Poached Eggs the Idiot Proof Way

Dear Readers –

I must profusely apologize for the last week without posts.  I am still trying to find my equilibrium when it comes to balancing my roles as working professional, blogger, DAR officer, daughter, girlfriend, and a person who generally likes a lot of sleep.  This past week I hosted my friend Anna for dinner, cooked for Andy, packed myself (and the cat) up and drove to North Carolina, participated in a marathon shopping spree with my mom, decorated for and attended my cousin Sarah’s wedding, dug up vegetables from the garden, drove back to DC in a car that smelled like the giant garlic (from said garden expedition), and had dinner with Andy’s family that same night. Phew!  I’m exhausted just writing about it.  But now, as I have finally gotten a decent night’s sleep, I am back to my writing. Yay!

On tap for today – Elizabeth Learns to Poach an Egg (and eat it).  If you read about my history as a picky eater, you may recall that eggs were once on my forbidden foods list.  My mom tells the story that she fed me eggs once as a baby and I refused to eat them ever again.  Worried about this, my mom consulted the pediatrician who told her to just roll with it.  I might have had a tummy ache afterward, or simply didn’t like them.  Either way, it wasn’t worth the battle to make me eat them.  As I grew up my dislike of eggs (or rather my fear of trying them) severely limited my breakfast options to the sweet variety.  I mean, how many savory breakfasts can you think of that have nothing to do with the incredible, edible egg?

I finally decided to try eggs at some point in college and set about teaching myself to make super fluffy scrambles with all sorts of add-ins.  I’m sure I will include that method at a later date, but for now I’ll just mention that you basically beat them to death and cook them really, really slowly.  Other than scrambled eggs though, I really didn’t eat them in many other varieties.  Over-easy, poached, hard boiled, deviled, you name it – I was very much not interested.  However, there were all these dishes that I wanted to eat (particularly benedicts, which are served with oh so yummy hollandaise sauce) which used poached eggs, in particular, as a main ingredient.  It was never the egg itself that attracted me, but whatever the egg was served on – and it just seemed silly to me to order the dish without the egg.  So, when I sat down for brunch a month or so ago with my friend Dan and saw an amazing potato hash on the menu, served with panko crusted poached eggs, I finally bit the bullet and dove in.  Man oh man…. I have been missing something great all these years!

The issue of Bon Appetit that taught me how to poach an egg. PS… I plan on making those sticky buns sometime soon!

Of course, since I’d decided that I liked to eat poached eggs, I then also decided that I had to learn how to make them.  Enter the April issue of Bon Appetit magazine (one of my favorites currently in circulation).  This particular issue featured an entire spread on how to make everything from the loftiest soufflés to the creamiest scrambles, with tips from venerated chefs such as Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Suzanne Goin.  Their method for poaching eggs came from Thomas Keller and, I have to say, it really is foolproof.  If you follow the steps, you will end up with a lovely white and a creamy, runny yolk.  The only real drawback is that you really can only cook one egg at a time – which for a home cook really isn’t such a huge deal.  I was positively ecstatic about my results and am now a confirmed egg poacher for life!

Bon Appetit’s poached egg on toast…

… and my poached egg on toast!

Idiot Proof Poached Eggs


White vinegar


Small bowls (one per egg)

1 medium pot

1 whisk

1 slotted spoon

Paper towels

Timer (2 minutes)

Line up your small bowls or ramekins (one per egg), and place about ½ cup of white distilled vinegar in each one.  Gently break your eggs into the bowls and let stand for 5 minutes while you set up the rest of the process.  Bring several cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Set out paper towels, folded into quarters, for each egg you plan to poach.  If you’re doing more than two you might want to bring a separate pot of water to a boil as it’s not recommended to do more than two per pot.

Egg sitting in vinegar. You can see the transparent white, which is tightened by the vinegar so it doesn’t go running around in your boiling water.

When you have a nice rolling boil going, use your whisk to stir the water so that it gets a nice swirl going on and there’s a small vortex in the middle.  Gently pour the egg and vinegar into that vortex and use a spoon or your whisk to gently keep the water swirling as it comes back to a boil.  Stirring gently every few seconds, cook the egg for exactly two minutes, then remove with the slotted spoon and set on the paper towels.  Repeat.

The basic idea here is that the swirling water will wrap the white around the yolk so that you’re not attempting that insane two-spooned trick that you see on food TV shows all the time.   With the swirl you might not get a perfectly oval/symmetrical egg, but it will still turn out very nicely.  If there are any strings of white still attached you can gently remove them while it rests on the paper towels.  If you want to gently heat the egg back up (if it’s been out of the water for a while), just pop it back in the pot for about 30 seconds when you’ve got the heat turned off.

The only other thing that I noticed that the article did not mention is that the water has a tendency to boil over (I think because of the vinegar).  If you get a frothy bubbling over thing going, just lift the pot off the heat for a few seconds until it subsides.  You might just have to watch it closely.

Frothing pot that I had to lift off the heat several times.

Serving Suggestion: I served them on buttered toast with pink salt and a light dusting of cayenne.


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