Poached eggs are a culinary technique to master that yields tender egg whites encased around a gooey golden yolk. It’s a simple method that uses low temperatures, a splash of vinegar and gentle cooking to create beautifully cooked eggs.
Poached eggs are a delight to behold on a plate. They add a gourmet element to any meal and can be swiftly made to spruce up any dish. The anticipation builds as you get ready to pierce the white to unveil the rich and creamy yolk oozing out. The good news is it’s easy to conquer, but make sure to follow these key steps to ensure a velvety center.
Nothing is more disappointing than an overcooked egg. Using the right temperature and technique, I’m going to show you how to make poached eggs like a pro! Enjoy them as a simple breakfast, get fancy with eggs benedict, or add them to a hot bowl of ramen noodles.
What type of egg do you use for poaching?
Any type of egg can be used for poaching. This recipe uses large sized eggs, but if you use smaller or bigger ones, adjust the cooking time accordingly. If possible use fresh eggs before the sell-by date, as the whites start to thin out the older they get. Check for the pack date or “Julian Date” as the last 3 numbers next to the plant number above the sell by date on the egg carton. These numbers are read as the number of days in a calendar year.
How to poach an egg in water
I prefer to cook each egg one at a time to best monitor its doneness, but you can certainly do more. The process only takes 3 to 5 minutes, so it’s pretty quick. When you first add the egg into the water, it will look like a wispy white ghost that you’ll think will never turn into an oval shape. Just give it a few minutes and you’ll see the whites tighten up, cook, and create a protective shield around the egg. The key is patience and control.
Step #1: Prepare the water
Make sure to use plenty of water for poaching. This allows the egg to have the space to move, cook, and float. The most important thing is to maintain low and steady water temperatures between 180 and 190°F (82 and 88°C), I recommend using an instant-read thermometer. This should be the higher end of the poaching range to barely a simmer with no bubbles, or just a few breaking the surface. You don’t want rapid movement from bubbles breaking up the egg before the white sets. This temperature range sets the whites, without making it taste rubbery.
Step #2: Add vinegar (optional)
Add a small amount of distilled white vinegar to the water for faster coagulation of the egg whites. It also helps to make the egg whites more tender, due to the breaking of bonds that keep the proteins twisted together. The vinegar causes the proteins in the egg white to unravel and loosely bond back together as they cook. You can skip the vinegar and still have tasty results, but it just may take a minute or two longer.
Step #3: Add the egg to the water
Crack the egg into a ramekin and then gently lower and add into the simmering water. This prevents the egg yolk from breaking if dropped straight into the water. You can crack eggs into multiple ramekins for a faster transfer in between cooking each egg.
Step #4: Gently stir and cook
Very gently stir the outsides edges of the water for 10 seconds immediately after the egg is added. This creates a tiny vortex in the water, allowing some of the thin whites to come off and keep the egg concentrated in the center for a more even shape. Cook until the white is set, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the size of the egg and desired doneness.
Step 5: Trim the excess whites
If you’re going for the perfect look, you can trim off the wispy cooked whites on the edges. This appears because whites are divided into a thick layer closer to the yolk, and a thinner layer surrounding the entire egg. Some separation occurs because of the thickness differences which looks like white stringy fringes when poached.
Now you are ready to eat it right away, or place into a clean bowl or plate if you plan on making more eggs. Muffin tins also work as nifty holders for poached eggs as you’re cooking a large batch.
What can you eat with poached eggs?
- Eggs Benedict or crab cake benedict with hollandaise sauce
- Add on top of a hot bowl of pho, ramen, or udon noodles
- Avocado toast
- Top on a grilled pizza
- A topping for a burger, or vegetarian burger
- Fluffy pancakes and bacon!
If you make this recipe, please let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #jessicagavin on Instagram. I’d love to see what you come up with. Cheers, friends!
What temperatures does the egg white and yolk set at?
The egg white, or albumin, is composed of protein and water and thickens and sets between 140 and 150°F (60 and 66°C). The yolk contains fat, protein, vitamins, mineral, and lecithin, and cooks between 150 and 160°F (66 and 71°C). Poaching at low temperatures gently sets the whites, and you remove the egg from the liquid before the yolk completely heats up and becomes solid.
- 2 quarts water, (8 cups, 2 liters)
- 2 tablespoon distilled white vinegar, (optional)
- 8 large eggs, cold
- Add 2 quarts of water to a medium-size pot, or enough to reach about 3 inches high of water.
- Add vinegar (optional). Bring water to barely a simmer and hold at a temperature between 180 and 190°F (82 and 88°C), adjusting the heat as needed.
- Crack one egg into a small bowl or ramekin.
- Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water, then slowly stir the water at the edges of the pot for 10 seconds.
- Cook until the whites are set, 3 to 5 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove egg and trim any ragged edges with a small knife or scissors, if desired.
- Place egg in a small, clean bowl and repeat the process for the remaining eggs.
- Fresh eggs should be used when poaching because the whites start to thin as they age, giving a more misshapen appearance.
- The water should be held at a constant temperature range to create minimal agitation for better-formed poached eggs.
- The recommended temperature allows the proteins in the whites to begin setting without becoming tough and rubbery.
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