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How do you poach an egg?

And what's the point? I mean, what's it like? I have lovely egg cups that I use for easter decorations, and suddenly realized I've never used them for their original purpose, because I've never had a poached egg...

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  1. I have luck with room temperature eggs. Simmer some water, carefully put in the eggs, then let them cook for exactly 4 minutes. Drain and cover with tepid water while you peel them one by one. You need to gently peel them (tricky) and sit them whole on a piece of buttered toast. Otherwise, you can use a shallow saucepan and muffin rings. Fill the pan 2/3 with water and get it to a gentle boil. Butter the muffin rings and put in the water. Break each egg into a cup and slip into the ring. When there is a film over the yolk and the whites are just firm, remove with a buttered spatula or skimmer, drain and put on the toast. :) Poached eggs are great!

    1. In a pot of water with a little vinegar added...brought to the boiling point but not boiling...swirl the water around with a spoon, place the egg in the center of the swirl...cook until white is just done...remove with a slotted spoon..Voila! poached egg. --- Several can be poached a head of time, and returned to hot water prior to service...


      3 Replies
          1. re: Uncle Bob

            Bay leaf. Add a bay leaf right at the start and let the water simmer for a bit.

          2. The egg cup thing confused me as in my experience, the only egg cups I have known are for boiled eggs. I think that is why VG gave you two distinct recipes, one for boiled and one for poached. Both look good to me.

            The classic poached egg takes a little practice. It involves a small sauce pan and a good amount of water brought up to the boil. Swirl the water into a vortex and break each egg one at a time into the center of the vortex until the egg has congealed. Remove with slotted spoon. Repeat as needed for desired servings.

            An easy way to do a poached egg is in the microwave. A 6 ounce coffee or custard cup will do. Fill cup with about 1/3 cup of water. Break egg into cup, pierce egg yolk with toothpick, and cover dish loosely with plastic wrap. Microwave for about a minute or until desired texture is achieved. Repeat as needed.

            Why would anyone want to do this? They are truly wonderful in texture and taste with no added fat. Good enough reason for me.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Greyghost

              Greyghost: Thanks for a great way to poach eggs in a microwave--I'm going to try it. Actually, I usually just simmer the eggs for 4 min. most of the time and painfully peel them. The other recipe was from "The Original Bosont Cooking School Cookbook, first published in 1896. It is actually for poached eggs--you can see when the yolks just start to set and take them out. Good, but still more work than the microwave :)

            2. Since you're talking about egg cups, I assume you want to boil an egg, not poach it. They're both cooked in hot water, but a poached egg is cooked out of its shell, while a boiled egg is cooked in the shell.

              Here's how I do mine. Put plenty of water in a saucepan of and bring it to a boil. Kill the heat, slip in your eggs, and cover. After 5 minutes, remove the eggs from the hot water and stand them in your egg cups. The white should be mostly solidified, and the yolk barely starting to thicken. Chop off the top of the egg, sprinkle in some kosher salt, and eat with strips of toast for dipping.

              1. i'm surprised Uncle Bob is the only one who mentioned adding [white] vinegar to the water...it really does help the eggs hold together & maintain their shape because it accelerates the protein coagulation.

                3 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet


                    What you say is true, but I have never done it as I am not a fan of vinegar. I doubt the small amount used would really affect the taste that much. I have had good results with the swirling vortex method. I am sure the vinegar helps a lot and perhaps I will try it. So far I have never needed it though.

                    1. re: Greyghost

                      I transfer egg to paper towel/clean dish towel and dab of liquid. No vinegar taste left.

                  2. >>>> I've never had a poached egg...

                    You've never had eggs Benedict?

                    Could you clarify about your egg cups? Like other people I thought any egg cup attractive enough for an easter decoration would be for the purpose of soft boiled eggs rather than poached eggs. Here's what I was thinking of with swell instructions about soft boiled eggs.

                    I've always thought of egg poachers as utilitarian and ugly as this page on Amazon shows

                    However there were two attractive egg poachers, one of which would be Easter appropriate

                    Bonus - gratuitous eggware link I came across while trying to google and see if there was such a thing as an attractive egg cup. I find my self lusting after the egg cuber and the Mrs. Anderson's egg daisy ... and maybe the Roosty ceramic egg separator ... who cares if it works, it looks cute.

                    So if you could clarify that would be nice.

                    If you are really looking for poached eggs though, don't let people fool you into thinking it is easy. This rather acoomplished blogger shares my opinion

                    The poached egg: The anatomy of a disaster

                    There is a Chow video on poaching eggs

                    Haven't looked at it as I'm into currently trying to perfect the microwave poached egg.

                    The easiest perfect microwave green poached egg?

                    With all due respect to anyone ... do NOT follow timing instructions if microwving. I'm pretty close to the perfect microwave poached egg. My egg currently is better than one I had recently at Alice Water's Cafe Fanny. I say this with no modesty at all. I'm damn great at ti.

                    However, it depends on your microwave ... the timing is the thing. It took a lot of bad over-nuked eggs to get the timing right.

                    However, I've yet to achieve poached egg greatness. It is not too difficult to get a good poached egg using most methods ... but great ... elusive.

                    Why? As mentioned ... no additional fat ... and to quote the blog in the first link ... when you achieve greatnes the result is "perfect, plump, oval, soft egg pillows "

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: rworange

                      Okay, so tell more about the perfect microwave poached egg. You've been silent for a couple of weeks on the other thread. Never mind the disclaimers, what's working for you?

                      1. re: alanbarnes

                        Still working on it. There's only so many eggs I can eat and I've been doing field work at restaurants to see what other places pass off as poached eggs. Oddly, this nothing place in the middle of nowhere came up with the best poached egg I've ever had which threw me back into research. I'm guessing they use water but I'd like to achieve that if possible in a microwave. I squandered my cholesterol allowance last week on a place in Napa that charged me $11 for two watery poached eggs and undercooked homefries.

                        1. re: rworange

                          Gotta love it.

                          Don't try the biscuits and gravy in Marin, either.

                    2. A poached egg is one of nature's most nearly perfect foods. A soft boiled egg is a close second.

                      This works for me: Bring 1.5 inches of water to a boil in a pan. Back off to a simmer, i.e. low heat.
                      Break your very freshest eggs, at room temperature, into the simmering water. No swirling or vinegar is necessary. Cover the pan and let simmer for 3-4 minutes.
                      Lift out carefully with a slotted spoon.
                      Only then can you turn off the stove.

                      This method is good for a few eggs, but really comes into its own when you have a large pan and 20 eggs to poach.
                      The level of water can be reduced slightly for a poached egg with a sunny side yolk.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: jayt90

                        jayt, I agree completely with you. I've tried numerous methods for poaching eggs over the years - added vinegar, using a "vortex", deep water in a saucepan, deep water no vortex, etc., and the method you cite is the most successful method I've used. It provides the very gentle cooking eggs require, the white stays more intact than with the vortex method, and produces very nicely shaped and properly cooked eggs.

                        1. re: janniecooks

                          The white of fresh eggs spreads less than that of older ones.

                        2. re: jayt90

                          My reply earlier confused people, I think. The muffin rings are just hollow rings and keep the egg in a nice shape in the water. It's easy to see when the egg yolk sets. Otherwise, I just poach it in the shell (much less time than for boiled eggs) and gently peel it--normally a perfectly oval egg emerges with a tender white and runny yolk. MMMM. Anyway you do it, poached eggs are one of life's grander meals.

                        3. I sometimes use the muffin rings technique described by VG. Trick here is to make sure the water, when hot, is just shy of reaching the top of the ring(s) so that the egg remains perfectly intact. Takes a couple of tries to get it right but, when done correctly, makes a nice presentation.
                          Cooking eggs too long makes them tough. The whites are done at 140 degrees (or slightly before) which means that the yolks (which begin to solidify at approx 150 degrees and are usually solid at 160 degrees) are still soft.
                          An instant read digital thermometer to check the whites (after initial removal from the hot water) will help you get the best texture from your Eggs Benedict. Taking the eggs out with a slotted spoon or similar device just before they hit the 140 degree mark allows them to continue cooking for a minute or two while they're in a holding pattern. They can, of course, be dropped back into hot water for a quick re-heating just prior to serving if need be.
                          It's better, IMO, to use room temperature eggs because they cause less temperature drop in the water bath than eggs taken directly from the refrigerator; making it easier to control the cooking time.

                          1. Aaaah... the perfect poached egg and the pursuit of succeeding.
                            After many attempts at success...microwave gadgets, pan ring molds, vinegar, water temp just so..fresh eggs..i was never quite happy until I came upon a Poaching pan sold at Williams Sonoma a few years back. You could get it in either the 4 egg or 6 egg size. I bought a 4. It perfectly poaches them every time. I have not looked back. I suspend them above the water in little perforated non-stick cups, covered with a glass lid for viewing. The little cups are perforated to allow the water/ steam to cook the egg, yet hold it's perfect shape and produce the most delightful poached egg. It is like a picture on the plate. The whole pan, cups lid and all goes in the dishwasher. Mine was around $39.99. Not sure if they still sell them ...I think they now have a high end pricier Cephalon. Same concept though.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: easily amused

                              I imagine some version of the non stick cup poacher is in most gadget stores, like Ashton Greene, Golda's, or Hammacher Schlemmer. Costco seems to sell them for $25 once or twice a year.

                            2. Egg cups are used for soft-boiled eggs still in their shells (you clip off the top of the cooked egg off like a little lid and spoon the contents out of the shell as you eat it). A poached egg is cooked outside of its shell, either in water or some egg-poaching gadget. in the microwave or floating in a pan of water. It's soft after cooking--- it goes PLOP on a piece of toast or an English muffin.

                              1. no one has addressed this, but a really great device for getting the poached eggs out of the water is a fish turner.
                                It's flexible and has a little upturn at the bottom of the blade. There are less expensive ones than this one.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: yayadave

                                  I always wondered what that was. (Fish Turner). Now that you told me, I get it! I think I might get one. Thank you.

                                  1. re: cmc2

                                    There's a nice one here for half the price and the store is a good one to know, also.


                                2. Well, I'm very glad I asked! I honestly didn't realize that a poached egg and a soft-boiled egg were two different things. I've had eggs hard-boiled, fried, scrambled, and omeletted, but no one in my family liked anything runny in them, so I've never had anything else. For a foodie, I feel like such a newb...

                                  So essentially, a poached egg is cracked into the water where a soft-boiled is in the shell? And the final consistency of poached (I can imagine soft-boiled) is similar to maybe sunny-side up fried eggs? I'm just trying to get an idea of the runniness...

                                  And thanks for the tips and discussions! I see lots of eggs in my future...

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: thursday

                                    Poached can taken out of the water at any stage, with the yoke runny, soft or hard. That's your choice. There are no crisp, fried edges. Also the white covering the yolk will be cooked, so there is not 'eye' staring at you. Also a poached egg is more compact (if done right). If done wrong, a poached egg will spread out and have wispy filaments of egg white - in the extreme, you get egg drop soup.

                                    Poached eggs are common in Eggs Benedict, or other preparations where the egg is served on a bed of some sort, with a sauce on top.

                                    1. re: paulj

                                      The white covering the yolk can be clear, if the level of water is shallow and you allow the top of the yolk to be exposed and remain yellow. The thin layer of albumen will be steamed, but the color comes through.

                                    2. re: thursday


                                      Thanks for the clarification. I thought that was the problem to begin with. You did do a good thing though in creating a lively discussion about poached eggs. How many people does it take to poach an egg? So far 23 and counting...I am expecting many more.

                                      One word of advice though, never do shell on eggs in the microwave unless you want to watch them explode and clean up the mess afterwords.

                                      1. re: thursday

                                        Also, once the whites are a little set and not ready to float away, you can spoon some hot water over the egg. This will cook the top with-out making the yolk too hard.

                                      2. Sometime in the last 6-9 months either in BA or F & W, an asian chef (Momofuku?) gave instructions on his no-poach, poached egg which involved lowering the eggs into boiling water for 5 minutes or so. Does anyone have the article? i cannot seem to find it in my books or online. Any help= appreciated! BTW, I did it several times when I had the article and it was successful. However, the steps were SOO simple I thought 'oh, I can remember that'! Famous last words!

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. I haven't ever tried covering poaching eggs when they are in a pan but will do. I usually crack my egg into a cup and then slide it into the simmering water, making sure to let a little water enter the cup first. I do sometimes use white vinegar in the water. When removing the egg I fold a piece of paper towel and place it under the slotted spoon to absorb the water and so the toast doesn't get wet.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: cathodetube

                                            I just discovered an electric egg poacher that I inherited from my parents. Turns out it's really great! We've had poached eggs every weekend since it turned up.

                                          2. Large sauce pan, water about 2 -3 inches that i first bring up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. If I have vinegar i pour a little in for ease of mind, if not, no biggie. I've done both with pretty good results.
                                            i crack eggs into a little ramekin, and then i gently slide them into the water. if i think the egg is spreading too much i gently push it back together.

                                            I've noticed, of course, the fresher the eggs the better. I lucked out the day i did not have vinegar that eggs I got were just laid the a few days before (my mom's coworker has over 50 chickens!), so they were just that fresh so that probably aided in the minimal spreading of the white. Lucky me =)
                                            Voila, a beautiful poached egg.

                                            1. A tip I got from watching an old rerun of Julia Child on The French Chef that helps keep the whites from spreading out too much is to use room temperature eggs and put them in the simmering water for 10 seconds before breaking them. This presets or cooks the white just a bit and helps to keep it coagulated when you put it into the water. I break the egg into a custard cup first and then let some of the water flow into the cup before gently sliding the egg into it. I cook them in a covered pan for 3 1/2 minutes. This gives me a set white and runny yolk.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: TomDel

                                                This is like my method when doing a bunch but I use a ladle.

                                              2. Farmgate eggs, one to two days old, are essential for the best poached eggs. The yolks stand high, won't break, and the flavor is brighter (that's the best descriptor I can come up with) than any high priced market egg.
                                                Pick up a dozen from farms limited to 100 hens on your weekend, and you won't be disappointed.