Equipment you will need:
- Eggs: Be aware that some chickens just don't know how to
lay a poachable egg. Before doing anything important test an egg from the
batch. If it makes a mess in the pan, get another batch from a different
- Fresh: Eggs for poaching must be as fresh as you can get
them. Older eggs have runny whites which will make sloppy looking poached
- Timing for poaching eggs is very critical. The trickiest part is
learning exactly when to pull the eggs, because the surest way to ruin
them is to overcook them. The yolks must be skinned over but still very
liquid inside, both for flavor and to act as a sauce for the whites.
- Learn to judge doneness by poking the whites near the
yolk with a chopstick and noting how they jiggle. With a little practice
you can get them right every time.
- Holding: Once eggs are poached they can be held in warm
water until you have them all ready - or - in cold water and refrigerated
- Preferences: Some people insist on their eggs being
overcooked, not because they like the flavor but out of squeamishness.
Serve them scrambled eggs and bitch about having to overcook them.
- The French Method: Some gourmet cookbooks describe the
"French method" for poaching eggs, supposedly used by the great chefs.
You swirl hot water into a whirlpool, then carefully unload the egg into
the eye of the whirlpool where it will be "pocketed" until done. This is
a cruel joke designed to convince yuppies and "purists" that
poaching eggs is nearly impossible. Even if this method worked, which
it most certainly does not, you could only poach one egg at a time.
The so called "American" method is the only method mentioned by
Escoffier, beyond whom only Carême is greater.
- Devices: Many poaching aids are sold to contain eggs as
they poach. Some work, some don't, but most produce a very "industrial"
looking egg. I use no devices and recommend none.
- Sauces can often be made the day before.
- Health Note: Poached eggs fall under the USDA heading of
"undercooked eggs". which may carry salmonella. This is a controversial
subject, particularly since salmonella problems seem all to be
institutionally related. For full details see my
- A sauté pan or similar about 2-1/2" deep and about 10" across.
- A saucepan or similar of sufficient size to hold all the eggs you
intend to poach floating in warm water without excessive crowding. This
is not necessary if you intend only a few eggs to be served immediately
they are done.
- A slotted spoon of large size, say 3 inches or more across, for
lifting the eggs out of the pan when they are done.
- A couple of very small dishes or shallow cups with which to get the
eggs into the hot water with minimum disturbance.
- A wooden spatula with which to move eggs around in the pan.
- A chopstick or similar device for poking the egg whites to judge
- Put about 1-1/2 inch of water in your pan and add 1/4 cup vinegar to
help set the whites.
- IF you will be holding the eggs warm, fill a saucepan with
enough water to float them all without crowding and bring it up hot
enough so you can only hold your fingers in it for a few seconds -
but not hotter or it may set the yolks and the eggs will be
- IF you will be holding the eggs for a long time, like overnight,
use a pan of ice cold water instead of warm water.
- Crack the eggs into the shallow cups or dishes disturbing them as little
as possible as you do.
- Turn off the heat under the simmering water and wait for it to be
- Lower the cups into the water, tip them and slide them out from under
the eggs disturbing the water and eggs as little as possible.
- Turn the heat back on, but not too high, you don't want to get the water
rolling. You can push the eggs around a bit with a wooden spatula to make
sure they don't stick and circulate the water around so it's evenly hot.
- Poke the whites right near the yolk with a chopstick to see if they are
set - you need a little practice to learn to tell.
- When eggs are properly done, use the slotted spoon to lift them out,
either onto a prepared serving dish or into the saucepan of water if you
will be holding them in.
- When ready to use eggs you have been holding, lift each egg out with a
slotted spoon and let it drain well before placing it in it's final
- IF you have held the eggs in cold water, heat a pan with plenty
of water in it almost to a boil. Turn off the heat and lower the eggs
in as quickly as you can. Let them sit there with the heat off for 10
to 15 minutes until they are warmed through.