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How to Poach an Egg

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Poaching an egg is an easy technique once you learn how to properly do it. Many people are fearful of breaking the egg or ending up with soggy, runny eggs, but I have a few tips to help you become a pro at poached eggs.

This healthy cooking technique requires no added fat, and it is fast enough for even a busy morning. (Worried about the cholesterol in this "perfect protein" food? Check out this article to see why eggs are excellent any time of day.)

I put together a short video demonstrating the process, along with a list of helpful hints.

Some tips:

  • To keep eggs from getting too hard, the water should be about 180 degrees Fahrenheit--not boiling.
  • You'll know your water is ready when there are tiny bubbles in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add a tablespoon or so of vinegar to the pan to help keep the egg protein from disintegrating in the pan. The acid in the vinegar acts as a coagulant.
  • Give the water a few swirls with your wooden spoon to help keep the egg in the center of the pan.
  • Never crack the egg over the water bath. Instead, crack it into a shallow dish and slide it into the water just above the surface.
  • The egg will sink to the bottom, then rise as it cooks.
  • Poach eggs ahead of time and store in water. Reheat them in a water bath when ready to eat.
  • A soft poached egg takes about 3 minutes.
  • Serve on a slice of whole wheat toast with wilted spinach. Add on a cup of skim milk and two clementines, and you've got a hearty breakfast: 400 calories, 8 g fat, 26 g protein, and 9 g fiber.
While poached eggs are usually associated with eggs Benedict, a heavy dish made with Hollandaise sauce, Canadian bacon and an English muffin, there are plenty of other ways to eat them. Runny egg yolks make a great sauce or dressing in many dishes. In addition to serving the poached eggs on toast, you can also serve them:
  • atop salads for a very European twist
  • on fat-free refried beans
  • over brown rice and steamed vegetables
  • atop whole-wheat pasta and tomato sauce
  • with toast points for dipping
  • on a whole-wheat English muffin with two slices of Canadian bacon for a lighter version of eggs Benedict.

If you liked this video, be sure to check out my others at SparkRecipes.com.

What is your favorite way to cook an egg?

U.S. F.D.A. Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

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CHERYLHURT 2/23/2020
Great Report
MUSICNUT 12/21/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
KOALA_BEAR 11/23/2019
I like all egg cooking styles but fried are my favorite even tho I can also poach in a fry pan. Use slotted spatula to remove then place on paper towel for a minute to drain. Pop onto dark buttered rye toast & it's heavenly. I use salt substitute & white pepper. Best breakfast ever altho I work in more variety nowadays thanks to SP. Report
KHALIA2 11/18/2019
I oil a cup with vegetable oil and put in the microwave oven for 35 min. and it comes out just like McDonald's eggs. Report
GABY1948 9/20/2019
Thanks Report
I'm going to experiment because I could never seem to poach them correctly before. Report
NELLJONES 8/16/2019
I've never liked poached eggs. Mom butchered them when I was little, that was it for me. Report
KHALIA2 8/15/2019
Great info, chef Meg! Report
I purchased a small egg poacher pan. It is stainless steel and has a cover, as well as an insert which holds the 4, removable egg cups). Simply fill with water to just below the insert line. Bring to boil. Add insert. Add eggs to cups. Cover. Cook desired amount of time--and viola! "Boiled eggs" to your desired consistency without having to PEEL the boiled eggs. Yes! Also excellent (or shall I say egg-cellent?) for when you need a few boiled eggs for a salad. Quick to make. Quick to clean up. Report
thanks Report
When I was a child, I remember my mom making me a poached egg on toast when I was sick. Good memories. Report
How long to "hard poach" an egg? I have trouble peeling boiled ones sometimes. Thanks! Report
good info. Report
I occasionally have a soft poached egg but I must have toast & s&p with it otherwise I can't do runny. And one of those is the limit. I prefer them hard cooked. Report
Thanks! Report
I use a dedicated poaching pan but know the other technique as well. Report
Nice to have this recipe available. Report
Good to know Report
Whilst poached eggs aren't my favourite- my favourite is over medium with a soft NOT runny yolk- i recognize the fact that they aren't THAT disgusting and are better for me. I can't understand is how its so hard for some I think I did them as an 8 year old boy. Too many years ago than I care to share. Report
I've never understood the appeal of poached eggs. They taste like fried eggs without the butter. Butter makes everything better. I guess if you're trying to lighten things a little, but so often this method is used for fancy egg dishes like eggs benedict, where you just add the butter in a different form, hollandaise.

I used to have to cook them in the restaurants all the time. I hope I never have to poach another egg. Report
I've found that poaching eggs during the five minutes that I am boiling up my plain oatmeal is very easy. Put the oats in you water, add the eggs and boil for 5 minutes. Eggs and grains... mixed, no fuss. You can find the full recipe in Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything cookbook. Report
It took my a while before I mastered the technique of egg poaching. This may help. www.bbcgoodfood.com/technique/how-p

I always wanted to get the egg to turn in on itself like a little golf ball (the way the chef's do it). The key is to stir the water rapidly to create the centrifugal force for the egg white to turn in on itself! Report
I love poached eggs....curious about the vinegar. Doesn't it leave a taste? Report
I know these directions are the proper chef way of cooking. I wonder how many people are turned off from cooking for themselves because it looks so complicated. Take it from an old lady who has been cooking at home, not professionaly, for a long time. You don't need to do all that. Put a couple of inches of water in a small pan, crack the egg and drop it into the simmering water. Cook until it's as done as you like it. Remove with a slotted spoon. If you like, a slice of bread makes a good sponge to absorb extra water from the egg before plating it. Most people I know skip this step. By the way, I have never in my lifetime had disentegrating eggs. Report
A microwave poacher makes it even easier and takes a minute or less, depending on how you like your eggs. I like to put on on top of half a light English muffin with a wedge of Light Laughing Cow cheese. Report
I enjoy eggs- the yoke must be firm. Report
I love eggs pretty much any way they are cooked. I recently adopted a vegan eating lifestyle and the only part of it which has been difficult for me is giving up eggs. So sad. Report
Amazing timing. For the last several days I have been thinking about poached eggs but have never cooked them. Great video and now I will make a breakfast with spinach and poached egg! Thanks. Report
omelettes with veggies. boiled egg and poached eggs cholesterol city NO! Report
We ate out today for a late breakfast and I had two poached eggs. They were delicious. Report
in an omelet Report
I love poached eggs! Report
I was running out of ideas about cooking eggs and I have plenty of eggs!!
I´m going to try them out! Report
Some times I like to boil a egg for two and half to three minutes depends on the size. Then place them in cold water to stop them cooking. Once cold I just dust them with flour then dip them into beaten egg then roll them in bread crumbs. Then back into the beaten egg and again into the bread crumbs. Then cook them in a deep fryer untill golden. I like to place them on top of a salad. And when you cut into the deep fried egg the yoke runs out over the salad. Dont let the deep frying put you off for you dont eat them every day. Go on try them they are really yummy. pthere in New Zealand Report
I bought the silicon poach pods for poaching eggs. No more fuss, no more disintegrating eggs, no vinegar needed, and perfect eggs every time. Worth the money if you like poached eggs. Report
We have chickens so any egg recipes are very helpful when you get an abundance of them. I occasionally have poached egg with asparagus on toast for lunch. Very yummy!
I'm like HAKUKAT... poached eggs are my prefered way of cooking eggs (for me at least). I poach an egg and put it on an english muffin (whole wheat or sourdough, depends on my mood) several sprays of imitation margarine, a small bed of spinach leaves, one medium slice baby portabello mushroom, a slice of white American cheese and two pieces of shaved ham. Garnished with yellow mustard, Tapatio and ground horseradish.

I serve it with three apple wedges and a cup of coffee.

It's one of my favorite breakfasts.

Thanks for the vinegar tip.

Dennis Report
Poached are my favorite way and I make them often. Thanks for the tip for the vinegar, I will try that out tomorrow morning! Report
Loved the 'vinegar plus swirling around the egg' once in the water to keep it together! (That's always been a challenge!) Thanks tips plus your video! Report
I'm going to make this right now for breakfast! Report
eggs are always good!! Report
Well, I did it. I poached an egg. It didn't look as pretty as yours, but it tasted like... an egg. Thanks Chef Meg! Report
Yummy, yummy, yummy. Report
I have never had any luck poaching an egg but basting one is a lot easier. You spray a non-stick skillet and heat. add your egg. when the white is fairly done on the bottom then you add a large splash of water and immediately put a lid on the skillet. The water steams the top side. When the white is cooked on top your egg is done and the yolk is still runny. Doesn't take as long as poaching and you can put in as many eggs as you need to cook ,Just use a larger skillet. Report
Telling people to eat runny egg yolks is irresponsible, and frankly, could potentially leave SparkPeople open to lawsuit. Hard poached, and hard cooked eggs are great, but according to the US FDA, runny egg yolks and raw eggs, are potentially deadly! Don't believe me? See for yourself: http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceCom

Don't want to read through all the mumbo jumbo? Here's the relevant part, copied directly from that link: SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Report
yum, now I'm hungry! poached eggs are intimidating if you've never done, but quite easy once you try it! give it a go! Report
Size6ByJune, you are to be congratulated! FINALLY someone has the right idea! I'd lose the half-and-half, though; the idea is to reduce the carbs to almost zero - and you don't want - or need - the lactose.

The only thing I'd suggest is adding some turmeric - it's a very powerful antioxidant.

Now, is that a UK 6 (which I am) or a US 6? Report
My Grandfather lived to almost 91 & ate oatmeal every weekday but always had 2 poached eggs over toast on Sunday mornings.

I prefer scrambled with lots of veggies, or spinach & salsa, or anything but runny. They're wonderfully quick protein. Report
I recently learned about adding vinegar to the water, and it does make a difference in keeping the egg together. I also add a pinch of salt to the water before heating it. Regarding the question about poaching eggs until the yolks are hard, I believe that's called "hard poaching" and a perfectly good way to eat them. I prefer soft to medium yolks. These days, I poach two eggs in the same water (I can do up to four, but the last two don't have as much egg-white sticking to them), take the eggs out with a slotted spoon, and then put them into a bowl. Once my unbuttered toast is ready, I slide two eggs on top of the toast, and eat the whole thing with a fork and knife.

I can hardly wait for breakfast tomorrow.... Report
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