How to cook a poached egg: My go-to method for the perfect poachies

I love a good poached egg and for anyone who knows me that won’t come a surprise, I go on about them a lot. At times though, they are the bane of my life. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to poachies and there’s nothing I hate more than messing them up.

I’ll take a slightly overcooked scramble any day, but poached eggs need to be just right. If they look a bit misshapen it’s disappointing, but not the end of the world. If they’re overcooked, then in my eyes that’s game over.

For years, I was a big advocate for the water-swirling method, as it COULD produce picture-perfect eggs with lovely, runny centres – if it worked, that is. Now though, I’m totally converted to the gentler, and far less stressful, slide-in method. While you might not always get an ‘ideal’ shape this way, you’re far less likely to end up in tears with a sad, detached yolk and stringy white mess.

While I can’t promise you’ll have five-stars eggs every time (I still mess them up sometimes), there are some pretty easy ways to increase your chances of cooking perfect poachies, with tender but cooked-through whites and lovely bursting yolks.

Here, I’ll talk you through exactly what I do, so you can make great looking and tasting eggs with minimal faff and stress…hopefully.

Use fresh eggs (free-range or organic)

I know you’ve probably heard it time and time again, but fresh eggs are a must if you’re poaching. Doesn’t matter if they are organic or not. I’ve used basic free range eggs that have produced better poachies than super expensive ones, simply because they’ve been crazy fresh. You can still achieve a half decent poached egg with my method if they aren’t fresh, but that white WILL spread.

Get yourself a high-sided, wok-style pan with a lid

I don’t use a saucepan to poach my eggs, I use a wok-style pan with a lid like the one here. You’ll want a good non-stick one.

Fill the pan with enough water to cover the eggs

This might take a bit of practice to get just right. It’s hard to give an exact measurement but too much water and the egg can spread out too much. Too little, and the egg will be poking out the top and doesn’t cook properly. If the water is sitting a couple of cm above the egg, then you’re probably in a good territory.

Add white wine vinegar

Vinegar really does help the egg white coagulate even faster, so don’t skip it. I’ve tried it plenty of times with vinegar and plenty without, and my eggs always come out better when I use it. I prefer white wine vinegar as it doesn’t discolour the eggs and also has a milder flavour.

Don’t be scared of using a lot either, the taste really doesn’t transfer unless you put in half a bottle of the stuff. I usually opt for about a tbsps worth but you can get away with more if you want to be extra sure your egg will firm up.

Roll the egg in hot water water for 20 seconds

While the egg is still in its shell, place it in the hot water and gently roll it around for around 20 seconds, but no longer. This firms up the white ever so sightly but shouldn’t set any of it. It helps the egg keep its shape better when you place it in the water, minimising the risk of that dreaded spread.

Don’t crack the egg straight into the water!

You should crack your egg into a little cup or dish, such as these Le Creuset ones here or these slightly more affordable sauce dishes. I typically use a measuring cup but you can use anything, as long as it’s a good depth. Those little glass Gü pudding pots are ok. They’re ever so slightly too big, but can be used if you have nothing else.

It’s really important not to get a cup that’s too shallow, wide or deep, as this will disturb the egg too much when you place it in the water.

Gently but swiftly slide your egg into the water

Once the water is slightly bubbling and simmering but NOT boiling, slide your egg into the centre of the pan with a swift but gentle motion. The more confident you are with this, the better your egg will be. Spend too long pouring it in and it will spread.

Turn the heat right down and pop a lid on

Once your eggs are in, the hob can be turned to the lowest setting. The lid should be used to create a steamy environment for the egg to cook in. It should only take a few minutes for the egg white to fully cook with a soft yolk, but you can leave it for longer if you prefer a more jammy centre. I always take my eggs out a little before I think they are perfect, as they continue to cook for a short while out of the pan.

Use a slotted spoon to gently scoop the egg out onto your worktop

Once it’s ready I always use a metal slotted spoon to remove my egg and place it onto a double-layer of kitchen paper to soak up any excess water. You may also need to blot the top of the egg if any craters have formed in the white. After just 30 seconds, your egg should be dry enough to enjoy.

What’s your go to method for the perfect poached eggs? If you have any further tricks or tips for poachies or otherwise, let me know in the comments.

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