Poached Eggs: How to Poach an Egg Perfectly
Poached eggs are a beautiful thing. The whites are just firm enough on the outside to contain an oozy, golden yolk in a round little egg package. And with a few tips, you too can learn how to poach an egg perfectly every time!
Poached eggs are one of those items I find folks order frequently in restaurants, but they don’t make very often at home. Why? I think most would say that it’s difficult to get that perfect, spherical shape without lots of crazy white wispies.
But poaching is one of the best cooking methods for creating healthy eggs. So today I’ll share with you a few tips to make the perfect poached egg. I’ve tested every method under the sun (vinegar, salt, swirling vortex, etc) and I’ll share with you the tried-and-true method that works.
Watch my video on Poached Eggs to see these tips in action:
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Tips for Poached Eggs that Do (and Don’t) Work
- Salt: I found that adding salt to the water actually created more white wispies. Salt increases the density of the water which makes more of the egg white float and splay out. In other words, a not-so-pretty poached egg.
- Verdict: Don’t do it.
- Vinegar: I was initially dead set against adding vinegar to my water as I didn’t want my eggs to taste like vinegar. As it turns out, you have to add quite a bit of vinegar to have any vinegar taste transfer to the egg. I found that adding one tablespoon of a light colored vinegar didn’t flavor the egg but it did help to keep the egg white together.
- Verdict: Optional, but I do it.
- Swirling a Vortex: We’ve all heard that the best method for poached eggs is to drop them in a swirling vortex of water, right? Well, this is true. This does help to create a more spherical shape as the egg white wraps around itself. But here’s the reality. If you’re only cooking one poached egg – go for it. If you’re cooking more than one poached egg – don’t fret about the vortex. Your egg(s) may not be quite as spherical, but you can cook several simultaneously and they’ll still taste darn good.
- Verdict: Yes, for one egg. No, for more than one egg.
- Fine Mesh Sieve: This is the one tip that consistently produced the BEST poached egg. When you crack an egg you’ll notice that there’s a firmer white and a more liquidy white. Well, that liquidy white is what creates all those white wispies. So add the egg to a fine mesh sieve/strainer and the thinner, more liquid white is removed, leaving only the firmer white which will envelop the yolk.
- Verdict: Do it.
- Deep Pot of Water: After trying both a regular pot of water (4-inches deep) and a sauté pan filled with water (2-inched deep), I will say that the deeper pot produced a more classical spherical or teardrop shape. The is because as the egg falls in the water, the yolk sinks first and the white trails behind. You can still make poached eggs in a more shallow pot, but the shape will be flatter – similar to a fried egg.
- Verdict: Use a pot with at least 4-inches of water
- Ramekin: Most say to crack the egg first into a ramekin, then pour the egg into the water. And I’d have to agree. Using a ramekin ensures that your egg is 1) properly cracked with an unbroken yolk, 2) there’s no shell in the egg, and 3) you can more easily pour the egg in one swift move. Now, combine this method with the fine mesh sieve and you’ve got a winning combo.
- Verdict: Do it.
Fresh Eggs Make for the Best Poached Eggs
Now that you have 6 tips for making the best poached eggs, there’s one tip that can’t be overlooked. And that’s using the freshest eggs possible. This truly is the #1 most important factor in determining the success of your poached eggs. Fresh eggs have firmer whites, less liquidy whites and just hold their spherical shape better.
Ideally, this would mean purchasing fresh eggs on the morning you’re poaching eggs. But let’s be honest, most of us aren’t running to the market just to make breakfast. Therefore, if you use the tips above you’ve still got the best shot at making a perfectly poached egg.
And if you’ve got older eggs in the fridge, like the one below, don’t forget that those are perfect for making soft boiled and hard boiled eggs.
How Long Do You Poach Eggs?
For a firm white and runny yolk you’ll want to poach the eggs for 3-4 minutes. I prefer a 3 minute poached egg. And if you plan to poach a batch of eggs ahead of time and reheat later, just keep in mind that reheating may firm up the eggs a little more as well.
Can You Poach Eggs Ahead of Time?
Absolutely! After the eggs have finished poaching, just place them in an ice water bath and store them in the fridge for 4-5 days.
When you’d like to eat them, just add some hot water to a small bowl or cup and add the poached egg until it’s warmed up (about 20-30 seconds).
How to Make Perfectly Poached Eggs
Alright, are you feeling confident in your egg poaching skills? To summarize all the information above, this is how to poach an egg:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce to low (or turn off the heat).
- Crack the egg in a fine mesh sieve (over a small bowl) and remove the liquidy whites.
- Transfer the egg to a small ramekin or bowl.
- Add one tablespoon of light-colored vinegar to the pot and stir to create a vortex.
- Pour the ramekin with the egg into the middle of the vortex and set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Once the egg is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the poached egg. Dab with a paper towel to remove excess water and eat immediately.
My Best Poached Egg Recipes
- Asparagus with Poached Egg and Prosciutto
- Sweet Potato Toast with Avocado, Cucumber, Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg
- Sweet Potato Toast with Avocado, Spinach, Prosciutto and Poached Egg
- Poached Egg with Truffle Salt Grilled Zucchini
- 1 large egg
- 1-2 tbsp vinegar, optional
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
- While waiting for the water to boil, crack an egg into a small fine mesh sieve over a bowl. Swirl the egg in the sieve until all the liquidy egg whites have been removed. Then, place the egg in a ramekin.
- Stir the vinegar into the water and create a vortex. Add the egg to the middle of the vortex and cook the egg for 3 minutes.
- Remove the egg with a slotted spoon and dab it on a paper towel to remove any excess water. Serve immediately.
- Alternatively, if making the poached eggs for meal prep or ahead of time, transfer the cooked poached eggs to an ice water bath and refrigerate for a couple of days. When ready to serve, add boiling water to a bowl, then add the cold poached egg and submerge for 20-30 seconds or until warmed through. Remove the poached egg with a slotted spoon, dab dry and serve immediately.
- This is the fine mesh strainer I used in the video. It's the perfect size as it's small and doesn't take up much space.
- These are the glass nesting bowls that I use all the time in my kitchen and in my videos.
- As mentioned above, you can store poached eggs for 4-5 days in the fridge. Just make sure they're in fresh, cold water in a sealed storage container.