Poached eggs are the Achilles heel of many a home cook, and that's a serious shame because they're absolutely amazing -- Julia Child called them "the purest and loveliest of ways to cook eggs." While the poaching process can be a little tricky to nail down at first, surmounting the learning curve is empowering -- once you've mastered how to make them, you won't be able to stop. You can savor poached eggs for breakfast, of course, but also atop a big leafy salad or even a heaping bowl of spicy Asian noodles. They add an instant zap of protein to any dish, and they're healthier than fried eggs because you don't need a drop of oil to cook them.
Google "how to poach an egg" and you'll stumble across a myriad of cooking techniques as well as a spectacular array of gadgets to help you get the job done. But egg poachers (like this one or even, sadly, this one) are like other unnecessary kitchen doodads like the quesadilla maker -- they will probably work, but why shell out the cash when you can conjure up the same results with a stove and a pan?
A perfectly poached egg has firm (but not rubbery!) whites and a smooth yet gooey bright yellow yolk. We scoured the Internet to find the best video demonstrations of the two major ways to achieve this holy grail, but first: a few pointers to help you out no matter which technique you choose to experiment with.
1. Start with the freshest eggs possible. As an egg ages, water from the white slowly migrates into the yolk, weakening the yolk membrane and increasing the likelihood that the yolk will break.
2. Gently simmer the water -- be careful not to boil it. Boiling water = shredded egg bits.
3. Use vinegar. Vinegar, about half a teaspoon per egg, helps the egg white to form. White vinegar or white wine vinegar is best.
4. To store poached eggs, just pop them into a bowl of ice water and they'll keep in the fridge for one to two days. To reheat, simmer another batch of water and gently add the egg to it when you're ready to serve.
And now, the videos:
The Traditional Way
The method in this video is the way most French chefs will teach you how to do it. You create a gentle whirlpool in the water, and then slowly drop in the eggs while the whirlpool works its magic.
The Other Way
Alton Brown's scientific method requires a thermometer, but it's worth the extra equipment. Making sure the water is 190 degrees before you start will help to ensure perfect eggs each and every time.
Ready to get started? Try one of the recipes below. And once you've conquered poaching eggs with water, feel free to give it a go with other poaching liquids like red wine, stock or even cream.