I recently signed up for America's Test Kitchen Cooking School and followed their directions for poaching eggs. I brought my water w/ vinegar & salt to a light simmer, removed it from the heat, and gently added the raw eggs at the same time. I covered and left it for 5 minutes, saw they were a bit feathery, gave them an extra minute before removing them, and found that they were still feathery and a bit undercooked.

My guess is that they need more time or persistent heat since I'm at higher altitude (mile high in Colorado), but I'm not sure. Should I keep the heat under the pan? Should I keep the eggs in longer? Maybe both?

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    I'm at roughly sea level and wouldn't take the water off the heat; obviously that's just a different way to do it but you might find it more robust. – dbmag9 Sep 3 '16 at 15:55
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    In terms of the egg being 'feathery', using the freshest eggs possible will help with that. – dbmag9 Sep 3 '16 at 15:55
  • @dbmag9 Thanks for your perspective. The eggs I used were only a week old at most, which might be an issue, but I'm guessing the heat had a bigger impact. – Matt Huggins Sep 3 '16 at 15:57

I live up in the mountains. Two things I do not do are: a) remove food from heat and expect it to still cook properly, because boiling points are lower at higher altitudes; and b) use the cited time in the recipe. I always add time, because the lower boiling point means more cooking time is necessary. Also, try not to open the lid of the pot unless you absolutely have to. The lid provides some added internal pressure for the pot, which helps with cooking, and keeping the lid on as much as possible provides steady heat. Other than that, I have no suggestions.

  • Thanks for the insight! Your last comment is interesting: "The lid provides some added internal pressure for the pot, which helps with cooking." I tried to make ramen stock for the first time last weekend, and I found that I kept having to add water when boiling it all day with the lid off, otherwise it would all evaporate. I wonder if that's due to the altitude as well, considering none of the videos or article I followed used a lid and didn't seem to have an issue. – Matt Huggins Sep 23 '16 at 2:59

Water boils at a lower temperature at higher altitudes. At a mile high, the boiling point is ~202 °F, as opposed to 212 °F at sea level. (The decrease in BP is due to lower air pressure.). But since poached eggs aren't brought to the boiling point, this will not affect the cooking temperature.

Water does evaporate faster at higher altitude/lower pressure. This is one of the effects that high-altitude recipes are intended to counteract. Keeping the lid on is a good idea - although the weight of a lid is not enough to increase gas pressure inside the pot, it does help return water vapor to the liquid state, slowing evaporative cooling, and perhaps making it easier to maintain a consistent poaching temperature (~180 °F is common but not universal).

A remedy for the featheriness that is well known is to gently strain the egg in a fine mesh strainer before transferring into the pot. This removes the thin, watery portion of the white. Also, you could select higher quality eggs - newer eggs, from younger, healthier chickens tend to have less watery albumen.

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