Perfectly Easy Poached Eggs (plus a recipe)

I wonder if you feel the same way I do about eggs: since I was a kid, I’ve loved eating any kind of egg with a runny center, whether it’s poached, overeasy, or softboiled, purely for the pleasure of dipping my bread in the oozing yolk that’s been sprinkled generously with salt.

By the time I got around to making my own eggs and experimenting with poached eggs on meals, I encountered a problem almost immediately: poached eggs were a lot harder to make than I ever imagined.  I always assumed that eggs were the easiest thing to master, but I slowly realized they’re actually one of the hardest.  When I was taking classes at the Cordon Bleu in Paris, one of the chefs joked that the hardest dish for a chef to master is scrambled eggs.  Now I get it.

So I spent a good portion of the afternoon yesterday researching poached eggs and trying to figure out which method was best for foolproof poached eggs.  As it turns out, hundreds of thousands of people have their opinions on how to properly poach an egg, and almost all of them are different.  I have my favorites though:

-Gourmet Magazine’s recipe dating back to 1944

-Smitten Kitchen’s step-by-step recipe with photos

-This Australian or New Zealander’s brief yet precise video (I just really like his accent)

As far as I can tell, three major things are important:

  1. The water you poach your eggs in should be very hot, and almost simmering, but not quite.  You might see some bubbles forming at the bottom of the pot, but nothing rising.
  2. If you start rotating your water right before dropping the eggs in, the eggs will rotate as well and that will automatically keep the whites near the yolks
  3. Don’t freak out.  This one is the hardest for me, because there’s something so scary about dropping your eggs in a pot and losing all control over their turnout.  But, it almost always works out, I promise!

So below you’ll find written out instructions on how to properly poach an egg.  How do you like to eat poached eggs?

I’m also including a recipe for a salad that I love to make with poached eggs, a very simple concoction if you will, but one that is hearty and satisfying while staying on the lighter side.


I used little cremini mushrooms in my salad, which taste great and are relatively inexpensive.  You could certainly switch them up for some wild mushrooms, which you could saute in some olive oil for about 7-8 minutes over medium heat.  Either way, try to buy your mushrooms from a grocery store (such as Whole Foods, maybe even Trader Joe’s) that lets you purchase mushrooms individually so you’re not stuck with leftovers.

Happy egg poaching!  It is so cold in New York City that after 5 minutes on the street I can no longer feel my face.  How’s the weather in your hood?

Perfectly Easy Poached Eggs- makes 2 poached eggs

  • 2 eggs
  • water
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar (white whine, white, red, or unflavored)
  • 1 teaspoon salt

1. Fill a pot with a few inches of water. Add salt and vinegar, stir once, and bring to a boil.
2. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat.  You don’t want water to even simmer; it should be very hot and looking like it is on the verge of bubbling.
3. Break your eggs into two shallow bowls or cups.
4. You want your water to be spinning. Using a wooden or plastic spoon, start rotating the water slowly so that it looks like a baby whirlpool. Once the water is rotating, gently slide in your eggs and let them rotate in the pan. It might look like a cloudy mess and your mind might be thinking “oh no”, but all will be calm and perfect in just a few minutes. Be cool my friends.
5. Leave the eggs in water until the white part is firm, and the yolk is still creamy and runny, between 3 1/2 – 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer your beautiful eggs onto a plate that’s covered with a paper towel, and let eggs dry.
Ta-da!

Onto Our Next Recipe of the Day:
Mixed Greens Salad with Poached Eggs & Mushrooms – serves 1

  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 6-8 regular mushrooms (white or cremini), about 3.5oz/100g, washed, dried, and thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 cups loosely packed mixed salad greens, such as mesclun, arugula, and spinach
  • 2 perfectly poached eggs

1.Prepare poached eggs as directed above.  Let rest on paper towel-lined plate while continuing with this recipe.
2. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, reduce heat to medium low and add your mushrooms, making sure they don’t crowd each other and they all are touching the pan. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt.
3. Cook without touching or sauteeing, 4 minutes. Flip mushrooms over with a fork or thin spatula, and cook for 3 minutes more.
4. In a bowl, squeeze 1 teaspoon lemon juice from one of the halves (wrap unused lemon half in saran wrap and store in fridge for another use). Whisk in tablespoon olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste.
5. Toss dressing with greens and mushrooms; spread on a plate. Top with poached eggs, and sprinkle with more freshly ground black pepper if desired.

5 thoughts on “Perfectly Easy Poached Eggs (plus a recipe)

  1. I brought 6 fresh-laid eggs from my daughter’s “farm” yesterday so your techniques for poaching eggs are perfect timing for me. Right now, my favorite way to poach an egg is in a tomato-based soup recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks “Ready When You Are”.

    Saw your response to the squash question on your squash and bean soup recipe so will put that on my list of “to do’s”.

    And here in Huntington, WV, the temperature is 18 degrees at 10 p.m. and I’ve been cold all day!

  2. I’m a huge fan of poached eggs and once I figured out how to make them – I never looked back! I also LEARNED how to make scrambled eggs (Thanks Julia Child ~ and your amazing show). I can’t get over the difference! Eggs are amazing when they’re done right! GREAT write up!

  3. I found your blog while looking for kuri squash recipes.

    I love eggs with runny yolks, but so far have never tried poaching them at home. I have all sorts of kitchen goals for 2012, now that makes another one!

    It is raining here on Vancouver Island.

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