Welcome back to the First We Feast GIF Tutorial series, where we ask restaurant cooks to demonstrate easy ways to step up your technique when cooking at home.
The power of a properly poached egg should not be underestimated. With warm yolk that gushes out from the center, it’s the ultimate accompaniment to roast beef hash, frisée aux lardons salad, a bowl of grits or polenta, and simple buttered toast.
But it’s likely that you are apprehensive—even afraid—of egg poaching. How do you get the whites to set, without turning the egg into a gigantic mess of wispy white tentacles? Along with chopping garlic and searing a steak, poaching an egg is one of the most fundamental skills that every home cook should master.
For some guidance, we enlisted chef Nick Korbee of Egg Shop to teach us poaching technique that works 100% of the time. At his Nolita restaurant, Korbee serves huevos around-the-clock, in everything from pulled pork sandwiches to quinoa and avocado bowls.
Before you get started, a couple egg-poaching principles:
- DO put vinegar in the water
- DON’T use boiling water
- DO get as close to the surface of the water as you possibly can when cracking the egg in
- DON’T put poached eggs on a sandwich (that’s what fried eggs are for)
How to Poach an Egg
1. Fill a saucepan with a few inches of water, and bring it to a rapid simmer.
2. Add a splash of white vinegar, rice vinegar, or cider vinegar to the water. (The vinegar isn’t essential, but it improves the egg’s appearance because the vinegar coagulates the egg white.)
3. Add a pinch of salt to the water. Salt also helps set the egg. NOTE: You want your water to be at a “rapid simmer” (see what that looks like below).
You do NOT want your water to be boiling. If your water has already begun boiling, bring the temperature down to below the boiling point.
4. Now it’s time to crack your egg into the water. Get as close to the surface of the water as you possibly can (without completely burning your fingers) and crack the egg in.
Korbee says, “There are old wives’ tales about stirring your poached egg and getting the water moving…blah, blah, blah. If your water is at a light simmer, the agitation of the water will actually turn the egg. You don’t need to mess around with a spoon at this point.”
Korbee says, “I only stir to manipulate the aesthetics of the poached egg—that’s it.”
5. Let the water get back up to a simmer. At this point, a foolproof method is to pull the pan off the heat and let the egg finish poaching.
Once your egg is in the water, it’s will take no longer than three minutes to cook.As it cooks, you can lift the egg out of the water and check to see if the white is still loose. If the white is not set, just put it back and let it continue cooking.
To see if the white is set, you can poke at the egg very gently with a fork. Korbee says, “This is just under. If I held it in the water for another 30 seconds, all of this loose, milky white stuff would be set, but the yolk would still be runny.”
Once the white is set, and the egg wobbles—just a little—when nudged, remove the egg from the water and let it drain on a folded paper towel.
Eat your perfectly-poached egg on a slice of buttered toast, or on top of a a big pile of sausage, cheese, and grits.
RELATED: How to Fry an Egg