This is a very serious question.

  • a poached egg is an egg without its shell in boiling water.

  • a boiled egg is an egg in its shell in boiling water.

So, if an egg is being boiled but then cracks out of its shell before it has finished cooking, does it become a poached egg? What is the tipping point?

  • Are you actually asking about an egg cracking so badly during boiling that it entirely escapes the shell? Or just the usual cracking with a bit of white leaking out and cooking? As the help says, "You should only ask practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face." – Cascabel Jun 23 '14 at 19:47

You've answered your own question already. Eggs are boiled in-shell and poached without their shell. The major difference is whether the whites can spread out in the water.

It's not uncommon for eggs to crack slightly during boiling and for a small amount of albumin to leak out; this is generally discarded. I've never seen an egg explode out of its shell in the middle of being boiled, and if that did happen, I would discard the result without worrying about what to call it.

  • So you'd throw away a poached egg? – user2664911 Jun 23 '14 at 13:32
  • 3
    @user2664911 Poached eggs are removed from their shells before they ever hit the water. What I'm saying is that if I started boiling an egg in its shell, and that egg pops completely out of its shell, yes, I would discard it. That would be very strange behavior and possible evidence of contamination. – logophobe Jun 23 '14 at 14:13

Poaching is less about the shell and more about the temperature.

Most boiled eggs- especially hard boiled- use boiling water- that is water at 212F or 100C at sea level. This is a vigorous boil.

Poaching, on the other hand, should stay at a low simmer. Somewhere around 160-180F. This is high enough to kill pathogens and denature proteins but because it is a lower temp, proteins cook more gently, will be more tender, and squeeze out less liquid.

Unfortunately, language is not so concise.
To make things confusing, soft-boiled egg recipes call for lower temperatures. Sometimes they are brought to a boil and then removed from the heat to allow to cook more gently. It would be accurate to say that this egg was poached. (Even though it would probably be referred to as a "boiled" egg)

As you have noticed, there can be overlap in the meanings of these words. You could say that you poached an egg in its shell if you were careful with your temps and wanted a tender egg (and you wanted to sound fancy). You would say you boiled your shell-less egg when you drizzle it into egg drop soup.

Egg that leaks out of the shell of a boiled egg is not called either because it is not part of the intended preparation.


poach (v.2) Look up poach at Dictionary.com "cook in liquid," early 15c., from Old French poché, past participle of pochier (12c.), literally "put into a pocket" (as the white of an egg forms a pocket for the yolk), from poche "bag, pocket," from Frankish *pokka "bag," from Proto-Germanic *puk- (see poke (n.)). Related: Poached; poaching.

sooo, since this is about semantics, if you dont pocket your egg yolk in egg white while preparing them, and not in the shell, you are not poaching your eggs. Leaking boiled eggs are not poached eggs. Neither are peeled soft-boiled eggs.

  • I'm going to assume that this question came to be due to an unfortunate egg-boiling accident. To avoid such an accident, grab a pin or a syringe sharp, and pierce the wider end of the egg before putting it into the pot to boil. That will give steam a place to escape and prevent gruesome little explosions. – Shalryn Apr 6 '16 at 1:34

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