Learn How to Poach Eggs With Confidence

Learn How to Poach Eggs With Confidence

Don’t let fear of poaching keep you from living your best brunch life. With our Yummly original Perfect Poached Eggs recipe, you’ll be ready for breakfast, any time!

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Scrambled, fried, hard-boiled eggs — eggs are often the first thing we learn to cook in the kitchen because eggs are the easiest. I vividly remember imitating my mother’s rapid motions beating eggs for a scramble, trying (unsuccessfully at first) to match her pace without splashing eggs all over the counter. Then, when the parenting shoe made it to the other foot, I remember beaming with pride as I looked over the shoulder of my then six-year-old, perched on a stepstool, carefully flipping a fried egg on his own for the first time. Bless you egg! So simple to cook that a child can do it. 

Except for a poached egg, that is. Poaching an egg can feel, well, risky — the poor little egg, denuded of its shell, unprotected in a bath of boiling water, holding itself together by sheer force of will. It’s enough to sow doubt in even the most experienced cook.  Of all the ways to cook eggs, poaching feels like the most precarious. 

It’s also one of the most rewarding.  Gently poached eggs are a warm blanket of a meal, with tender but firm whites surrounding piping hot velvety yolk; comfort food embodied. So, if you’re fearful about poaching eggs, fear not. Our guide to the perfect poached eggs will give you the confidence that only knowledge can provide. After studying our guide, and practicing a few times, you’ll be slinging Eggs Benedict and topping off your Lyonnaise salads with ease.  

Jump ahead to: 

Basic questions about poached eggs >>

Technique questions for poaching eggs >>

Tips for keeping and reheating poached eggs >>

Step-by-step guide to the best poached eggs >>

Get the recipe: Perfect Poached Eggs >>

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Basic questions about poached eggs

Before we go down the poached egg rabbit hole, let’s get the basics out of the way. 

What are poached eggs?

Poached eggs are eggs removed from their shells and gently cooking in barely boiling water. They usually have a runny yolk and fully cooked whites. When you want the softest egg of all, only poaching will do.

Are poached eggs healthy? 

Compared to what? If you usually fry your eggs in oil or butter, poached eggs have fewer calories since there’s no cooking fat. They are eggs and nothing more; so if you consider an egg to be healthy they’re the cat’s meow. If you’re afraid of dietary cholesterol, they’re a hand grenade of protein. Don’t get me started on Hollandaise Sauce, though.

How much water should I use? 

A lot. The more water you use, the less the temperature will be affected by the addition of an egg to the simmering liquid. Our technique calls for two inches of water or more in a dutch oven or wide saucepan. 

Should I salt the water? 

Not necessary; according to some poached egg experts, it may even interfere with perfect poaching by creating more egg-drop style loose wispy egg white when you tip your eggs into the water. 

What kind of pot is the best for poached eggs?

A wide, deep saucepan or a dutch oven is your best bet. A wider pan gives your eggs more elbow room, allowing you to poach four or more eggs at once.  A deep pan ensures you’ll have enough height to let your eggs maintain an ovoid shape while cooking. A heavy pan like a dutch oven will retain more heat so that your bare simmer stays barely simmering even when you add an egg to the water. 

What other equipment do I need?

It’s handy to have little ramekins to crack your eggs into and a slotted spoon to lift the poached fellas out of their water bath. 


Are fresh eggs easier to poach than older eggs? 

Fresh eggs work a little better: more of the egg white in a fresh egg is thick and clingy, resulting in less egg white loss to those egg-drop style shreds of white which inevitably break off when you tip your ramekins of egg into the hot water. In my experience, you’ll always lose some white to chaos, but the less watery the white, the less loss will occur. Older eggs tend to have more thin watery white that is more prone to breaking off and floating away. 

Technique questions for poaching eggs

We’ve got the lay of the land; now, here are some tips to help you achieve the perfect poached egg technique. 

How do you poach eggs, anyway?

We’ll go into detail below, but the basics are simple: boil some water, tip in raw eggs, cook for a few minutes and remove with a slotted spoon. 

Do I need to use vinegar?

We recommend it; the addition of vinegar to your poaching water adds a touch of acidity that affects the rate at which the simmering egg whites solidify and thus can contribute to a more shapely poached egg.


Will adding vinegar make my eggs sour? 

No. The quantity of vinegar used will not add a tart flavor to your poached eggs. It’s just enough to change the cooking chemistry in your boiling water and not enough to pickle your eggs. 

What about swirling the water in a vortex? 

It’s true, when you’re cooking a single poached egg at a time, a dramatic whirlpool can help keep more of the whites close to the center of the pot of water, contributing to a compact oval shape for the poached egg. However, when you’re cooking more than one poached egg at once, the vortex technique is not practical. Thanks to the laws of conservation of matter, your eggs cannot all be centered in the pan at once without congealing into a single rat king of intermingled eggs. 

How do I know that the water is the right temperature?

Bring the water to a full boil and then back off the burner until it slows to a simmer; you should see only a few bubbles rising to the surface. You can double check the visual signs with an instant read thermometer: the ideal poaching temperature is between 180°F and 190°F, just below boiling. 

What about poaching them in ramekins or other little cups? 

Part of becoming an expert in poached eggs is accepting the inevitability of loss. When you poach an egg, the runnier whites will always stray from the main body of the egg and sometimes detach. Yes, you can avoid it by using silicon or ceramic poaching cups that force the whole egg to stay together. But you sacrifice some of the tenderness that comes from direct contact with the water and the organic free-form shape that is the visually pleasing essence of a poached egg. Our advice: Resign yourself to loss and skip the poaching gadgets. Maybe this poem will help?

How long does it take to poach an egg?

Depends on how runny you like your yolk. Three minutes will give you a firm white and molten liquid yolk; add 30-60 seconds if you like a harder yolk, shave 20-30 seconds if you like a little liquid white. 

How does the size of the egg affect the cooking time?

The bigger the egg (and the colder the egg), the longer the poaching time. A jumbo egg may take four to five minutes to poach to perfection. Large eggs typically cook in three minutes total time. A small egg may be done in two and a half. 

How do I know when my poached eggs are cooked? 

When you lift the eggs out of the poaching water, give them a jiggle and a poke - you should be able to discern whether your whites are fully cooked by the level of jiggliness. If they’re not quite at your preferred doneness, return them to the pot for a little extra time. 

These danged eggs look all raggedy!

Even the freshest eggs will have some ragged thin whites that try to escape when you drop them in the poaching liquid. If you truly cannot stand the idea of a little ragged edge, consider straining off the runnier whites through a fine mesh strainer before poaching. Or use a blunt knife to trim your eggs to your desired shape after poaching. 

Can I poach more than one egg at once? 

Yes! You want your eggs to have plenty of space to maintain their separate egg identities while poaching, so don’t crowd your pot. But a wide saucepan or dutch oven can easily accommodate four eggs at once.


How about poaching eggs in the microwave? 

We have seen recipes for microwaved poached eggs which rely on preheating a small quantity of water in the microwave in a mug or small bowl, then adding a cracked egg and microwaving further. Perhaps it’s just semantics, but if a poached egg is cooked with microwave radiation instead of boiling water, is it still a poached egg? Or is it a microwaved egg? Might work! But it’s not the focus of our poached egg guide and not our recommended method. Especially if you’re poaching more than one egg, you don’t really save time by doing them in sequence in the microwave instead of all at once in a pot. 

Tips for keeping and reheating poached eggs

The brunch chef’s secret is that poached eggs keep very well if cooked in advance and can be reheated easily. Here are a bevy of tips for what to do when you’re preparing brunch for a crowd. 

Can I poach eggs ahead of time? 

Yes you can! If you’re poaching a mess of eggs for company, you can cook them in advance and reheat them just before serving. You’ll want to prepare a bowl full of ice water to dunk them in to stop the cooking process right after poaching and then blot off any excess water before sticking them in the fridge, covered. 

How long do poached eggs last in the fridge? 

They’ll keep for two days! 

How do I reheat poached eggs?

Let them stand at room temperature for 20 minutes to take the chill of the fridge off and then rewarm them by lowering them into hot water with a slotted spoon and letting them warm for 35 seconds right before serving. 

What should I do with all these poached eggs? 

It’s your life, buddy. Eggs Benedict, Lyonnaise salads, drop them on top of a bowl full of beans, put one on your avocado toast with a hit of chili crisp. Poached eggs are a versatile and healthy way to add a little protein to any meal. 


Step-by-step guide to the best poached eggs


Step 1: Boil water with a little vinegar!

In a wide saucepan or dutch oven, bring at least two inches of water to a rapid boil with a tablespoon of plain white vinegar. 

Step 2: Crack your eggs into ramekins

Prepare for poaching by pre-cracking your eggs into individual ramekins (straining through a fine mesh sieve is optional!). Not only will you be able to remove any errant shells and to repurpose any eggs whose yolks inadvertently break, you’ll also be in the best position to quickly slide each egg into the poaching liquid when the moment of truth arrives. 


Step 3: Turn down the heat to a gentle simmer.

When your water has reached a boil, turn down the heat so that it’s barely simmering. You want a gentle heat with a minimum of jostling, just a few bubbles should crack the surface of the water. 

Step 4: Pour each egg into the simmering water

Take your egg-filled ramekins, and holding them as close to the surface of the water as possible, tip them into the poaching liquid, one by one. Don’t panic if a little egg white feathers off and separates; it’s going to be OK! 


Step 5: Cook for three minutes; maintain the bare simmer. 

Set a timer for three minutes for perfectly runny yolks, and just-cooked whites. Keep an eye on the water, if it starts to bubble more, turn down the heat to maintain the right poaching environment.  

Step 6: Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper-towel lined plate (or an ice bath)

When the timer goes off, scoop each egg out of the poaching liquid, one by one, with a slotted spoon. Let the water drain off and put them on a paper-towel lined plate until you're ready to serve. If you’re cooking ahead, let them cool in an ice-bath before removing to a paper towel lined covered container for the fridge. 


Step 7: Eat the eggs!

A little salt, a little pepper, maybe a splash of hot sauce or Hollandaise. These eggs are poached to perfection. 

Get the recipe: Perfect Poached Eggs

You’ve got all the background you need. Now, check out the Yummly original recipe for Perfect Poached Eggs from Kate McMillan to put your poached egg knowledge to work! 

Yummly Original

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