Poached eggs are my favourite thing. Breakfasts that include poached eggs are a signifier that the morning is going well, that you’ve got your shit together: there’s a genuine art to making sure everything’s still the right temperature (and crucially, the right consistency when it comes to the eggs) when it gets to the table. Poached eggs at any other time of the day are a wonderful thing; they add a nice, tidy, mother-approving dimension to what could ordinarily be a pretty bleak dish.
There’s barely a recipe… that I would discourage you from serving with a poached egg on top. (Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall)
My method for poaching eggs is gathered from lots of different sources, and has become a beautiful hybrid of experts’ tips. No whirlpools (what does that even do??), no easy-to-regulate gas hob, not even a strict need for fresh eggs plucked directly from the chicken (I would love to have my own hens, but living 50ft above the ground makes it difficult to sway the landlord).
I live in a tiny flat, with an electric hob and no direct chicken-access. If I can do it, you can too.
How to poach eggs like a pro
A full kettle, boiled
A small mixing bowl or pyrex jug
A small pan
A dash of malt vinegar
A slotted spoon
2 eggs per person
Decent bread, toasted and buttered (there’s pointers below on which point you should pop the toast down)
A twist of salt and pepper
Smashed avocado, with a dash of olive oil and some chilli salt
Cornishware plates, because they’re just so darn beautiful (but I would say that, wouldn’t I?)
- Fill the pan with about 2 inches of boiling water from the kettle, add a big dash of vinegar and switch the hob to medium.
- Fill the pyrex jug or bowl with hot water about a quarter, then top up with cold water from the tap. The water in the bowl should be hand-hot.
- Put all of the eggs (still in their shells) into the saucepan of hot water. Give them 10 seconds, then fish them out with the slotted spoon. This sets the proteins just a little bit, so they don’t fall apart when you poach them – the older the eggs are the more important it is to do this.
- Ensure the pan is at a boiling point with just a tickle of bubbles around the edge. Monitor the heat throughout so you’re maintaining that point as much as possible.
- Break the first egg into the mug, and then lower it on its side into the simmering water. Gently tip the egg into the water.
- Use the slotted spoon gently nudge the egg so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan*Put your toast down now!*
- Allow to simmer gently for 2 ½ -3 minutes, then carefully lift out the egg with the slotted spoon and lower it into the bowl of warm water. If it’s at all wobbly or clear, lower it back in and give it 30 seconds more. Keep it there until you’ve done all the eggs by repeating the steps above.
Top tips for poaching eggs
- 2 ½ – 3 minutes should give a set white with a lovely runny yolk. Any less time and the egg will be all snotty (gross!)
- If your egg ends up all raggedy with the whites completely separating from the yolk, your eggs are probably quite old. Start again, but at step 3, leave the egg in the hot water for 20 seconds to firm up the proteins.
- If the hot water gets cloudy in between eggs (meaning you can’t see when they’re done!), boil the water hard for about 30 seconds to a minute – this gathers the cloudiness into clumps on the surface which you can fish out with the slotted spoon. Bring it back to the right simmer level before you do your next egg by adding a glass of cold water.