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How To Cook The Perfect Poached Egg

Updated on October 22, 2015
chef-de-jour profile image

Andrew has many years experience cooking and enjoys creating unusual meals in the kitchen.

Poached egg on wholemeal toast.
Poached egg on wholemeal toast.

Nutrition

Eggs are packed with :

  • vitamins and minerals, from iron to selenium.
  • protein, roughly 6g an egg.
  • calories, about 72 per egg.

Weight watchers and others may have to keep an eye on cholesterol levels but overall eggs are an excellent health food. Having your eggs poached means you don't have added fats from cooking oil.

Poached Egg

When it comes to poaching eggs I'm a bit of a perfectionist. I have to have a good looking egg cooked just right every time. If the white is a bit straggly or nondescript my heart drops;if the yolk is too hard I feel it's a waste of bread and a waste of a good egg. Be the yolk undercooked - full of that watery albumen stuff that just doesn't bear thinking about - I tend to react with a YUK!! I'm not touching that thing.

That's why I always insist on 100% perfect poached eggs, with no compromises.

So, if you want to become a perfectionist and learn how to poach an egg please follow the following tips. The process is simple - yet if you miss out on any one of the tips you could end up with egg on your face! Hopefully you'll achieve perfection on a plate every time.

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Fresh eggs make better poached eggs.
Fresh eggs make better poached eggs.

Tip No 1

  • Make sure the eggs you use are as fresh as can be. The fresher the egg the better the white holds together in the water. I'd say if the eggs are from one to six days old then that should be enough to ensure perfection.

Free range or organic eggs would be the ideal choice, bought from a local farmer, or, better still, taken from your own chicken coop.

There's nothing to stop you using older eggs but be prepared for a bigger challenge when it comes to precipitation in the pan!

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Water in pan ready for poaching.
Water in pan ready for poaching.

Tip No 2

  • Fill your pan with enough water. Not too much, not too little. Enough to cover the egg if you were hard boiling it. Around two or three good sized cups in a medium sized pan. Having a decent amount of water helps the egg white form a solid body and will prevent the egg white sicking to the bottom of the pan.

Cold water is best as this will have more oxygen in it and give the egg a better taste. Sounds funny but try tasting a poached egg that's been cooked in water from the hot tap, then try one using cold.

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Slotted spoon
Slotted spoon

Tip No 3

  • Having the right spoon to extract the poached egg is very important. I find a medium sized slotted spoon is just the job. It allows you to gently scoop out the whole egg whilst the water runs away, leaving the egg 'dry' and ready for the plate. Keep it handy to the side, close by.

This one has a wooden handle which keeps your hand nice and cool whilst retrieving the eggs.

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Carefully crack the egg.
Carefully crack the egg.

Tip No 4

  • Get the water boiling and bubbling nicely and your egg ready for cracking.

That's it. The challenge is to be ready for the next crucial move.

The eggs are in.
The eggs are in.
Crack your egg into a saucer or small plate.
Crack your egg into a saucer or small plate.

Tip No 5

  • Turn the heat down so the boiling and bubbling stops. Crack your egg and carefully let it slip into the water. Don't delay. Be sure not to damage the yolk as it slides under the surface. Keep the heat down. This ensures your egg will remain intact. Wait two or three minutes until all the white solidifies and the yolk is cooked.

For those who don't like cracking an egg above the water - first crack your egg into a saucer or small plate, then slip the egg gently into the pan.

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Two eggs sitting nicely under water.
Two eggs sitting nicely under water.

Tip No 6

  • When the egg is solid enough to lift place your spoon underneath and gently raise it out of the water. Check that the yolk is done by pressing on the skin with a small spoon. There should be a little resistance. If it's still too wobbly lower the egg back into water. If you need to up the heat do this for a few seconds.

Lift the egg out of the water again. Re-check the yolk. It should be well and truly done to perfection.

Perfect. Deep rich runny yolk.
Perfect. Deep rich runny yolk.
Poached egg with toast soldiers.
Poached egg with toast soldiers.

To Time or Not To Time?

Some people like to time their poached eggs in similar fashion to hard boiled eggs. They estimate around 3 minutes.

I find this a little uncertain and never time my poached eggs. I'd rather extract the egg early and, if it's a little underdone, pop it back into the hot water for another minute or so. With experience you'll be able to tell when your poached egg is ready for the plate.

Happy poaching!

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Pure Water for a Perfect Poached Egg

For me pure water is enough to get great results but I know some people like to add a few drops of vinegar, salt or oil to the pan to help get a better non sticky poached egg. I've tried this and can't really see the benefits. I must be a purist at heart!

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Poached Egg Recipes

There are many ways to have your poached eggs. I prefer mine nice and simple, on bread or toast. You can find a good bread baking recipe here.

Other ideas:

Breakfast - poached egg on toast with butter and seasoning, on a roll, with a muffin.

Lunch - poached egg with rasher of bacon on a roll, turkey slice, or vegetarian burger.

Supper - poached egg with a side salad of cress, rocket, fennel, olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing.

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Perfect poached egg ready to eat.
Perfect poached egg ready to eat.

How Do You Prefer Your Eggs?

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Images of Poached Eggs

All images by chef-de-jour.

© 2013 Andrew Spacey

Comments

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  • chef-de-jour profile image
    Author

    Andrew Spacey 16 months ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you Alun. Poached eggs are wonderful - no grease, just pure natural tasty food, plus you get to see the formation of the egg as it solidifies in the water.Great fun.

  • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

    Greensleeves Hubs 16 months ago from Essex, UK

    Very good, very well illustrated, clear advice - and with good reasoning given for the advice Andrew. I've never done much in the way of poached eggs, because I've never really known what to do, but as one who fries far too much, I would like to switch from fried eggs to healthier poached eggs, and having read this, I will definitely give it a go! Alun

  • chef-de-jour profile image
    Author

    Andrew Spacey 2 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you for the visit and comment. I'm pretty chaotic in my unreal life but when it comes to poached eggs I'm a complete perfectionist.

  • JamaGenee profile image

    Joanna McKenna 2 years ago from Central Oklahoma

    I love poached eggs but was hopeless at making them without using one of those metal cups in a rack in a special pan. After reading this hub, which I've bookmarked, I now know what I was doing wrong for too many years when attempting to poach an egg in a pan of water. Thank you! ;D

  • chef-de-jour profile image
    Author

    Andrew Spacey 3 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Greatly appreciate your visit and comment. I poached an egg this very morning - a special request from my teenage son! I must be doing something right! It was a good 'un.

  • nurseleah profile image

    Leah Wells-Marshburn 3 years ago from West Virginia

    I love poached eggs! Thank you so much for all the helpful tips. Now I'm hungry! I like my poached eggs with smoked salmon on an English muffin. That's definitely one of my favorite breakfast treats. I can't stand an overdone or underdone (rare? lol) poached egg. I agree with you on that--Yuck!!!

    Voted up and useful.

  • chef-de-jour profile image
    Author

    Andrew Spacey 4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

    Thank you Janis. Poached eggs involve a little bit of skill - I've mastered the art - but you should see my hard boiled eggs! Not so good. Appreciate your visit and vote.

  • janshares profile image

    Janis Leslie Evans 4 years ago from Washington, DC

    I love your perfectionism, chef-de-jour. This hub is written with so much personality which keeps the reader engaged. I've never seen an egg poached like this, have only seen egg poachers. Your detailed steps are done very well. This was very informative. Voted up, useful, and interesting.