5@5 - Perfectly poached eggs
August 23rd, 2011
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

"After sitting down one morning last week to breakfast and eating two poorly poached eggs, I thought to myself: 'How can anyone screw up such a simple culinary task of poaching an egg?'" says Anthony Marzuillo, the executive chef and proprietor of Soigne Restaurant & Wine Bar.

"Unfortunately, I recently have come across far too many improperly poached eggs, either undercooked, overcooked, misshapen, watery and bland, or even yolk broken upon arrival to the table."

So - if you're one of the aforementioned eggheads whose poaching technique may be a little oeuf, Marzuillo has boiled it down for you in five easy steps.

Five Steps to Perfectly Poached Eggs: Anthony Marzuillo

1. Season the water
"Start with a large stock pot with a nice wide opening. Add 1/4 cup of vinegar (we use Champagne vinegar at the restaurant) and two tablespoons of kosher salt per gallon of water. Both the vinegar and the salt help with the coagulation of the egg whites - and they also add flavor."

2. It’s ALL about the boil!
"I believe most people go awry because their water is at the wrong temperature. Lack of a boil will lead to your eggs sitting on the bottom and coming out like a pancake. Too vigorous of a boil and your eggs will come out broken up into shreds of whites with a lonely overcooked yolk.

The water must be at a gentle boil, which means bubbles rising to the top, but not rolling. Maintaining bubbles is crucial because the bubbles will carry your eggs through the water, allowing them to gently poach."

3. Be gentle
"When your perfectly seasoned water is at the proper boil you are ready to crack your eggs. An egg is mostly made up of water and protein in many different membrane layers. When cracking the egg you must be very gentle not to disturb these membrane layers, especially the membrane that holds the yolk together. Broken membranes will lead to broken yolks once in the water.

To crack the egg, gently tap on the side of a ramekin or small bowl. Break the shell in half and slide the egg into the ramekin. It is imperative to separate the shell in half because if you attempt to slide an egg through a jagged shell you will pierce the egg membranes."

4. Patience, patience, patience
"Once the eggs are [slid] in the water [from the ramekin or bowl], leave them alone! They will tell you when they are ready to be removed from the pot. A perfectly poached egg will float and maintain the natural oval shape of an egg. Once floating, use a slotted spoon and gently scoop out of the water."

5. Blot dry
"Nothing drives me crazier than when a young cook removes the egg and places it directly onto the plate. You MUST blot the egg on a kitchen towel or paper towel to remove any excess water to prevent watering down your yolk and diluting the flavors of your accompaniments.

Serve immediately with a sprinkle of salt and a turn of pepper. You can also poach in different liquids, such as red wine for added flavor."

Previously - No yolk! The best scrambled eggs

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Eggs • How To • Staples • Techniques & Tips • Think

soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. line cook

    Anyone that thinks an egg should be cracked on a flat surface should not be allowed in the kitchen, let alone critiquing a professional chef. The chef clearly has a passion for food and puts a lot of thought into how he prepares it. I agree with an earlier post, if this is too much for you to handle, open a can or let someone else prepare your food for you.

    August 24, 2011 at 6:42 pm |
  2. jillmarie

    I love the ideas on poaching eggs- I have yet to do one without using an egg poacher I bought.
    I'd like to try this more traditional method. Can anyone tell me how long it takes to poach? Standing and watching isn't an option- I prefer to use a timer.
    Also, is he suggesting to using low-medium heat for boiling? Thanks for any feedback!

    August 24, 2011 at 2:41 pm |
  3. loveeggs

    The best tip I ever heard - break the egg into a small fine strainer and let the watery stuff strain out, leaving you with just the thickest part of the white and yolk. Voila - a perfect oval every time.

    August 24, 2011 at 8:53 am |
  4. Joe Deen

    I have had a single egg poacher for years and it makes poaching an egg so much simpler and apparently much quicker than using a pot and gallons of water. it uses 3 tablespoons of water and 4 minutes max you have a perfectly poached egg with firm white and slightly liquid yolk it is very similar to a double boiler but 4 inchs across

    August 24, 2011 at 8:40 am |
  5. Eggmeister wannabe

    Enough insults to the author from all the eggsperts! I found the article to be very well thought out and informative. As yet another way to be remembered by the ladies for the morning after, I'd like tips for perfect over easy and soft boiled eggs.

    August 24, 2011 at 1:41 am |
  6. jeremy

    Probablybworks but impractically complicated. less h2o, less/no salt, 1/2 tsp vinegar, crack egg on flat surf bc bowl edge can cause ragged shelledges. no paper towel just drain in slotted spoon.yes dry it a bit but no paper dry(ish) eggs hold sauce better and egg tastE isnt lost.

    August 24, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  7. Cactus Wren

    Saran wrap, you dimwits.


    August 24, 2011 at 12:20 am |
  8. erin_09

    That definitely seems like a lot of vinegar. And as ATK stated above, you are never supposed to crack eggs on an edge, always a flat surface....

    August 23, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  9. melanie sampson

    I have an even easier way to cook "poached" eggs – melt a little butter in a pan -crack the egg into the pan – when the white start to firm up on the edges, drizzle some water around the inside of the pan – cover to steam – VOILA!! perfect eggs everytime – firm white, soft cooked center. Takes about two minutes.

    August 23, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • Mark Megalops

      Melanie: Basted eggs (the technique you describe) are good but they are different than poached. FWIW

      Others: Anthony’s technique and advice is spot on. If you want easier, open a can. It is the little things that matter.

      I cannot imagine breaking a yoke on any surface, but if you use a horizontal surface you will promote horizontal cracking of the shell, like a big rock in a car windshield. That works fine with frying or basting, but for poaching you want a vertical crack and that is encouraged by a vertical surface, such as a ramekin.

      Drying the eggs is necessary. Hollandaise or Mornay sauce will not stick to a wet egg.

      Details are what make the difference between edible and exceptional.

      August 23, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  10. Americas Test Kitchen

    He is wrong about breaking the egg on the edge of a bowl. America's Test Kitchen proved that statistically, you are more likely to break the yolk that way. The best way to break an egg and not the yolk? On a flat surface. I saw this on TV 5 years ago, and have yet to break a yolk since...and I am a 2 egg breakfast a week guy. This chef is an idiot.

    August 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  11. eggsaperated

    oh for the love god...

    too much work...it's not that complicated and the friggin' egg doesn't have to be a "perfect" oval...

    half inch of water in a sauce pan. pending the size of the pan / amt of water a tablespoon or two of vinegar works fine. you don't need salt. if you want to add a little mild heat, tobasco works too.

    let tiny bubbles form on the bottom of the pan and start to rise. all the horsesh*t about cracking the egg and jagged shells is ridiculous. unless you slam the egg while cracking it or are just a complete klutz it's 99% unlikely you're going to puncture any membranes. it's fine to just break it over the water and put it right in. what's going to keep most of the egg white mass from disintegrating is the water temp and acidity.

    if you want firmer yolks, let it poach longer...else 3-5 min keeping the bubbles at a medium size will be fine. strain in deep, slotted spoon and just tilt it to drain off the water. the residual heat will remove the rest of the moisture via evaporation. all blotting does is leave fibres on the egg. if you're that anal about a little water being left on the egg, use two slotted spoons and move the egg back and forth between the two.

    else...just get a damn poaching cup....i know chefs can be anal, but good grief...

    August 23, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • lazurite

      Exactly! And using all that salt the chef recommends – blech!

      August 23, 2011 at 6:51 pm |
      • eggsaperated

        yeah...everyone needs more sodium their diet too, right?

        ...but also...he says that much salt PER GALLON of water? how many friggin' eggs are we poaching here?

        August 23, 2011 at 7:14 pm |
  12. jyee

    two steps to perfectly poached eggs:
    1. Set your immersion circulator to 62.5C
    2. place uncracked eggs in the bath for 50 minutes

    August 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
    • eggsaperated

      50 min? pass.

      August 23, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
    • 5pmEverywhere

      50 minutes? For an EGG? Yeah, not so much...

      August 23, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
      • eggcentric

        key words....immersion circulator. That is all.

        August 24, 2011 at 4:29 am |
  13. Cole

    Are we allowed to use an egg poacher or is that cheating?

    August 23, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • eggsaperated

      if you love poached eggs as much as i do, go get yourself a combo toaster and egg poacher. it's fast. it's neat, it's simple. it does a great job. i have a poached egg on toast 2-3 times a week and it takes a total of maybe 7-10 min tops and that's mostly for pre-heating.

      else...really in all honesty, you don't even need the vinegar b/c the amt of egg white mass you lose to dissolving is maybe a gram or two tops. if you want it to look "tidy", you can just trim the "splay" around the edges too.

      August 23, 2011 at 7:09 pm |
      • PeteKnipple

        Exactly, a microwave poacher being sure to add a tsp of water and pin poke the yoke to avoid a burst.
        Couldn't be easier when the toast is ready, I like easy and of little cleanup mess.
        Life becomes simple...

        August 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
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