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How to Poach an Egg

Start With Fresh Eggs

The fresher the eggs, the easier they are to poach. Fresh eggs hold together better when slipped into the simmering water. Fresh eggs also taste better and contain more of their nutrients. Pastured eggs (eggs from birds allowed to live in a field and scratch for much of their food, thus eating a varied and more natural diet) have been shown to have more healthful cholesterol and more vitamins. They tend to have darker golden, even orange yolks and firm, bouncy whites. Mr. Poirier's eggs are like this and I buy my eggs from him whenever I can! When I use Mr. Porier's eggs, my wife will always comment on how much darker the yolks are and how much more flavour his eggs have. There is a very noticeable difference!

Heat Poaching Liquid

The key to a perfectly poached egg starts with the correct temperature for the poaching liquid. Too cool, and the egg will separate apart before it cooks; too hot, and you'll end up with tough whites and an over-cooked yolk.

Heat 2 inches of water or broth with about 1 Tbsp. of vinegar (the acid will help the egg whites coagulate quickly, which in turn helps the egg keep its shape while cooking) in a wide, shallow pan (or pot) until bubbles form along the bottom and sides of the pan, but don't break away or come to the surface (or until an instant-read thermometer reads 180°). Adjust heat to maintain this temperature.

Gently Side Eggs Into Liquid

Crack eggs into individual ramekins or measuring cups. Pre-cracking the eggs allows you to remove any bits of shell, start again if a yolk breaks (if you like), and have more control when guiding the egg into the pan.

Hold the ramekin right at the liquid's surface and gently pour the egg into the liquid. Repeat with remaining eggs, up to four eggs per batch.

Note: Letting eggs come to room temperature before poaching them helps them cook more evenly. Also, the fresher the egg, the better it will hold its shape while poaching.

Cooking Time

For poached eggs with set whites and warm yolks, cook room temperature eggs 2 minutes (refrigerated eggs, 3 minutes). For set yolks cook 2 minutes longer.

Lift Egg Out of Liquid

Using a slotted spoon or spatula, gently lift each egg out of the poaching liquid. If eggs have stuck a bit to the pan, smoothly work utensil edge between egg and pan to loosen before lifting egg out.

Drain Eggs

Set eggs on a clean kitchen towel or layer of paper towels to drain off as much liquid as possible. Pat tops dry, if you like.

Note: If you're poaching more than one batch, poached eggs can be kept in warm water until all are cooked, then "dry" them all before serving.

Serving Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are often served plain or on buttered toast. Salt, pepper, and hot sauce are excellent accompaniments, as are salsas and chutneys of all sorts. For a slightly more elegant presentation, melt butter in a frying pan, add some freshly chopped herbs, and add poached eggs to warm. Serve immediately.

The classic Eggs Benedict uses poached eggs, along with English muffins, Canadian bacon, and Hollandaise sauce.

Poached eggs also make a flavorful, protein-rich addition to soups and stews, as in Chick Pea and Escarole Stew. They can also turn a simple salad into a meal, as with the classic French Bistro favorite Frisée Salad With Egg.