Perfectly Poached Eggs in 5 Easy Steps!

Make simple, perfectly poached eggs with a golden, liquid center!
10 minutes

When I was first on my own, seventeen, and trying to cook meals that didn't include instant noodles or powdered cheese, I found that, like the literature and art classes I loved so much, food was a wonderful, creative outlet. I fell in love with the art of cooking, with the colors and smells that filled our humble kitchen, and have since then mastered many of the classics: lasagna, roasted chicken and vegetables, and spaghetti bolognese, but I have never been able to poach an egg with any success.

With all these different factors, what really is the "best" way?

Poached eggs are commonly thought of as the most difficult way to cook an egg. I've loved poached eggs since my first time eating eggs benedict when I was nine years old, and since my passion for cooking started, I have tried to poach eggs a handful of times and failed. Either they came out overcooked, the whites didn't bind together in the cooking process, or I ended up with a glob of eggs in a whirling pot of water.

This year, I finally decided to tackle the poached egg.

With every new year, I create a cooking goal. Last year, I bought six New York strip steaks and challenged myself to make the perfectly seared steak. This year, I finally decided to tackle the poached egg.

The problem with learning to make the perfect poached egg is that every chef and online cooking guru has a different preference, and they all claim their way is the "best" way. They all have strict guidelines about using either saucepan or skillet, using seasoned or unseasoned water, adding vinegar or not adding vinegar, cooking it for ninety seconds on the burner, or taking it off the heat and cooking it for anywhere from three to seven minutes. With all these different factors, what really is the "best" way?

I've tried every egg poaching recipe and tip I could find to create one simple guide for poached eggs with a golden, liquid center that any at-home cook can do!

Kitchen tools
1 eaNonstick Frying PanNonstick Frying Pan
1 eaSlotted SpoonSlotted Spoon
1 eaRamekinRamekin
1 eaPaper TowelsPaper Towels
Ingredients
1 eaEgg
2 tspWhite Distilled VinegarWhite Distilled Vinegar
1 tspSalt
1 dashBlack Pepper

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Fresh Brown Eggs

First things first, the egg. In my research, every poached egg video and recipe that I found agreed on two things. First, you must use fresh eggs.

I also decided to opt for quality eggs.

Fresh eggs allow for a poached egg that doesn't feather as much. The egg will bind together more, resulting in the beautiful teardrop shape that poached eggs are known for. So, I spent a little longer in the egg aisle than most looking for the freshest eggs they had in stock.

I also decided to opt for quality eggs. Because poached eggs are all about amplifying the egg's natural flavors and textures and include minimal seasoning, I wanted to get really good quality eggs. I ended up buying brown eggs. This is more of a preference than a necessity. Use whatever kind of eggs you prefer as long as they are as fresh as possible.

Pro-egg tip:

If your eggs aren't as fresh as you'd like, you can strain the eggs using a small, fine mesh strainer. Just strain them for about 5 seconds to rid the egg of excess white. You will get that perfect teardrop with this step regardless of which poaching method you use. Also, consider that eggs should be cold when poaching.

There are typically two kinds of pans used for poaching eggs: a standard saucepan or a skillet.

Regardless of which pan you chose, they must be nonstick. Your pans will thank me later.

Poaching with a nonstick skillet

This is my preferred method for this guide. It's effective and easy while still getting the same results. More and more of the guides I found were utilizing a nonstick skillet instead of a saucepan. Make sure the saucepan can hold at least 2 inches of water without boiling over for poaching. The pan should be about 3 inches in depth.

Poaching with a saucepan

If you are using a saucepan, you have to decide whether to use the whirlpool technique. I personally find this technique a bit unnecessary. In my previous attempts to poach eggs over the years, I always used the whirlpool technique because it is the standard method for poaching eggs that most chefs stand by. Still, if you have tried this and ended up with lackluster results or want an easier method, I recommend using a nonstick skillet.

There is a lot of poached-egg debate on if the water should be seasoned and if vinegar needs to be added to help bind the egg, and if so, how much should be added. This is where I found most chefs disagree. The preferences ranged from no salt or vinegar, to vinegar but no salt, to both with varying measurements.

Here's what worked best for me:

  • 2 tsp of distilled white vinegar
  • 1 tsp of salt

If you are worried about the eggs tasting like vinegar, don't. It's a small amount of vinegar that helps reduce feathering and lightly seasons the eggs. I found the difference with and without vinegar to be significant.

Egg in Ramekin

There are many methods to poaching an egg. I have included the top two in the event that you are curious about the saucepan method and want to give it a try. However, I do recommend poaching in a nonstick skillet instead of a saucepan. It's simpler, and you can make 4 to 5 eggs at a time without worrying about them sticking.

How to poach eggs in a nonstick skillet

Here's how to poach your eggs in a nonstick skillet, without any fancy whirlpools:

  • Fill the skillet with about 2 to 3 inches of water, depending on how deep your skillet is.
  • Crack each egg into a separate ramekin. (I do not advise trying to crack your egg directly into the whirlpool. While some do it, I find that the more gently you drop the egg into the water, the less feathering you will have. Using a ramekin helps that process.)
  • Turn your heat to medium-high and bring it to a gentle, rolling boil.
  • Add the seasoning (i.e., 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of distilled white vinegar).
  • Gently dip the tip of the ramekin into the water and let the egg drop into the water egg white first.
  • Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. (You can use foil; just make sure it's on tight.)
  • Poach for 3 minutes.
  • Gently scoop the egg out with a slotted spoon.
  • Gently dab the bottom of the spoon and remove any excess water.

Tip:

You may see many videos show the cooks resting the egg directly on the towel, but I found that the egg likes to stick to the paper towel, which makes it easy to break the egg white. Simply dabbing the bottom of the spoon onto a paper towel and the egg drips the excess water is an easy way to avoid that.

How to poach eggs in a saucepan

If you'd like to give it a go, here's how to use the whirlpool method:

  • Fill your saucepan with about 3 inches of water.
  • Crack your egg into a ramekin.
  • Bring the water to a gentle, rolling boil.
  • Add the seasoning (i.e., 1 tsp of salt and 2 tsp of distilled white vinegar).
  • Whisk the water in a clockwise motion until a whirlpool forms.
  • Dip the tip of your ramekin into the water and let your egg drop into the center of the whirlpool gently.
  • Turn off the heat and cover with a lid. (You can use foil, just make sure it's on tight.)
  • Cook for 3 minutes.
  • Use a plate with a paper towel on top to gently dab the bottom of the spoon and remove any excess water.

Disclaimer: if you use this method, I recommend one to two eggs at a time.

Poached eggs can be used as flavorful additions to avocado toast, as a showstopper on top of eggs benedict, a topper to your favorite soup, or even eaten by themselves. Regardless of how you plan to eat them, I recommend seasoning them simply.

My go-to:

  • Salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper

A good poached egg doesn't need much seasoning, but if you are feeling fancy consider adding any of the following seasonings in addition to salt and pepper:

  • Paprika
  • A small amount of freshly grated parmesan
  • A dash of your favorite hot sauce
  • A dash of chili oil
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Crushed red pepper

How did your poached eggs turn out?

Let us know how your poached eggs turned out and share your own tips in the comments below!

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I love to cook, but I didn't start learning under the easiest circumstances. I was such a bad cook that I once burned macaroni and cheese, but my inability to make boxed pasta was motivating.