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What's the best method to poach an egg without it turning into an eggy soupy mess?

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10 Answers 10

up vote 19 down vote accepted
  1. I fill a tall frying pan (or pot) with water.
  2. Add some white vinegar.
  3. Let it come to a boil
  4. Add the eggs. Don't make it too overcrowded
  5. Take it out with a flipper or a spoon with holes when they look done.
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I make a whirpool in the water before dropping the eggs. – Curry Jul 9 '10 at 19:16
I use this method as well as the whirlpool. I just use a spoon to add the eggs. That way the eggs maintain their shape more. – jmoeller Jul 11 '10 at 12:53
I've never gotten whirlpools to work well for me... I also use a spoon to gently dump the egg in the water. – Ward Jul 18 '10 at 6:28
Surely the problem with whirlpools is you can only do one egg at once. – iAn Jul 18 '10 at 7:35

I have tried many techniques but what gets the best results for me is dropping them directly in water and vinegar. Complete method below:

  1. Take eggs out of fridge early and leave to reach room temp. It is okay to leave them out of fridge overnight if cooking for breakfast.
  2. Fill pan with water - I use frying pan with minimum depth of 4cm.
  3. Add splash of vinegar to help the egg coagulate.
  4. Bring water to boil then reduce heat until you can see a few tiny bubbles rising from bottom of pan.
  5. Crack 1st egg into ramekin of some sort - I use a narrow tea cup.
  6. If cooking one egg:
    1. Stir the pan very slowly from the outside and then gently slide egg from ramekin into middle of pan.
    2. NOTE: Do not make a rapid whirlpool in the center of pan - the centrifugal forces will pull the yolk towards the side of the pan creating a yolk sack with whites left in the middle of whirlpool.
  7. If cooking many eggs:
    1. Gently slide egg from ramekin near outside edge of pan with following eggs near edges of pan. Use a spoon to push escaping whites towards egg after sliding in for a couple of seconds until it starts to coagulate.
  8. Cook for about 3-4mins for runny, longer for harder yolk.
  9. If eating immediately:
    1. Use a slotted spoon to lift eggs onto a plate with 2 layers of paper towel. Make sure to drain excess water - you may like to shake slotted spoon a bit.
    2. Place a paper towel over eggs and press down gently to soak up excess water.
    3. You should be able to pick up your perfectly poached egg with your hands and show your friends how pro you are.
  10. If cooking lots or eating later:
    1. Remove eggs with slotted spoon and place into bowl of cold water.
    2. You may quickly heat them up in hot water when ready to use.

This is my morning routine twice a week - with english muffin, butter, bacon, rocket/spinach salad and hollandaise sauce.

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This gets my vote because it includes what I think is the most important detail. The water should be at the barest simmer, otherwise the rolling of the boil will cause the whites to fall off the yolks. – Michael at Herbivoracious Sep 7 '10 at 22:55
Thank you for the whirlpool warning. – Neil G Mar 6 '11 at 4:42

Take some microwave plastic wrap and place it in a ramekin; push the plastic into the corners and lightly oil the inside with a brush. Gently break a fresh egg into the centre of the plastic lined ramekin, then gently pull up the sides of the plastic wrap and tie it off with string or a plastic band. Place the pouch in boiling water for (depends on your eggs) minutes. Open the pouch and you have a perfect poached egg.

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yeah no yucky vineger taste :) – Sam Saffron Jul 10 '10 at 23:03
Heating plastic wrap in direct contact with food can cause chemicals from the plastic to "migrate" into the food. You may or may not be concerned about this. – bobobobo Aug 19 '13 at 20:29

Personally, I cannot stand the taste of vinegar in a poached egg.

Here is the method that I use with perfect results every time:

  1. In a covered saute pan, bring water to a full boil. Add about a teaspoon of salt to the water. The salt performs the same function as vinegar: keep the egg whites from scattering and you ending up with poached yolks.

    • Break the eggs by twos into a small dishes. So two eggs each for four people, eight eggs, four small prep bowls.

    • Be sure to prep all other ingredients that will go with the eggs so that they are ready slightly before the eggs: Toast? Plan to toast the toast and butter the toast and plate the toast so neither eggs not toast are ready first. Toast gets dry; eggs get hard. All wrong... Hollandaise also should be prepared to be ready at the same time as the eggs so it does not separate.

    • Once you all ready to "pull the trigger" because you have planned the plates and the other ingredients and the water is boiling and the cover is ready -- Poach the Eggs! Here is how:

    • Turn off the heat on the pan;

    • Quickly but carefully lower each bowl into the water, tip out the eggs into the water from the bowl;
    • Cover the pan;
    • Time the eggs: For really soft eggs, about 3 minutes. Larger eggs or firmer eggs, 4 minutes.
    • Use a slotted spoon or slotted spatula to gently lift the eggs from the water. Hold for a second to drain, touch the bottom of the spoon / spatula to a paper towel to dry.
    • Gently put on the toast or the other preparation.


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+1 for vinegar taste = ugh. – Marti Oct 30 '10 at 18:16

Just to add to the other answers ... the fresher the egg (properly free range helps too) the better the shape and firmness of the result, whatever technique or trick you use.

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you can buy some things (in the UK, maybe not in the US) called poach pods which I use, and work a treat. They're £5 for 2 (or about $8) I guess. They don't take up much room when stored as they stack:-

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Yep, I bought these in the US, and they work for me – tonylo Mar 19 '11 at 18:10

To be perfect honest, I'm a fairly big fan of microwaving eggs in lieu of poaching. There are little plastic gadgets you can get that you break the eggs into. You can microwave them either to hard or soft boiled levels, and they end up as nice, symmetrical mounds. The only trick is not to microwave on too high a power, or the yolks might explode! In that case, the result is a bit exploded in texture, but because the eggs are in the plastic gadget, at least you don't have egg all over the inside of your microwave!

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I actually poach in a microwave using a bowl of boiling water that I heated up first (in the microwave). Works nicely. – MGOwen Aug 6 '10 at 4:43

Boil a reasonably large pan of water with a small pinch of salt, then take it off the heat. Crack the eggs gently into the water so they lie separately from each other. Leave them for about three minutes and they're done. Voila!

BTW: I don't stir the water as I fond this can make the white separate from the yolk.

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I believe that adding salt to the water causes a reaction in the egg proteins making them more rubbery. – NBenatar Sep 2 '10 at 9:41

Heston Blumenthal seems to have a good way to do this and get "the perfect egg every time", and it actually looks pretty easy.

  1. Use a fresh egg. Fresh eggs have a firmer albumen which helps the poached egg form (fresh eggs sink in water, because an air bubble is produced over time)
  2. Avoid direct heat in the pan: Put a plate upside-down at the bottom
  3. Get the water to 80°C
  4. Use a straining-spoon to remove any water albumen from the egg (even fresh eggs have a little), and drop into the water
  5. Cook for 4 Minutes

(Watch on YouTube)

I haven't had a chance to try this technique yet, but it seems pretty straightforward, and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't work.

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Use a small pot with hot water from a kettle or water boiler, add small amount of vinegar (helps to keep the egg together) then wait until you see small bubbles. No need to swirl the water, just add the egg and don't let the water boil vigorously. Wait until cooked to your preference.

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