Few culinary tasks are as simultaneously simple and complex as poaching eggs. While it's easy enough to plop an egg or two into a bath of simmering water, it takes a touch of practise and know-how to achieve consistently satisfying results. Lucky for you, we've done the legwork, testing out a variety of tips and tricks to determine what works best.
- Use the freshest eggs you can find: as eggs age the white becomes looser, more watery, and less likely to form a cohesive mass around the yolk when poached. If you have access to eggs from the farmers market, here's the time to use them; save older eggs for hard-boiling and baking.
- Rather than crack an egg directly into a pot of water to cook, crack each egg into an individual ramekin so that it can be gently turned out into the water and is therefore less likely to break.
- If using slightly older eggs, drain off any loose egg white before poaching. Crack each egg into a fine mesh strainer set over the sink, and allow any watery egg white to drain off before gently transferring each egg into its own ramekin.
- Poach eggs in slightly acidulated simmering water, never boiling. Adding a splash of acid, such as white vinegar, to the water will help the egg white to coagulate properly, ensuring a compact rather than feathery white of the egg. Add about a tablespoon of vinegar to the water once it has come to a simmer.
- Before adding each egg, swirl the water into a whirlpool using the end of a wooden spoon. Quickly pull the spoon handle out and drop the egg in from its ramekin, and swirl the water around the egg a few more times — this helps keep the egg white compact and tightly wrapped around the yolk. Allow the egg to cook for about two minutes, or until the yolk jiggles in concert with the white when gently agitated.
- Poach no more than two eggs in one batch; too many raw eggs in a tight space are bound to bump into one another and potentially fuse.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked egg to a paper towel-lined plate to drain slightly before adding it to a dish. If poaching eggs for a crowd, skip the plate and store the cooked eggs in a bowl of tepid water until the rest of the eggs have been poached and it's time to serve them. To reheat the eggs transfer them back into a pot of water that's just below simmering and allow to warm for about 20 seconds; alternatively.