The elusive poached egg. A terrifying concept for many home cooks. But let me tell you, they’re really not that scary! You shouldn’t fear the poached egg. With a bit of technique and science, I think we can make you a pro in no time!
I always think of the movie Julie and Julia when I think of poaching eggs. Cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julie embarks on the egg chapter. Having never eaten an egg, she follows Julia’s meticulous instructions for poached eggs with hope. On the first attempt, Julie and her friend screw up their faces in disgust as the egg disintegrates in the pot of boiling water. The second attempt fares much better, and Julie falls in love with eggs. And rightfully so, because eggs are wonderful. But especially poached eggs.
Before reading the rest of this post, keep this in mind: there are many ways of preparing poached eggs. Everyone’s got their tricks and tips, but this is a method that works best for me.
The use of vinegar is the most controversial poached egg topic (although I don’t know how controversial you can call anything regarding poached eggs). Adding vinegar to the water bath you cook your egg in has been said to help make the process of poached eggs easier. Some swear by it while others deem it unnecessary—amateur even.
Well call me an amateur because I am very pro-vinegar. Vinegar reduces the pH of the water making it more acidic. Changing the pH of the water cooks the protein in the egg. Acid, just like heat, denatures proteins by changing the way they are curled up in the egg. This can be really helpful when you’re dropping mostly liquid egg white into water. The acid will act, along with the hot water, to shock the egg whites into cooking before they separate from each other in the water. The acid will also reduce the cooking time of the poached egg by the double action from the heat and acid. In other words, acid makes poaching eggs much easier. And I’m all for using science to make recipes easier!
I’ve got step-by-step instructions and photos for how I poach my eggs below. Feel free to try it out; I certainly find it to be the best method!
1 teaspoon vinegar (or lemon juice)
2-3 cups water
Fill a saucepan with 2-3 cups of water and put over medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar. Once simmering, lower the heat to low. Crack the egg into a small dish. Use a spoon or knife to create a whirlpool in the water.
While the whirlpool is still going strong, dip the dish with the egg in it into the water and tip the egg into the water. Start a time for 4 minutes. The egg white should continue to whirl around the whirlpool and form around the yolk.
After 4 minutes, use a slotted spoon to gently take the egg out of the water. Place it onto a paper towel to let the excess water drain off of the egg. If you have excess egg white strands on the outside of your egg take this time to cut them off.
Gently flip the egg onto a piece of toast or any dish you desire. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and enjoy! Especially with a coffee and a lovely read (like Madeline!).