How to Poach an Egg Perfectly Every Time

Learn this essential technique for making eggs Benedict and so many other meals at home.

We love poached eggs, in Eggs Benedict, of course, but also on salmon hash, buttery biscuits, savory corn waffles, çilbir (Turkish poached eggs with garlic yogurt), or anytime we want to turn pizza or other leftovers into a hearty meal. But as popular as poached eggs are in restaurants, they are very easy to make at home.

What is a poached egg?

A poached egg with bacon, spinach and bread

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Gently cooked in water at a low, gentle temperature until the whites are set and the yolks are runny, poached eggs have a soft texture with a yolk that breaks open easily. As opposed to omelets and scrambled eggs, which often contain cheese or butter, poached eggs have no added fat — that is, until they’re draped in velvety hollandaise sauce

How to poach an egg

Fill a deep saucepan with about four inches of water and heat over medium-low until just below a simmer (about 170°F). This low temperature is ideal for delicate foods like eggs and fish that would otherwise fall apart if hit by the turbulent bubbles of a rolling boil. Add one tablespoon of white vinegar to the water. The added acidity increases the rate at which the proteins denature,  causing the egg whites to quickly set and form a tight bundle around the yolk. 

Crack an egg into a small heatproof bowl. This extra step makes it easier to gently release the egg into the hot water. Using a spoon, stir the hot water in a circular motion to create a tornado-like vortex in the center of the pan. Quickly lower the bowl with the egg into the center of the vortex and tilt it to let the egg slide out. The spinning water will wrap the loose egg whites around the yolk. Let the egg poach, undisturbed, until the whites are set, but the yolk is still soft, about three minutes. Remove the egg from the pot using a slotted spoon, so you drain off excess water. Dab the egg on a paper towel to absorb the water on the surface and then set the perfectly poached egg on its English muffin or other landing pad. This process can be time-consuming if you are cooking for a crowd; you can poach a dozen eggs at once in the oven; check out this video for more details. 

How to poach eggs in advance

Don’t be caught hovering over the stove when hosting a brunch. Poaching eggs is easy to do in advance and takes away the pressure of nailing the technique in front of a crowd. Transfer the poached eggs to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Keep the eggs in the cold water for up to one day in the refrigerator. To serve, plunge the eggs in a large pot of hot water until warmed through, about 30 seconds.

How to serve poached eggs

Poached eggs go far beyond breakfast, turning a simple vegetable side dish like roasted asparagus or melted leeks into a light meal. The silky yolk also adds richness to creamy polenta, grain bowls, and braised greens

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