Pot covered with lid sitting on gas stovetop

How to Perfectly Poach An Egg

Makers might not all agree on how to poach an egg perfectly, but most would agree that poached eggs are a delightful highlight of many dishes. A poached egg has a soft, tender yet firmly cooked opaque white and a silken, runny yolk. It can be enjoyed on its own or as a topping for salad, roasted vegetables, asparagus toast, and is a key ingredient in Eggs Benedict. Eggs are a great source of protein and important nutrients like vitamin D, omega-3s, and choline, which may be lacking in the typical Western diet. They are a delicious and satisfying addition to any meal.

In this article, you’ll learn the best methods to make poached eggs with a variety of tips and tricks that can help you perfect your egg-poaching technique.

Poached egg on avocado toast

Perfectly Poached Egg Recipe

What You’ll Need

  • Stove/cooktop

  • Saucepan

  • Water

  • Slotted spoon

  • Ramekin

  • Cold, fresh egg(s)

  • Salt

  • White vinegar

Close up of poached egg on toast

Poached Egg Recipe Details

Step 1. Heat water

Fill a saucepan with about 4 inches of cold water and add one teaspoon of salt and one tablespoon of white vinegar. Adding salt and vinegar, while not required, will lower the pH of the water to encourage the proteins in the egg to coagulate, or solidify, more quickly and neatly. On high heat, bring the water to a boil and then turn the heat down to the lowest simmer so that only a few bubbles are popping to the surface at a time. Water at a boil will agitate the egg white, causing it to fall apart in the water. 

Fill a pan with enough water to completely submerge the egg. With enough depth, the egg yolk drops to the bottom, gathering the white along behind it to form more of a pouch, creating a nicely rounded poached egg. To keep the egg white intact, very gently pour the egg into the barely simmering water.


Step 2. Crack the egg into a ramekin

Crack an egg into a ramekin or very small bowl instead of cracking it directly into the water. Using a ramekin helps ensure the egg is free of shell pieces and the yolk is intact before you put it in the pot. It also lets you quickly and gently slip the egg into the water, which can help the egg stay together. 

If you’re poaching multiple eggs, you can crack each one into its own ramekin or use the same dish for all and repeat the process one egg at a time. Note that if your eggs are not fresh the outer edges of white will be very thin. You can gently strain the egg through a mesh sieve first to remove the thin whites that will likely make the finished poached egg have ragged edges. A quick way to test egg freshness is to fill a glass with cool water and submerge the egg. If it sinks and lays flat on one side, it’s fresh. If it sinks but stands on its end, it’s less fresh but still perfectly edible. If it floats, it’s past its prime and shouldn’t be consumed.


Step 3. Place egg in water

If you’re only poaching one egg, you should gently swirl the water clockwise or counterclockwise with the spoon to make a vortex. This will help the egg white to stay together. Next, lower the ramekin as close as you can to the surface and very quickly tip the egg into the whirlpool center. 

If you’re poaching multiple eggs you don’t need to swirl the water first. Simply slip the eggs into the water at spaced-out intervals. If the whites are feathering out from the yolk, you can gently guide them back towards the yolk with the spoon, being careful not to break any of the yolks. You can also use the still water method for a single egg if you prefer not to swirl.


Step 4. Cover pot and remove from heat

Once all eggs are submerged, cover the pot and turn off the flame or remove the pan from the electric heat. Set a timer for 3 minutes, then gently nudge the egg surface with the spoon. If it jiggles, cover for another 30-60 seconds. If it’s firm, the egg is poached and ready to serve. The egg white should be fully opaque. 


Step 5. Remove eggs from water

Gently lift the egg out of the water with a slotted spoon and serve. Set multiple eggs in a colander to drain while you remove them all from the water. If not serving immediately, you can place poached eggs in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Then, store the eggs in a cool water bath in the fridge until ready to use. To reheat, fill a large bowl with hot tap water and soak poached eggs for 1-2 minutes until warmed through.

Close up of stove burner under grate with blue flame

What is the Best Way to Cook a Poached Egg?

It’s fun to try different methods to find your best way to poach an egg. Always use fresh eggs with thick whites (or strain off thin whites) and begin with gently simmering water. Crack the egg into a ramekin to ensure it’s free of shells and that the yolk is intact, so you can add it to the water quickly.   
Whether you poach eggs one at a time in swirled or still water, in an egg poacher, or in still water with multiple eggs at one time, with practice and by following these basic guidelines you can achieve the desired results – a perfectly poached egg.

Close up of poached egg with grains of salt and pepper on top

How Long Do You Poach an Egg?

There are several schools of thought on how long to poach an egg, ranging from 2-4 minutes. We recommend checking your egg at 3 minutes. If it’s still too jiggly, give it another 30-60 seconds. At a high altitude, it will take 4-5 minutes to poach an egg, so check it at 4 minutes.

Other factors to consider include the water temperature and the egg’s freshness, so bring your water to a boil and then turn it back down to a simmer to make sure it’s hot enough. With patience and practice, these tips will help you learn to poach a perfect egg.

Close up of poached egg with toast on blue plate

Should you Add Vinegar to the Water When Poaching Eggs?

If you want to poach an egg without vinegar, simply use very fresh eggs with thick whites, and strain the egg with a mesh sieve to remove any thin, runny whites. Now you’ll be working with an egg that is less prone to making tendrils of white away from the center. 

As mentioned, vinegar lowers the water’s overall pH and helps solidify the egg white, but by following these guidelines, vinegar is not necessary.

Pot of water with lid half-on boiling water on electric cooktop

Is it Better to Poach an Egg in Boiling Water or in an Egg Poacher?

True poaching means poaching an egg in water. An egg poacher is actually a tool used for coddling eggs in a dish set in a water bath, but it produces eggs with firm whites and creamy, runny yolks. It’s an easy way to get consistent results quickly for dishes that call for poached eggs. 

Poaching in water can produce a wet finished egg that may drip water onto the serving dish. A poaching pan makes a drier egg, but with a less natural shape. The egg takes on the shape of the cup that sits in the pan and might be less attractive for your overall presentation. In the end, it’s a matter of preference as both methods produce a firm white with a runny yolk that makes a delicious addition to so many recipes.

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