This section looks at poaching eggs so you can have a meal in minutes with a yolk cooked just to your liking. We then look at adding a few basic ingredients to turn your eggy meal into a feast.
The starting point for poaching eggs is whether or not you need to splash out on poaching gadgets. My guidance is to perfect the pan method and ignore the gadgets. If you plan to use a poaching pan, a silicon poaching cup or some other method they normally create extra washing up and use up precious space in the kitchen. In addition to this, eggs can be poached in a lot of other tasty liquids than water, soups and sauces for example, and your gadget will be a hindrance not a help. The ONLY caveat to this is if you don’t have fresh eggs to poach, see below.
A perfect poached egg will have a cooked white evenly surrounding the yolk and be shaped like the egg in its shell. To achieve this it is really important that you use the freshest eggs available. Your fresh egg has a white that holds together well. As the egg ages the white starts to break down and get watery. When cooking watery whites they disperse into the cooking liquid rather than holding around the yolk and your worst case scenario will be a poached egg yolk with no white attached. If you absolutely have to poach an old egg this is the time to consider a poaching cup, however I would prefer to have it boiled.
How to poach your eggs
DO NOT start cooking eggs and go off to do something else. I guarantee you will be longer than you think. The result will either be a hard poached egg or something very not nice sruck to the bottom of a boiled dry pan. Be focussed for 5 mins and if you must leave the pan switch it off before you leave.
You will need
- A saucepan large enough o cook all the eggs you need, we manage 2 eggs comfortably in a milk pan
- Water either from the tap or boiled in a kettle
- White wine vinegar - optional
- As many eggs as you want to poach
- A cup to break your egg into
- Something to eat with your egg. Toast or an English muffin works well or a small salad works well.
- If you are good at multi-tasking then cook your toast whilst the eggs are cooking. If you don’t cope with doing 2 things at once do the toast first and keep it warm in the oven whilst you cook your eggs.
- Fill your saucepan three quarters full of water, bring it to the boil. I don’t add anything else, but if you want to, add a splash of white wine vinegar at this stage.
- Break your egg into a cup.
- Pour the egg carefully into the pan, then add more eggs as needed, one at a time.
- Bring the water back up to boiling then reduce the heat to a very slow simmer, not boiling. A simmer is important for the timings below, a boil will cook the eggs quicker and you risk overcooking them plus the water will boil over, big mess!
- Remove your eggs from the pan using a slotted spoon, allowing the water to drain off, you can dry your egg on a piece of kitchen towel if you want to.
- Add the egg to your plate of toast/salad/any other goodies, eat and enjoy!
Remember our yolk cooking stages, when poaching your timings are as follows, once your water is back to simmering;
- Raw – just don’t go there
- Runny – 2.5 to 3 mins, no longer
- Soft – 3 to 5 mins
- Hard –
- 5 to 8 mins,
- 5 if eating hot,
- 8 if eating cold
- Breaking your raw egg on the side of the pan and pouring it from the shell into the pan, instead of using a cup, will result in a line of white down the outside of your pan and you will have a more difficult washing up task ahead. Don’t go there it wont save you time, they use egg whites in glue for a reason!
- All eggs will lose a little white when they are added to the pan, no matter how fresh they are. Don’t panic, no-one said you would have no washing up!
- If you forget to monitor the water and it boils with the eggs in, then they will cook quicker. You are highly likely to get hard yolks and the pan may boil over. You will then have a messy pan and hob to clean!
- If one of your eggs has a watery white it wont affect the rest you’ll just have a messy pan to clean and an egg that doesn’t look so good.
- If your yolk is runnier than you like it, don’t return it to the pan as the water will have cooled and well, the mess – just don’t go there. Eat it and learn that you need to cook your eggs a little longer next time.
- If your yolk is harder than you want it, you can’t un-cook an egg. Eat it and cook your eggs for less next time
- Be aware that when your chickens are off colour, out of sorts or going off the lay they may lay watery eggs. If this is the case you will need to get to know who is laying which eggs and use them for something else. Eggs with a softish shell are highly likely to have watery whites.
- It is only when you have watery whites or older eggs to use that a poaching gadget may be useful, but adding white wine vinegar to the poaching water instead will help keep the whites together better. If I am in that situation I boil the eggs instead of poaching them, after all the egg shell does the same job as a poaching gadget. You still have to wash up your pan!
- No sure how old the eggs are then put the unbroken egg in the pan of boiling water and leave it there for 10 seconds, remove it from the pan with a slotted spoon then break the egg into the boiling water. Your white should hold together better.
- Remember, you are learning it is OK to get it wrong as that is one of the ways of learning.
Adding a poached egg can make a real difference to the taste experience of a basic meal. Here are some photo's of meals where a poached egg has been added.
- Smoked haddock and a poached egg for breakfast
- Elephants ear steak with a poached egg, green vegetables and garlic butter
- Smoked Basa with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce
Once you have mastered basic egg poaching you will want to get more adventurous. Check out our "Poached egg recipes" page for more serving suggestions and ideas for taking your perfect poached eggs from a simple meal to a feast fit to impress.
We hope you have enjoyed these recipes and would love to hear from you if you have any recipes to share, serving suggestions or variations to add.