Tricks for poached eggs

There’s a running joke between me and my roommate that all we eat, regardless of whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, is toast and eggs. She scrambles, I poach. Sometimes, when we’re feeling wacky, we’ll have cheese or spinach with it.

It took me years to figure out how to poach an egg. Aside from the inherent frustration with not being able to do this seemingly simple thing, it was annoying because it made me order bad restaurant eggs. I can’t remember when or where, but the last bad poached egg was so awful that I resolved to figure it out for myself.

Trick #1: add a tablespoon of vinegar (or some other acid, such as lemon juice) to the cooking water. When the acid reacts with the egg white, it forms a skin. This skin helps the egg stay together as a nice, round object – as opposed to a floaty mess of goo.

Trick #2: keep the water at a low simmer. This is trickier than it sounds. If the water isn’t bubbling enough, then the egg will spread out and form the aformentioned floaty mess of goo. On the other hand, an egg dropped into water that is boiling too vigorously will disintegrate…into a floaty mess of goo.

Hrm. I see an emerging theme. 

Trick #3: swirl the water before you drop the egg in. A mini-whirlpool will force the egg into the middle of the swirl, encouraging it to form one cohesive unit. As opposed to – you guessed it – a floaty mess of goo.

These are my tricks, and I know others who swear by ladles and black magic. All in an attempt to avoid the goo monster.

Published by: Eagranie

7 years as a chemist + 9 months of culinary school + 2 years as a pastry chef & chocolatier + a lifetime of writing = this blog. This blog won't always be about chocolate, but it will almost certainly be about food. The name of the blog is a triple play on words. 1. It's a nod to my training as a classical pianist. Among other fantastic accomplishments, J.S. Bach combined technical prowess with artistic inspiration and penned the 24 preludes & fugues that make up The Well-Tempered Clavier, Books I and II. 2. In order to behave properly, chocolate needs to be tempered. In a nutshell, tempering prompts the chocolate to assume its most stable crystalline form (beta prime, if you're interested) so that it is shiny, snappy, and as stable as it can be. 3. Depending on my mood and how we meet, you might agree that I'm well-tempered. Or not.

Categories 2009, Food scienceTags, 7 Comments

7 thoughts on “Tricks for poached eggs”

  1. This is one cooking trick that I’ve yet to master! I recently dined at Autumn Brook Gallery’s new brunch spot (Brunch a la Galerie) on W 4th near Granville, and had the most delicious, well-prepared poached eggs. As I was preparing to leave, I briefly chatted with the chef and learned the secret to his success: he uses stainless steel poaching cups, sets them in a large skillet of boiling (low level of) water and covers them with plastic wrap. He ‘steams’ them this way for about 4 minutes and voila, they’re cooked (poached) to perfection!

  2. Joseph – but is it food safe? 😀

    Ariane – I’ve heard good things about Autumn Brook Gallery, but have yet to go. I house-sat last year for a family who had the stainless steel cups, and they were very handy.

  3. Also, break the eggs into a small dish. Dip the dish into the water and gently slide the egg out. Helps to keep the egg from whirling and forming [you know the rest]

  4. Brunch a La Galerie is worth a visit! They’ve gorgeous local products in all of their dishes and served up in a lovely setting. I think that their success mainly relies on word of mouth as they are located away from Kitsilano’s main concentration of shops along West 4th.

  5. One thing that I did forget to mention is no matter how small an amount of vinegar I use, the poached egg tends to retain a bit of its essence. I somehow wish that the vinegar step could be eliminated altogether!

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