How to poach an egg to perfection

How to poach eggs perfectly

The perfect poached egg. Tender whites around a warm liquid yolk that oozes out like liquid gold when you cut into it. Place it on top of a salad and it turns into a meal. Place it on top of your favorite vegetables and you have brunch. Layer an English muffin with smoked cheese, roast beef and a poached egg and you have a fancy breakfast to rival that served in hotels and restaurants.

If you have never poached an egg before and you are intimidated by it, don’t be. It is much easier than you think. There are just a couple of “secrets” to learn and you will get perfect  poached eggs every single time.

Since today is the 14th that means it  is time for our daring cooks reveal, this month was a little different. In a “celebration” of past Daring Cooks and Daring Bakers challenges, Lisa challenged all of us to search through the Daring Kitchen archives and pick any one we’d like! The REAL challenge was picking which delicious recipe(s) to try!

I chose the December 2010 challenge “poach to perfection” because when I asked my readers on Facebook, “what recipes would you like to see more of on chef in disguise?” many responded with a request for basic techniques. I found the poach to perfection challenge and I knew immediately it was the one.

Why poach eggs?

It is a healthier way to prepare eggs as opposed to frying them because there is no oil or fat involved.Poaching is also a great way to get consistent results. You can make your eggs as soft or as hard as you like them every single time. No morning disappointments.

Added to that poached eggs are very versatile. You can serve them on bread, over salad, in a sandwich. You can poach them in water, in a tomato sauce to make shakshouka. You can top them with different sauces and herbs. The possibilities are endless, something you will find very helpful if you have picky kids at home.

Poached egg with english muffins

How to poach an egg to perfection

You will need:

Eggs (as many as you wish to serve)


White vinegar (see notes on using other types of vinegar)



Select a pan  that can take 1.5- 2 liters of water or you can fill it to a depth of at least 4 inches of water

Add the water and bring to a gentle boil

poach 1

Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar per cup of water. I know some people are strongly against adding the vinegar but I have found I get much better results with the vinegar. The role of the vinegar is to improve the egg’s appearance because the vinegar coagulates the egg white.

Lower the temperature. You don’t want a strong boil because the quick bursting bubbles may rupture your egg yolk

For the best results, only poach one egg at a time. More than one egg risks merging into other eggs when cooking. If you need to poach more than one at once, stop at four because any more will throw out the timing and merging mess is inevitable.

Break an egg into a small dish. It is much easier to slide the egg in the water from a dish than to crack it into the water

poach 2

Make a vortex with your spoon or spatula. Slide the egg into the middle of the vortex, this will help the egg to maintain its shape

At first it will look messy, with whips of white swirling around. Don’t panic, it will come together beautifully.

poach 3

Turn off the heat, cover the pan and set the timer. For a soft egg with runny yolk you will need 3-5 minutes. You want the whites to set and the yolk to jiggle a little when you gently push it. For a hard egg yolk you will need 5-7 minutes.

Scoop your egg  out with a slotted spoon.

And let it drain on a folded paper towel.

Now that you have the perfect poached egg there is a world of options on how to enjoy it. Here are a few serving suggestions

Serve on thick slices of crusty toast.

Serve on top of a salad

Serve on top of your favorite vegetable or leafy greens

Serve with baked beans, a cooked tomato and sausages.

Serve inside a pita bread pocket.

Serve as eggs Benedict.
Or do what I did

Poached egg with english muffins

Toast an english muffin

Top it with smoked cheese , a slice of roast beef and your poached egg

Sprinkle a little salt and a dash of herbs (oregano or herbs de province work beautifully )


Helpful tips

• Make sure to use the freshest eggs possible. Farm-fresh eggs will make for the best poached eggs. The older the eggs the thinner the whites get and that means they will spread all over the place when you put them in the water

• Adding a bit of white vinegar to your water will help stabilize the eggs and cook the whites faster. Other vinegars (balsamic, red wine vinegar, apple cider vinegar) are fine, and sometimes taste great when poaching eggs, but will possibly affect the final taste and color of your poached egg.

• You can poach eggs ahead of time (about a day). Just immerse them in ice water after poaching, and then keep them in a bowl of water in the fridge. When you are ready to use them, place them in hot (not boiling) water until they are warmed through.

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