Poached Eggs

4.93 from 27 votes
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Perfect poached eggs are an easy culinary technique to master! Now you can enjoy delicious firm whites and runny yolk every time!

Love eggs? So do I! Here are three more techniques to master: fried eggs, scrambled eggs, and omelettes.

Fork cutting into a poached egg on avocado toast.

For this egg recipe, I have two step-by-step techniques that you can use. First, the gourmet method yields restaurant-quality eggs with maximum flavor and a beautiful appearance. Second is a simple method to whip up a quick meal when you’re in a hurry.

Nothing is more disappointing than overcooked eggs. I will show you how to make poached eggs like a pro using the right temperature and technique. Enjoy them as a simple breakfast, get fancy with eggs benedict, or add them to a hot bowl of ramen noodles.

Egg placed inside a mini strainer set over a glass bowl.
Step 1. Strain the egg white

Egg size and freshness

You can use any type of egg for poaching. This recipe uses large eggs (2 ounces in size), but adjust the cooking time accordingly if you use smaller or bigger ones. Also, I recommend using fresh eggs as the whites and yolk will hold their shape better as they cook. 

Older eggs are more susceptible to yolk breakage due to the chalazae chain that holds the yolk in the center. This bond weakens with age, as the whites start to thin out the older they get. Older eggs tend to create more wispy fringes in the poaching liquid. When shopping, select the highest 3-number pack date (Julian date), which indicates the freshest batch.

Benefits of straining

For a more oval-shaped egg with fewer ragged edges, crack the egg and run it through a strainer. This technique only takes an extra 5 minutes, but it’s well worth the time and effort.

You’ll lose 15 to 25% of the volume but it reduces the wispy edges. I use a 3-inch fine mesh sieve to drain the excess thin whites by gravity. Once you cook the egg, the white will be tight and in an excellent oval shape.

Recipe Resources

How much water to use

Make sure to use plenty of hot water for poaching. I find that at least 2-inches and up to 3 inches of water works best. The volume depends on the pot size used and its depth. I use a 2 ½ or 3-quart saucepan, which allows the egg to have space to move, cook, and float.

Optimal poaching temperature

The most important thing is maintaining a low and steady water temperature between 180 and 190°F (82 and 88°C). I recommend using an instant-read thermometer. This range should provide simmering water with no bubbles or just a few breaking the surface. You don’t want rapid movement from bubbles. Otherwise, it will break up the egg before the white sets.

Checking the water temperature with an instant read thermometer.
Step 2. Prepare the poaching liquid

How long to poach an egg

Depending on the cooking liquid’s temperature, it takes between 3 to 5 minutes to poach eggs. Visually, when the albumin protein in the egg white sets around the yolk. The texture should be firm but not rubbery, and the yolk starts to thicken but has not hardened like a hard-boiled egg.

Vinegar helps with time and texture

I add a small amount of distilled white vinegar to the poaching water for faster coagulation of the egg whites. It also helps to make the egg whites more tender by reducing the intensity of egg protein bonds. The vinegar causes the proteins in the egg white to unravel and loosely bond back together as they cook. 

You can skip the vinegar, but it may take a minute or two longer to cook. I recommend using 2 teaspoons for every 4 cups (1 quart) of water.

Pouring a cracked egg into a pot of hot water.
Step 3. Add the egg

Salt the water

Like vinegar, salt affects the electrical charge on the protein molecules in eggs, reducing the tendency of proteins to bond. The weaker protein network protects the egg from coagulating too tightly, cooking up tender instead of tough.

The briny saltwater also seasons the eggs for a more savory taste. I recommend using ½ to ¾ teaspoons of salt for every 4 cups (1 quart) of water.

Why use salt and vinegar

The salt and acidic vinegar weaken the bonding of the albumin protein network in the egg white during the cooking process. The alkaline egg white also reacts with the acidic vinegar, creating carbon dioxide bubbles on the egg’s surface. 

The salt in the heated water increases the density and allows the egg to float slightly. I notice that eggs cooked in just water alone tend to stay on the bottom, which may cause uneven cooking.

Spoon stirring a pot of simmering water while poaching an egg.
Step 3. Gently stir the water

Gentle stir vs. vortex

If not making a big batch, I prefer to cook one egg at a time to control the process. Stirring the water immediately after dropping in the egg creates a gentle circular motion that turns the egg, and the residual thin whites get pulled away, leaving less attached.

Alternatively, you can create a water vortex in the center before adding the egg. Once you add the egg, it will get suspended in the middle of the pot. However, I noticed this more aggressive method tends to leave more ragged strands on the egg’s surface as it twirls around.

For a fancy appearance

If you’re going for the perfect restaurant-quality look, trim off any leftover wispy whites with kitchen shears. Whisps appear 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 look like stringy white fringes when poached.

Slotted spoon lifting a poached egg out of a pot of water.
Step 4. Remove the egg

Dab with paper before serving

Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg. I like to dab the egg’s with a paper towel to remove excess moisture before serving. This technique prevents the other food items on your plate from getting soggy or diluting their flavor. Poached eggs are best served warm for an oozy, runny yolk.

What to serve this with

Poached egg on avocado toast with yolk oozing out.

What temperatures do the egg white and yolk set at?

The egg white, or albumin, is composed of protein and water. It will start to thicken around 145ºF (63ºC) and wholly set at 180°F (82°C). The yolk contains fat, protein, vitamins, mineral, and lecithin and hardens between 150 and 160°F (66 and 71°C). Poaching at low temperatures gently sets the whites, but you remove the egg from the liquid before the yolk solidifies.

Poached Eggs

Master perfectly poached eggs like a pro! Enjoy a delicious breakfast with tender egg whites encased around a gooey golden yolk.
4.93 from 27 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time15 minutes
Servings 1 serving
Course Breakfast
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 large egg, fresh and chilled
  • 2 quarts water
  • 4 teaspoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions 

Gourmet Method

  • Strain the Egg: Set a small fine-mesh sieve (about 3 inches in size) on top of a bowl. Crack the egg into the sieve, and let it sit for 4 to 5 minutes undisturbed until most of the thin egg white drains out. Transfer the strained egg to a small bowl or ramekin, do not let it sit longer than 5 minutes in the sieve.
    Alternatively, to speed up the process, gently swirl the egg in the sieve for about 30 to 60 seconds, pausing every 5 seconds to allow the whites to drain.
  • Prepare the Water: In a medium saucepan, 2 to 3 quarts in size, add water. Fill to at least 2 to 3 inches high in the pot and heat over medium-high heat. Once the water reaches a simmer with just a few bubbles breaking the surface, reduce to medium-low heat.
    Season the water with vinegar and salt. Stir to dissolve, and the water turns clear. Hold at a temperature between 180 and 190°F (82 and 88°C).
  • Poach the Egg: Tilt the bowl or ramekin's lip into the water and let the egg slide out. Slowly stir the water along the pan's edge in a clockwise motion for 10 seconds. Let the egg sit undisturbed until the whites set, about 3 to 5 minutes, depending on the water temperature.
    Alternatively, before adding the egg, stir the water until a vortex forms in the middle of the pan.
  • Remove the Egg: Use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to a plate lined with a paper towel and quickly blot to remove excess water. If desired, trim any ragged edges with a small knife or scissors for a cleaner appearance. Serve while still warm.

Simple Method

  • Prep the Water – In a medium saucepan, fill it with water at least 2 to 3 inches high and set over medium-high heat. Once the water reaches a simmer, reduce to medium-low heat. Hold at a temperature between 180 and 190°F (82 and 88°C).
  • Poach the Egg – Crack the egg into a small bowl or ramekin. Tilt the bowl or ramekin's lip into the water and let the egg slide out. Slowly stir the water along the pan's edge in a clockwise motion for 10 seconds. Let the egg sit undisturbed until the whites set, about 3 to 5 minutes.
    Use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb excess water before serving.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Notes

  • Batch Cooking: To poach 3 to 4 eggs, strain each egg and add them to the saucepan one at a time. Do not stir. Let them cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Keeping a large batch warm: Heat a separate pot of water over low heat, holding it between 120 to 140ºF (49 to 60ºC). Add the poached eggs to keep warm, but no longer than 20 minutes. Do not go above this temperature, or the yolks will harden.
  • Meal Prep: After poaching the eggs, place them in an ice-water bath (equal parts water and ice) for 2 minutes. Transfer to a container filled with cold water. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
  • Reheating: Bring a pot of water to a boil. Turn off the heat, then add in the chilled egg. Let it sit until warmed through, about 30 to 60 seconds. Alternatively, place the egg in a bowl and pour hot water over the top until submerged.
  • Using fresh cold eggs: The whites start to thin as they age, giving a more misshapen appearance. Colder eggs are more viscous and hold their oval shape better.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 1 serving
Calories 72kcal (4%)Carbohydrates 1gProtein 6g (12%)Fat 5g (8%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Trans Fat 1gCholesterol 186mg (62%)Sodium 166mg (7%)Potassium 69mg (2%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 270IU (5%)Calcium 85mg (9%)Iron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Lydia Mathew says

    I am so glad I have found your website. It is great to learn why you have to do certain steps when cooking. You explain it really well. I feel I can really develop my skills now.

  2. Paul Burke says

    Perfect!!! I have always been disappointed with the variability of my poached eggs. The science explains it all. Well done Jessica – you have solved my problem – no more whites that spread over the pan, over-cooked yokes or watery poached eggs.

  3. Cynthia says

    I decided to try your recipe for my nemesis, the dreaded poached egg and was completely surprised at the outcome. They looked like a chef made. I love that you always give the temp of what ever it is your making which is a huge help. Thank you, thank you for your tips that makes my life so much easier.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Great job, Cynthia! I’m so proud of you! I’m happy that you were able to conquer poached eggs.

  4. Charlie says

    Jessica: This is my first time on your blog.
    Thank you for explaining everything.

    I would like to share with all of you, how I serve my poached eggs.
    Costco has these lovely boxes with single-served pkgs. of smoked salmon.
    I spread a pkg. of separated pieces of salmon across my plate and top with poached eggs.
    So, so good, and healthy.
    Sometimes I add cooked spinach, or mashed broccoli before the egg.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Welcome, Charlie! Wow, the smoked salmon with the poached eggs sounds delicious! I will definitely have to give it a try.

  5. Ethelyn Dietrich says

    I’ve tried many techniques of egg recipe over the years, vortex, vinegar, ladle, etc. and could never quite get it right, always got those white whispies no matter what and the water would fill up with foam and egg particles and made a mess. I can’t say how happy I am for this post. I thought for the longest time I was just not skilled enough. Thank you, Thank you Thank you. You are a genius!

  6. Peter says

    Thanks for this Jessica. I have been poaching eggs in bulk for 5 years and have developed similar techniques by trial and error. The salt density is important to keep the eggs suspended in the water (I use the same salinity as sea water) but I was grateful for your suggestion to add acid (having no acetic acid to hand, I used lemon juice). With really fresh and really cold eggs, even the ‘thin’ white didn’t go thru the sieve so I used a colander to good effect.
    So, I’ve just poached 90 eggs for use in our breakfast place and only two had the yolks ‘escape’ their white. I did break the yolks on 5 more. I crack maybe 400 eggs a week but still haven’t found the perfect way to crack them! Any suggestions? Sharp edge or flat surface? I’d like to reduce the 5% wastage if you can help!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Wow, you are en eggs-pert! Hehe. I crack the eggs on a flat surface on the widest side. I find the egg yolk is more susceptible to breaking on a sharp edge.

  7. Denis Netto says

    Jessica, You are an absolute genius! If a 70 year old with no cooking skills whatsoever (me) can impress his wife with these perfectly cooked poached eggs by following your recipe and instructions is definitely a testimony to your Culinary Scientist expertise. You are the best Jessica, and I thank you.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you, Denis! I’m happy to help you in the kitchen, especially when impressing your wife with your cooking skills. Keep it up!