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poached eggs - really

Is there a trick to poaching eggs without the little dish? I read somewhere that you need to add a tablespoon of white vinegar to the water. Not sure why as it really seems to make no difference. I just want to drop the egg in water and have it perfectly poached. Mine spread out a bit and there is always foam on top. Will I always have foam?

I have tried adding the egg when the water is at a simmer but I think at a steady boil is best. The egg it actually pretty perfectly cooked but it's just a little too spread out and sometimes if I forget to move it after a minute it gets a little stuck to the bottom of the pot.

What are your tricks? And have you mastered it so you can do a bunch at once? I only do two at a time.

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  1. The vinegar keeps it from spreading so much. Crack the egg into a shallow cup and lower that to the hot water, then just tip it out. Julia Child recommended stirring the water until you have a whirlpool, then tipping the egg in. The swirling keeps the whites compact.

    4 Replies
    1. re: greygarious

      Ditto everything greygarious said.

      Add a touch of vinegar, swirl your pot a bit to create a gentle whirpool, then drop in the egg.

      1. re: greygarious

        Swirling! That is so familiar! I do remember reading about how to do this best some time ago. But at that time I was hooked on my cute little egg cups and didn't try any of the tips. I am tired of washing them now and over it. I will give that a try in the morning. Thank you1

        1. re: greygarious

          Yes! Vinegar and swirling. This is how my dad taught me to do it when I was really little.

          I poached eggs using this method in front of a roommate a couple years ago and he stared at me as if I had done something magical.

          I have also heard of poaching eggs in milk, but I have never tried it.

          1. re: greygarious

            me, too, on the vinegar and swirl.

            and I keep the water at the barely-simmering point - it takes an extra minute or two, but I don't have egg-drop soup when I'm finished. You can also gently spoon hot water over the yolk to help nudge the cooking process along.

          2. Yup, swirling is most definitely key.

            1. I do a touch of vinegar, swirl the water immediately prior to dropping the egg in, and I do use a bowl. Not because you have to, but because I read it's easier to get the egg just above the water when dropped in which supposedly helps. (according to a lot of reading) I'm not sure how much that helps as I haven't done it without. (I'm kind of anal when it comes to "learning" how to do something in the kitchen)

              1 Reply
              1. re: MyNameIsTerry

                I do the bowl thing too. I've tried it with and without and it is much easier with. Cracking the egg on the side of the pan tends to result in steam-cooked egg white down the side of the pan.

              2. Fresh eggs is also important, the less fresh they are, the more they spread out.

                3 Replies
                1. re: pj26

                  I was wondering if someone would metion the freshness thing.
                  I cooked weekend brunches once apon a time and cracked a lot of fresh eggs into acidulated, gently boiling water...

                  1. re: pippimac

                    It's important isn't it? If the eggs aren't fresh, the egg whites won't coagulate very well. This and a whirlpool effect with a drop of vinegar = pretty perfect eggs.

                  2. re: pj26

                    Although the albumen looks uniform there are more and less gelatinous components. Fresh eggs have a higher ratio of gelatinous/non-gelatinous which and the white gets looser over time. So pick a carton that's as close to 30 days from expiration as possible.

                  3. I, too believe that the vinegar makes no difference. I've tried a little and a lot. The swirl does seem to help some, but I'm generally not very good at getting them perfect. I often cook them in little silicone prep bowls (greased) which allows me to cook several at once, as long as I have a big pot of water.

                    1. I agree on the swirl and using a vessel of some sort to get the egg in the water. I use a teacup because the handle is helpful. Also, contrary to what I think seems logical, you can put two eggs in one cup, place them in the water together, and they will cook as two eggs.

                      Also can't overemphasize the importance of freshness. If the eggs have been in the fridge for 10 days the best technique in the world won't give you a cohesive egg.

                      1. Does anyone else notice a difference in success when poaching on an electric stove vs.l a gas stove?

                        For some reason, I have no issues when poaching in water on a gas stove, but with the same eggs, on an electric stove, with barely simmering water, I end up with a mess (whites that turn to "egg drop soup" instead of staying nice and compact).

                        Overall, these tips are great. I'm glad to have a gas stove at home, but when I'm somewhere else with only an electric stove at my disposal (e.g. @ a friend's place) , I hope these tips might help me!

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: 4Snisl

                          I've only lived in one house in my entire life that had gas - and I have had no problems producing a nice-looking poached egg on any electric stove - whether it was the old-fashioned coils or my glass cooktop.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            Just had poached eggs last weekend cooked on my cheap electric (coil type) stove. Not a problem making them look nice.

                            Well, actually of the 4 we had, one was a little ugly, but that was operator error...