Golden delicious

October 31, 2009

poachedeggHow to poach an egg

It’s the weekend. The weather is perfect. And in our house the breakfast cook is not me but Senor. The discrepancy between our skills with an egg became clear many years ago; he is the undisputed breakfast champion, which suits me perfectly (to say I am not a morning person is something of an understatement.)

Poaching an egg, I believe, is one of the most delicate and highly-skilled operations in the kitchen, and in my opinion the world is divided into two classes – people who can poach an egg and those who can’t. I am in the latter category; whenever I have tried I end up with a pan full of watery skeins of disintegrating egg white and a hard-yet-sodden little grey ball of yolk.

But Senor has developed the art of egg-poaching to perfection – the white is always just cooked through and perfectly un-drippy on the toast, and the yolk holds its shape before oozing gorgeously when cut.

So because I love you all, I hereby present Senor’s egg-poaching technique, dictated to and faithfully transcribed by yours truly.

  1. Take a non-stick frying pan & fill with about 5cm cold water. Make sure the pan is wide enough to poach a couple of eggs without them touching each other.
  2. Place pan over medium heat and immediately, and very gently, crack eggs into the water, making sure the white does not disperse too much.
  3. Now you play the waiting game. Use this time to make the toast and butter it.
  4. Occasionally test the firmness of the eggs by gently swishing the water near them to determine the wobble factor.
  5. When the egg is not quite as cooked as you like it, carefully remove it from the water with a non-stick slotted spatula, tilting the spatula for a few seconds to allow water to drain off. The whole egg-cooking procedure should take around 7 or 8 minutes.
  6. Carefully place the egg on your buttered toast – the egg will continue to cook as you bring it to the table. Best bread is Turkish or sourdough because it has crevices and holes for the  soft yolk to pour into without making the bread soggy.
  7. Best served with the Empress’s tomato oil pickle … Unless she hasn’t given you any for a while ... quite a while …



  1. EmBs approach is to heat that shallow pan of water, then turn off heat, crack eggs in and cover with lid for a steaming effect… She did 12 in one go, all perfect. She also has years of practice. EmB dis’ the swirling water effect that some people swear by.

  2. Yes Lou I agree that swirling water thing is a total dud idea, it’s how I have lost many a white … Em is clearly a genius. Twelve in one go. Sheesh.

  3. This is true art- and unlocks a secret of the universe. Thanks Charlotte, and Senor.

    I too had followed the crazy water swirling school- just about as helpful as adding a dash of vinegar – ugh. I had stopped even trying to cook a poached egg but now..

    Just got a horrible flashback to those metal egg poacher pans that made them so dry and bouncy…

  4. bravo Senor
    I have tried every method …. this could be the one
    swirling the water is pants I agree

  5. “making sure the white does not disperse too much” is the bit that gets me. How??

    • Yeah gully girl, that’s the trick. I’ve heard that breaking the egg gently into a cup first then pouring it into the pan keeps things neater but it could also be risky double handling. Fresh eggs are really important because the white’s thicker and naturally clings more closely to the yolk.

      (and yes, Hostess, hint noted)

    • gully girl, I have confirmation on the dispersal issue – as I’ve said below in the general reply, just do it gently and close to the water. I tried it this morning and it worked perfectly – the white does sort of disperse but most of it stays happily near the yolk for easy removal.

      Good luck ALL!

  6. I must try this. I agree with everyone. I’ve tried vinegar I’ve tried swirling and eventually resorted to gladwrap..tricky.

  7. Jules, I feel very nostalgically towards my mother’s egg poacher pan thing and know exactly the thing you mean. it always sort of fried the edges and it was a creepily uniform shape. For some reason as a child I loved that pan, it was early non-stick black stuff which was basically just black paint on aluminium, and scraped away gradually so my innards are probably still full of little black aluminium shards of poison … sigh.

    GullyGirl – this is a very important question that I shall interrogate Senor about as soon as he returns from interstate gallivants. I am THINKING it means just opening the shell very close to the water and sort of cupping it as you do, so it has a soft and close plop into the water rather than a fall from height … but really I wouldn’t have a clue, and shall get back to you.

    Empress, am glad you got the hint re t. oil pickle and have not heard of this cup double handling but am sure it works. And interesting re the freshness of eggs – knew freshies were better but not about the thicker white ..

    Gragra, am pleased to see you drop by. Pants is the word for the crappy water swirling thing. Who EVER thought of that?? Is is just a conspiracy, along with the stupid vinegar idea, to keep the eggs of the world for the true poaching champions, or what?

    Reemski – thanks so much for popping in, and I am, I have to say, INTRIGUED by your gladwrap. Please share! What on earth does this mean?? Does it work?

  8. I’ve tried and tried with poached eggs. I went so far with the swirly-thing I actually used a hand-held mixer to start the maelstrom, and then tried to simultaneously remove the beater with my right hand and dunk in the egg with the left, leaving a total mess. I decided to cheat and buy one of those things that looks like a muffin tin that fits in the pan.

  9. mixer? maelstrom? no wonder your eggs are a mess Grad .. the swirl is a swirl, it’s swift but it’s sure .. the oeuf is carried not drowned .. the swirl can be done alone but is best done in pairs .. one to persuade and stir the water, the other to crack and slide the oeuf into the vortex ..

  10. Don, what poetry. I don’t think you have a lot of swirly supporters here, however. But Grad, honey, what were you thinking?! I see the appeal of those tin lid things for sure. And what about the silicone poachers – anyone a fan? I know lots of folks who use them (you’re out there, aren’t you, you strong silent types).

    Anyway Don, with your alliterative allusions, perhaps you have inspired someone to take the swirly challenge …

  11. After reading all that I am reluctant to admit to being a swirly water fan, but it works if you are poaching only one egg. I bring the water to the boil, swirl it, gently crack the egg in, lid on, turn heat off and leave it for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay it on an old crust of bread before transferring it to your hot toast, this removes some sogginess. By which time you are starving…

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