How to Poach an Egg
Like Hollandaise, plenty of people shy away from poaching eggs because they think it’s difficult. There’s some truth to that, but with a little patience, some helpful hints, and some practice, you’ll be poaching eggs like a Master Chef in no time.
First and foremost, poaching is simply cooking something in water without boiling it. Easy so far, right?
So, get a nice wide skillet and set it over low to medium-low heat with about 2″ of water in it. You want just enough water to cover the eggs, and not much more. Next, you want to get the temperature to just under a simmer. You should see bubbles on the bottom of the pan, but they shouldn’t be rising to the surface much, if at all.
Now, if you’ve got farm fresh eggs that are less than 3 days old, you can jump right into poaching. If your eggs are older than 3 days or so, you’ll want to add a tablespoon or so of vinegar to the water. White vinegar is fine, but I use white wine vinegar because ti’s flavor is more mild and won’t flavor the eggs much. Either works. The reason for adding vinegar is that over time, the protein layer surrounding the albumin (egg white) starts to degrade, as all things do over time. If you’ve got an old egg that has all but lost any protein layer, the egg will pretty much dissolve into the water. This isn’t an issue for fresh eggs, which hold together nicely in the hot water. A little vinegar will help the older eggs hold together.
Once your water is ready, crack the egg right at the surface of the water and gently set it in. You can actually crack the egg into a small bowl or ladle if that’s easier for you, and then gently slip it into the water. The key here is to set the egg in gently enough that the whites hold together and it maintains it’s egg shape. Some of the white will separate and make the water foamy. Don’t panic, this is normal. As the eggs poach, the water will get cloudy. This is totally normal as well. Let the eggs poach for 4-5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, gently scoop the egg up from the bottom of the pan and let the excess water drain from it. Examine it to make sure the whites are cooked, but be gentle, as the yolk will be very delicate and liquid. If the whites aren’t quite there yet, return the egg to the water for a few more minutes.
That’s it. Tada. You poached an egg. Easy, right?