. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  13. Perfectly made!!! I am not a fan of runny yolks, but the hubby would love if I'd make him poached eggs. I may need to treat him to Eggs Benedict one day...now to find some poaching rings :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Liz, a lot of people don't like runny yolks, so poaching isn't for them. Although of course one could hard poach the eggs - cook them until the yolk is totally solid. But I don't like the texture of the whites when you cook them that long. Anyway, sounds like hubby is in for a treat! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  14. I agree, they really aren't that hard! But I had the same thought as most, that they were too difficult to make at home. I tried them the first time a couple weeks ago with my breakfast beer beans and they turned out perfect :) I will make them much more often now :) Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Lilly Sue, not only are homemade poached eggs pretty easy to make, it's also fun! Or at least I always enjoy making them. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  15. Well, I'm quite impressed! Your poached eggs are perfect and truly wish I had the patience to even try poaching such a gorgeous egg. I guess I should be embarrassed when I say this, but I cheat and use the little cups and have been using them for years. It's easy and I get the perfect poached eggs every time. They certainly aren't as pretty as yours. I guess one of these days, I just need to give it a try. Afterall, now I have some great instructions.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi MJ, those poaching cups do a great job, but are too fiddly for me. My poached poached eggs aren't perfect but they look pretty good and my method is pretty easy - a double win in my book! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  16. My favorite brunch dish would have to be eggs benedict. I love the creamy, runny yolk of poached eggs, but I rarely make them at home. I really should tho. Yours look just perfect. Great post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Gomo, Eggs Benedict are so good, aren't they? But anything with Hollandaise sauce is good! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  17. This is a great tutorial, John, and your tips are good, as well. Poached eggs come with such a high fear factor, don't they? If you want to dazzle your friends, serve poached eggs for brunch. The cooks among your guests will be duly impressed -- unless they read your note about poaching the eggs 2 days ahead of time. That one tip alone is "worth the price of admission." I will definitely take advantage of it. Thanks, John, although this is one link I won't be sending to friends -- at least not until after my next brunch. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi John, :-) Poaching eggs ahead of time is a huge time saver! And if you're afraid you might screw up, you're covered - plenty of time to do some more (although it's rare one screws up once one's mastered one's fear). Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

      Delete
  18. Those are perfectly poached eggs, nice one

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Raymund, this was a fun post to both write and photograph! Poached eggs are wonderful. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  19. Love poached eggs, amazing photo!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Matgalen, aren't poached eggs so good? Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  20. Thank you! I love poached eggs, but never approached this process myself.
    I am one of those people thinking it's complicated. Will try it tonight; can hardly wait to finish work and go home.
    Have a great week!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi La Torontoise, poaching eggs really is simple. Unless your eggs are really fresh, you do sometimes have problems with less-than-perfect whites. But if they bother you, just trim them with scissors. Have fun! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  21. Poached eggs have to be one of the most feared foods by cooks. I have done it a few times and really love the taste of them. Thanks for sharing your great tips as I really need to perfect the technique and make them more often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nancy, I don't make poached eggs often enough, either. This is one of those techniques that if you practice, it becomes quite easy. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  22. Those are stunning John! I rarely make poached eggs because I don't care for the texture but when I do, I am coming back to this post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alyssa, you might try them in salads - when you break them, their yolk becomes part of the dressing. And I thin their texture contrasts well with greens, so you might find it a bit more appealing. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  23. I do poach eggs fairly often, they're my favorite!! I love them over toast with some hot sauce, nothing better. Great post, John.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kristy, aren't poached eggs so good? I'm not surprised you poach them often - you're a world class foodie! ;-) Hot sauce is great with these. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  24. Wow, these pictures are so beautiful you can nearly taste the poached eggs only by watching them!
    Well done!
    Great idea to have eggs benedictine for Easter Brunch, haven't prepared them since a long time, but I think I will this year :)
    Happy Easter to you and Mrs.K R!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Daniela, poached eggs are good, Eggs Benedict better! Thanks for your kind words, and comment. And Happy Easter!

      Delete
  25. John, your poached eggs are PERFECT! And yes, I love the running yolk...and your photos are amazing.
    Enjoy your week :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Juliana, you're too kind! But thanks for those words, and the comment. And the runny yolk is pretty darn good, isn't it?

      Delete
  26. Dear Kitchen Riffs

    Your poached eggs look so delicious! I love poaching eggs, absolutely my favourite way to eat eggs, wish I could get my lovely husband to love them as much as I do but he is strictly a fried kind of guy!! Enjoy your Easter Eggs Benedict looking forward to reading that post too! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sally, just tell your husband that poached eggs are essentially eggs over easy (or sunny side up, basted) with a more gently cooked white. And no added fat. When you think about it, they actually are quite similar. ;-) And if he won't buy that, when you make Eggs Benedict you can poach yours and fry his! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  27. The very first photo in your post of a poached egg against black background is so gorgeous! I always wonder how you capture photos like that - with all black in the background. And, yes, I pouch eggs quite a lot - I have an egg poacher from Williams-Sonoma that I love!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Julia, that photo is taken on black acrylic, and it's pretty easy once you figure out your lighting. The main thing is to flag the light so it shines only on the subject, and make sure no light shines on the background - so it'll be black. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

      Delete
  28. I'd forgotten about Eggs Benedict myself.. how perfect that I've read this in enough time to pick up a few muffins before the weekend.. and a few chocolate eggs while I'm at it. You've made the perfect eggs, I'll be following along with your directions in a few days. Btw.. I adore that first photo.. is it on a mirror?? Excellent!! Or should I say Eggcelent:D xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Barb, Eggs Benedict and chocolate eggs sounds like a wonderful weekend! That photo is taken on black acrylic, although you can use a mirror too. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.

      Delete
  29. My husband loves poached eggs and it is so nice to see a great write up. Sometimes the simple things are the hardest to get right! And as for peeling hard boiled eggs, well there are a lot of hard boiled eggs that go into a seder; between the chopped liver and the eggs to start. So yes, I am ready to give something else a try.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Abbe, after peeling all of those hard-boiled eggs I'll bet you're ready for something else! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  30. Great tips and beautifully poached eggs (perfect)! I haven't made that speciality since ages...

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rosa, you need to make these again! ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  31. Why do I not make these more? I mean just look at how gorgeous they are. That top photo is beautiful. I will not be happy until I have a poached egg today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen, they're really good, aren't they? You definitely need to do one today! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  32. John, those looks just perfect - tons of great info too - thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Donalyn, this was such a fun post to write! I love poached eggs. ;-) Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  33. I do it quite often and to be honest I'll use each additional tip. Sometimes my poached eggs look amazing but there are days... And my partner loves eggs a'la Benedict. Thank you for sharing :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Marta, the looks of my poached eggs can vary a bit too - I always blame eggs being too old when they don't turn out quite the way I expect. It can't be me, can it? :D Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  34. It's nice be back to the blogosphere but it's even better to see this classic poached egg recipe. I first learned how to peach egg when I was taking a amateur cooking class and I have been poaching my egg regularly ever since. Your detailed instruction is right on the money and is exactly how I cook it. Thanks for sharing this timeless recipe!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Yi, aren't poached eggs so tasty? And really easy to do once you learn how (and practice a bit). Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  35. My gosh your poached eggs look PERFECT John! And this is a very well written post. I do enjoy poached eggs but I learned that it's not as popular than I thought after I started blogging and see posts and comments from other people. Hope your post will encourage many people to make poached eggs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Nami, I think people like eating poached eggs - it's the poaching part that seems scary. It's really not! A little practice goes a long way with this technique. Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  36. When I first tried poaching eggs, I only got it right at the 4th egg! I guess, practice makes perfect ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kiran, it does take some practice! And if your egg whites look a little ragged - and it bothers you - a bit of a trim with scissors helps too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  37. Poached eggs always make me hungry. What a great post on poached eggs! Now this is something really really delicious. I loved reading about the method and the picture is so good….it makes me drool!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Purabi, aren't poached eggs so good?! One of my favorites. Thanks for your kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  38. Poached eggs are my favorite, John! Your photos are making me very hungry (the first one is just stunning). When I was growing up my mom had an electric egg poacher, which was convenient but I recall a huge pain to clean. I much prefer them made free-form like yours. Thanks for your tip on making them ahead, too - perfect for getting ready for a brunch. Happy spring to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Hannah, I do remember those electric egg poachers, but never used one. It's much easier just to boil some water and plop the egg in. Making poached eggs ahead of time is such a convenience! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  39. Hi John, excellent poached eggs, I love the first picture. Make 2 for me please, I'll very very grateful. :))

    Thanks for all the tips and notes, appreciate your effort very much.
    Have a wonderful Easter Sunday.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ameila, I'll be happy to make two for you! Thanks for the kind words, and comment.

      Delete
  40. You've made me very hungry. And as for needing very fresh eggs, now I have another reason added to my list of why I need chickens in my backyard. I love the look of your eggs and am impressed with how you were able to photograph an oozing egg. Happy Easter xx

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Charlie, you really do need chickens. I need chickens too! Actually Mrs K R for years has pushed the cause that we need "two inoffensive little hens." We actually live in a place now where we can keep chickens (in theory - one needs a permit, and they're not that easy to come by), so that may happen someday. Happy Easter to you, and thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  41. I'm ready to ruin the smart alec's day now--I'll have my fork in hand and my poached egg ready to run with. Thanks a bunch, John! I'm feeling slightly braver now...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ala, glad to help out! ;-) These are easy once you just starting poaching - it's one of those things where you do it a couple of times, and it becomes pretty easy. Thanks for the comment.

      Delete