It's time for another installment of Egg Cookery 101. Let's talk about poaching.
I remember vividly the first time I poached an egg. It was late on a June evening, and the smell of Summer lay upon my skin as I placed two pots of water on the stove; one to boil and one to simmer. A big boil of linguine lavished with rich, fruity olive oil was the bed for my very first poached egg, and it was delightful.
The bright yellow yolk puddled down over the many strands of pasta, coating them in its custardy richness.
Even the most seasoned of egg-preparers seem to approach the process of poaching with some degree of trepidation. This is a true pity because, in my mind, there exists no other egg preparation that so easily transitions from breakfast to dinner. Whether they are stabbed with a fork and laid atop buttered toast, or cradled by a nest of pasta, poached eggs are a true delicacy - one that no amount of unfounded fear should steal from us.
Of course, your fears may not be entirely unfounded. Perhaps many of us stay away because we cringe at the thought of our lovely whites feathering out into several hundred tiny threads, or of overcooking that custard-like yolk and being left with nothing but a very unattractive overdone egg. Thankfully, these fates are easily avoided.
I would suggest that poaching an egg is just as simple as frying one, once you have learned to arm yourself with the appropriate precautions.
The first thing to consider is the water. You will want to season your water with salt, for flavor, and a splash of vinegar to help out in the prevention of that nasty "feathering" we just touched on. The acid of the vinegar will, because of science magic, help the white coagulate.
Next, your attention should be turned to the egg itself. Place each egg in a small bowl or ramekin before poaching. You do not want to crack the egg directly into the simmering water because it will be much more likely to spread, forming a big, stringy mess. It's really not a good look, so please, just use the ramekin.
Once your water has reached a simmer, take a large spoon and begin stirring the water in a circular motion to form a whirlpool in the center of the pot. Quickly remove the spoon and, while the water is still spinning, gently drop the egg into the center of the whirlpool. Turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow the egg to cook untouched for 3-4 minutes.
I like to begin with three minutes, but if you have an extra large egg, you may wish to go for four. If you are a bit unsure, just uncover the pan after three minutes, and if the white is set but still slightly jiggly, you are good to go. If it still looks a bit cloudy, recover and let it sit for an additional minute.
Now would be a good time to pop several slices of sourdough into the toaster.
In a matter of minutes, you will have poached your first egg.
Congratulations, and welcome to a whole new world of deliciousness.
recipe adapted slightly from Alton Brown
- 1 egg (fresh is best!)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons white vinegar
Crack egg into a small bowl or ramekin.
Fill a 1.5 quart saucepan or saucier with about two inches of water. Add vinegar and kosher salt and place over medium heat; bring to a light simmer.
Use a large spoon to swirl the water in a circular motion, creating a whirlpool. Once the water is spinning on its own, drop the egg into the center of the whirlpool.
Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan for 3-4 minutes. The white should be delicate, but firm. If the color is still somewhat cloudy, let it cook for the extra minute.
Serve over toast, pasta, or sliced and toasted English muffins. Enjoy!
Cook’s Note: I like to poach my eggs one at a time. However, if you would like to poach multiple eggs at a time, use a large saucier pan forgo the whirlpool method. Just gently slip each egg out of its ramekin and into the water. Allow each egg a few seconds to set before adding the next.