Easy Poached Eggs
Poaching eggs couldn’t be easier. It’s also a great low-calorie way to prepare eggs—you don’t need to use added fat to cook them, as you would with scrambled or fried eggs. Not only do eggs prepared this way make a great breakfast all on their own (with a little salt and pepper and maybe some toast), you can also use them to top a French salad Lyonnaise, bathe them in luxurious Hollandaise sauce in an Eggs Benedict, or go super healthy and serve them over sautéed greens.
My favorite breakfast is one or two poached eggs, served in a bowl (they’re easier to eat with a spoon, you can catch every bite!) and sprinkled with a little truffle salt.
The main trick I use when I make them is to use water that is barely simmering. Fewer bubbles means less agitation of the water that can break up and disperse the egg whites. I crack the egg into a cup first, then, when the water is at a bare simmer, gently slide the egg into the water.
Some people swirl the water and drop the egg into the center. I haven’t been able to get that method to work for me, but if it works for you, great! Here’s a terrific video by my friends Diane and Todd showing their morning ritual of making poached eggs using that method.
Cracking the egg into a fine mesh sieve first is another useful method. The sieve strains out some of the thinner whites that can make your poached egg look rather ragged.
Do you have a favorite way of making or serving poached eggs? Please let us know about it in the comments!
Updated, from the recipe archive, first posted in 2003.
Fresh eggs work best for poaching. Their whites hold together better than older eggs. Some people put a little vinegar in the poaching water—the vinegar helps the proteins in the egg whites coagulate. But the vinegar does affect the taste. I usually skip it.
- Fresh eggs
- Saucepan with cover
- Slotted spoon
1 Fill a saucepan with a couple inches of water. Heat the water on high until it reaches a bare simmer and bubbles start appearing at the bottom of the pan, or bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat until the water is at a bare simmer (just a few bubbles coming up now and then).
2 Working with the eggs one at a time, crack the egg into a small bowl or cup. Place the bowl close to the surface of the hot water and gently slip the egg into the water. If you want, use a spoon to push some of the egg whites closer to their yolks, to help them hold together. Add all of the eggs you are poaching to the pan in the same way, keeping some distance between them.
3 Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Set a timer for 4 minutes (or count out loud to 60, four times). At this point the egg whites should be completely cooked, while the egg yolks are still runny. Note that the timing depends on the size of the eggs, and if you are cooking at altitude, so adjust accordingly. If you are at altitude, or want firmer egg yolks, you may need to cook them longer. If you try 4 minutes and the eggs are too cooked, reduce the time.
4 Gently lift the poached eggs out of the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate to serve.
To help the eggs keep from spreading too much some people have good results by placing a mason jar ring in the pan. Put a mason jar ring in the bottom of the pan and fill the pan with water to just above the mason jar ring. Slip the raw egg into the water over the mason jar ring and let it settle in the ring. Then turn off the heat and cover the pan.
Using a Fine Mesh Sieve
One way to help your poached egg whites stay together is to remove some of the thin wispy egg whites before you add your eggs to the hot water. An easy way to do this is with a fine mesh sieve.
1 Place the raw egg into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. The very thin egg whites will drain out through the sieve. Then gently pour the raw egg into your pot of hot water.
2 Notice how there is much less stray egg whites with this method. Turn off the heat and cover the pot (or just lower the heat to low), and cook for 4 minutes until the whites are cooked through. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.
Using an Egg Poacher
If you don't want to futz around with trying to keep the eggs from spreading or bumping into each other, the easiest way to make poached eggs is with an egg poacher. The "poacher" is actually coddling the eggs, not truly poaching them, but if what you want is an egg with a cooked white and runny yolk, this is an easy way to do it.
To use an egg poaching pan, remove the cups from the pan that you intend to use. Fill the pan with only 1/2-inch of water and bring it to a low boil. Put a drop or so of olive oil in each of the egg cups you are using and spread around. (The cups are stick-free, but the oil helps.) Crack the eggs into the egg cups, one egg per cup. Place the egg filled cup back in the slot for it in the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully lift the egg cups out of the pan. Slide the cooked eggs out of the cups onto serving plates or bowls.