Poaching an egg may seem a simple thing – but there are some key poaching pointers to be aware of. The single most important thing is the freshness and quality of the eggs. Seriously – a perfectly poached egg might just be one of the most satisfying things in life – plump, tidy little dollops of awesomeness.
Fresh free-range eggs, at room temperature (see tips below)
2 tbsp white vinegar
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for serving
Good quality toast, for serving
Salt and pepper
Fill a large saucepan 2/3 full of water and add the vinegar. Place over a medium-low heat, cover and let the water just come to a simmer. Remove the lid and reduce the heat a little, so it just comes off the simmer.
Crack 2 eggs into sieve sitting a ramekin or very small bowl without breaking the yolks. The thin part of the white will drain out. Tip the eggs gently into another small bowl.
Swirl the water around in the centre of the pot with the handle of a large serving spoon or wooden spoon, so you create a whirlpool. It should be fairly strong current. Gently tip the eggs into the very middle, as close to the water as possible. Immediately turn the heat up to get the water to a simmer again. The eggs may start off swirling around on the bottom, which is fine – but if they stick to the bottom, gently dislodge with a wooden spoon.
Let the water come to a gentle simmer again – by the time it does, the outside of the eggs will be cooked enough to hold their shape.
If you need to cook more than two eggs, lift these two out of the pot first. They should be undercooked and squishy, but firm enough to hold together when you remove them from the pan. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the par-cooked eggs to a plate covered with a paper towel, then repeat the process above for the rest of the eggs – however many you need.
The eggs can sit there on the plate for 20 minutes or so until you’re ready to finish cooking and serve them. Just bring the cooking water back up to a full simmer (no need to swirl) and carefully add all the par-cooked eggs back to the pot and cook for another 20-30 seconds or so. You will be able to feel how cooked the eggs are – the yolk part should still be squishy when prodded, if you like runny yolks.
Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or a clean dry tea towel.
In my humble opinion, poached eggs are best served on buttered toast with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, freshly cracked black pepper, and flaky sea salt.
- Fresh eggs are a must. The fresher the eggs are, the better the whites will hold together in the pan. If you’ve ever wondered why your eggs turned into a snotty mess, it probably means they were too old. Unfortunately, there’s no ‘lay’ date on the cartons – so you have to look for the expiration date furthest away when you buy eggs. Become a detective. Scour the shelves. It’s worth a trip to the shop to get fresh ones – perhaps the greengrocer or the butcher have the freshest ones in your area, who knows?
- Some people have a thing about the taste of vinegar. That’s cool, you can leave it out. Personally find it more of a nice tang than an unpleasant taste.
- Store the eggs in the fridge in their carton, but bring them to room temp before poaching.
- Don’t skip the step of draining the eggs on a paper towel before serving. This will save your toast from going soggy.
- Always, always use free-range eggs – they work better. Organic if possible! And just as importantly, it’s a couple of extra bucks to support humane chicken farming practices. Chickens are wonderful animals and they give us so much. We all need to do our bit to make sure they are taken care of properly. Have you ever seen the conditions cage chickens live in? Google it if you really want a shock.
- The sieve part below is optional – sometimes I don’t bother if I’m in a hurry, but it’s cool to try it and see the difference.
- If you’re lucky enough to have your own chooks, I am so envious.