How to Cook: Poached Eggs

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Recipe from How to Cook Everything: The Basics. Photos by Romulo Yanes.

Poached Eggs

Restaurant-style fare that’s easy to master at home.

Time: 10 minutes
Makes: 2 servings

2 eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put about 1 inch of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the water barely bubbles.

Keep an eye on the water and adjust the heat as necessary. If the water isn't hot enough, the whites will spread out and won't set; furious bubbling will break the yolks.
Keep an eye on the water and adjust the heat as necessary. If the water isn’t hot enough, the whites will spread out and won’t set; furious bubbling will break the yolks.

2. Crack one of the eggs on a flat, hard surface and open it into a shallow bowl, being careful not to break the yolk. Gently slip it into the water. Repeat with the other egg.

Easy does it so you avoid breaking the yolk. Lower the bowl's edge into the water so the egg slips out smoothly.
Easy does it so you avoid breaking the yolk. Lower the bowl’s edge into the water so the egg slips out smoothly.

3. Cook the eggs undisturbed for 3 to 5 minutes, just until the white is set and the yolk has filmed over. The longer you cook them, the thicker the yolks become. Lift the eggs out of the pan with a slotted spoon, letting as much water as possible drain off. (If you want to make them look really nice, trim off the raggedy bits with kitchen shears.) Serve right away, sprinkled with salt and pepper.

The more the egg jiggles when you shake the spoon, the runnier the yolk is. Let each one drain in the slotted spoon for a few seconds before serving.

The more the egg jiggles when you shake the spoon, the runnier the yolk is. Let each one drain in the slotted spoon for a few seconds before serving.

Tips

  • If you boil an egg in its shell for 6 minutes, you have a perfect substitute for a poached egg. Run under cold water, crack the shell, and peel—gently—as you would a hard-boiled egg.
  • You can poach as many eggs as will fit comfortably in the water, so use as large a pan as you need. To keep the eggs from clumping together, let each set a bit before adding the next. Try to keep track of which went in first and take them out in the same order.
  • To poach eggs for a large group, poach them ahead of time, but take them out of the water about 30 seconds earlier than you normally would and transfer them to bowl of ice water. Before serving, reheat them in gently bubbling water.

7 Things to Put Under Poached Eggs

  1. Toasted bread, English muffins, or split chunks of cornbread
  2. Tossed green salad
  3. Tomato sauce
  4. A bowl of beans
  5. Pasta with garlic and oil
  6. Plain (or fancy) rice
  7. A cooked hamburger patty

Posted in cooking.how, Mark Bittman Books, Recipes

12 Comments

  1. Cecelia said...

    Poached eggs are also great served over crab cakes that have been made with shredded potatoes.

  2. Christy said...

    I do not have the same experience every time – sometimes I think store bought eggs are too old – and there is too much water content in the whites – and they do not poached in a formed shape. Not always the case with farm eggs.

  3. Mel said...

    While I am a fairly good home cook, poaching eggs without adding vinegar to the poaching water has never worked for me. Perhaps it is a skill that only some have, like attaining a perfect sear on a steak (also elusive to me.) I have had a great deal of success with this method: http://thestonesoup.com/blog/2011/09/the-easiest-way-to-poach-an-egg-8-reasons-to-eat-eggs-for-breakfast/ I do not taste the vinegar at all, and my eggs turn out perfectly every time. For those of us who lack the finesse, it is a good option. Eaten on top of some french lentils, it is my go-to breakfast or lunch, especially when I don’t have anything in the house 🙂

  4. Max said...

    I’ve been adding a few drops of vinegar to the water before dropping the eggs in. I was told the vinegar keeps the egg whites from speading wildly thrugh the water. I guess it’s an unnecessary step?

  5. Larry said...

    Besides adding a little vinegar like others have mentioned here, I find that the trick of stirring the pot with a spoon to get a little whirlpool going helps keep the whites from spreading as much. So does using very fresh eggs. Also, most recipes mention that the eggs should be at room temperature when you cook them. If they aren’t, about 10 minutes in a bowl of lukewarm water will bring them to room temperature.

  6. Alan said...

    I gave up poaching eggs long ago. Now I boil them in the shell like you suggested, and they’re perfectly nice.

  7. Anneka said...

    Nice instructions. I like a sweet potato rosti under mine…recipe is on my blog. I use the same technique as you, I crack my egg into a tea cup and pour into boiling water. I then take the pan off the heat immediately and cover it with a lid for 3 to 5 minutes.

  8. cynthia williams said...

    Microwaving produces reliable results. Just fill a one-cup contained about 2/3 full with cold water, crack an egg into it, cover, leaving a small vent in whatever cover you use, & cook about 50 seconds. Your microwave timing may vary a bit; just give it a couple tries if necessary.

    • cynthia williams said...

      that should be “container”

  9. JB said...

    I just successfully poached an egg for the first time after many, many tries. Thank you, MB!

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