Poached Egg
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Poached Eggs

20 min  

Poached eggs lend themselves to many elegant and flavorful dishes, and many of them are easy to make. They are suited in particular to intimate breakfasts for two, but they can be made ahead so are suitable also for larger gatherings.

The instructions here may look complicated, but after a couple practice runs you'll be able to poach eggs quickly and easily without any instructions at all.


Important Notes:
  1. Eggs:   Be aware that some chickens just don't know how to lay a poachable egg. Before doing anything important test an egg from the batch. If it makes a mess in the pan, get another batch from a different farm.
  2. Fresh:   Eggs for poaching must be as fresh as you can get them. Older eggs have runny whites which will make sloppy looking poached eggs.
  3. Timing for poaching eggs is very critical. The trickiest part is learning exactly when to pull the eggs, because the surest way to ruin them is to overcook them. The yolks must be skinned over but still very liquid inside, both for flavor and to act as a sauce for the whites.
  4. Learn to judge doneness by poking the whites near the yolk with a chopstick and noting how they jiggle. With a little practice you can get them right every time.
  5. Holding:   Once eggs are poached they can be held in warm water until you have them all ready - or - in cold water and refrigerated overnight.
  6. Preferences:   Some people insist on their eggs being overcooked, not because they like the flavor but out of squeamishness. Serve them scrambled eggs and bitch about having to overcook them.
  7. The French Method:   Some gourmet cookbooks describe the "French method" for poaching eggs, supposedly used by the great chefs. You swirl hot water into a whirlpool, then carefully unload the egg into the eye of the whirlpool where it will be "pocketed" until done. This is a cruel joke designed to convince yuppies and "purists" that poaching eggs is nearly impossible. Even if this method worked, which it most certainly does not, you could only poach one egg at a time. The so called "American" method is the only method mentioned by Escoffier, beyond whom only Carême is greater.
  8. Devices:   Many poaching aids are sold to contain eggs as they poach. Some work, some don't, but most produce a very "industrial" looking egg. I use no devices and recommend none.
  9. Sauces can often be made the day before.
  10. Health Note: Poached eggs fall under the USDA heading of "undercooked eggs". which may carry salmonella. This is a controversial subject, particularly since salmonella problems seem all to be institutionally related. For full details see my Eggs Page.
Equipment you will need:
  1. A sauté pan or similar about 2-1/2" deep and about 10" across.
  2. A saucepan or similar of sufficient size to hold all the eggs you intend to poach floating in warm water without excessive crowding. This is not necessary if you intend only a few eggs to be served immediately they are done.
  3. A slotted spoon of large size, say 3 inches or more across, for lifting the eggs out of the pan when they are done.
  4. A couple of very small dishes or shallow cups with which to get the eggs into the hot water with minimum disturbance.
  5. A wooden spatula with which to move eggs around in the pan.
  6. A chopstick or similar device for poking the egg whites to judge doneness.
  1. Put about 1-1/2 inch of water in your pan and add 1/4 cup vinegar to help set the whites.
  2. IF you will be holding the eggs warm, fill a saucepan with enough water to float them all without crowding and bring it up hot enough so you can only hold your fingers in it for a few seconds - but not hotter or it may set the yolks and the eggs will be ruined.
  3. IF you will be holding the eggs for a long time, like overnight, use a pan of ice cold water instead of warm water.
  4. Crack the eggs into the shallow cups or dishes disturbing them as little as possible as you do.
  5. Turn off the heat under the simmering water and wait for it to be completely still.
  6. Lower the cups into the water, tip them and slide them out from under the eggs disturbing the water and eggs as little as possible.
  7. Turn the heat back on, but not too high, you don't want to get the water rolling. You can push the eggs around a bit with a wooden spatula to make sure they don't stick and circulate the water around so it's evenly hot.
  8. Poke the whites right near the yolk with a chopstick to see if they are set - you need a little practice to learn to tell.
  9. When eggs are properly done, use the slotted spoon to lift them out, either onto a prepared serving dish or into the saucepan of water if you will be holding them in.
  10. When ready to use eggs you have been holding, lift each egg out with a slotted spoon and let it drain well before placing it in it's final position.
  11. IF you have held the eggs in cold water, heat a pan with plenty of water in it almost to a boil. Turn off the heat and lower the eggs in as quickly as you can. Let them sit there with the heat off for 10 to 15 minutes until they are warmed through.
  1. U.S. measure: t=teaspoon, T=Tablespoon, c=cup, qt=quart, oz=ounce, #=pound, cl=clove in=inch, ar=as required tt=to taste
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