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How to Properly Poach an Egg

By Stephan Kaliss


There are people who can poach eggs, and there are people who can't.

Those who can poach eggs know that the egg will either cook properly or it will not. There's really no in between when it comes to poaching eggs. It is an unforgiving activity that requires a certain amount of focus with little room for error.

With this in mind, I've come to the conclusion that there is not a person on this planet who doesn't enjoy poached eggs. If you think to yourself, "I don't enjoy poached eggs," then I can attribute that attitude to the simple fact that you have probably never eaten one poached correctly. I have a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that anyone who eats eggs might not like them poached.

It doesn't make sense and it's a disturbing thought. So, for my second contribution to the NewsBlaze Food and Wine section I decided I will discuss poaching eggs. It's a topic most everyone can enjoy, people rarely poach them properly and tackling this difficult subject so early on in my NewsBlaze contributions should establish the fact that I mean business when it comes to eating deliciously well.

Consider this... if an egg could in some way meditate and dedicate its short and delicious life to achieving the ultimate Zen state of an egg in its purest and most tasty form, it would poach itself. That is a fact. Well, I take that back. I can't actually claim that as totally true, but I can suggest that if you seriously ponder the thought, deep down inside you will eventually agree.

There is no better way to enjoy an unadulterated egg than by poaching it. Maybe someone might say "But Stephan, an egg hard boiled is even less a step away from egg purity than a poached egg." To them I say, technically you're right. But if you think a properly poached egg by itself tastes no better than a hard-boiled one, then you are the kind of crazy I don't know how to please.

In the messy, frustrating and gadget filled quest to poach an egg well, people will try many different techniques. Some swear by adding vinegar to the water, others make aluminum foil boats to float them in a covered sauce pan and occasionally someone will go to the lengths of sacrificing something at the first stroke past midnight the night before to ensure their eggs poach correctly the next morning.

But all of this is excessive and we don't want to complicate things more than they need to be; and I have yet to eat an egg poached in water with vinegar that doesn't taste of vinegar on some level. I may have been doing that technique wrong, I'm not sure how I could have messed that up, but I don't care, because we don't need it.

There exists a fairly simple process to poach an egg that doesn't involve plastic egg poaching devices or voodoo. You can probably do it right now, with what you have.

First, fill a medium sized sauce pan with water and heat until bubbles start to form on the bottom of the pan, but make sure to bring the temperature down before it reaches a boil. We don't want to boil our eggs, they will only break up and become a mess.

Take an egg and break it into a small shallow container like a teacup. This is so you can quickly and easily slide the egg into the water.

Stir the water with a slotted spoon or a whisk until it gains enough momentum to continue spinning by itself.

Drop the egg into the center of the water in the same direction the water is spinning.

If you do it correctly the egg will cook and wrap around itself by way of the hot water spinning around it.

Leave the egg for about two minutes and the scoop it out with a slotted spoon and immediately place it into a bowl of ice water. You want to get the egg to stop cooking as soon as it reached the consistency you enjoy. If you don't put it into the ice water the egg will just continue to cook with the heat it's retaining after you take it out of the pan.

The egg should look like a mozzarella ball if done correctly.

There are a few things that you have to keep in mind when doing this. If the water is moving too fast it will just rip the egg apart and make a mess. The water will pull the egg apart before it has a chance to wrap around itself and you will be left with an unusable egg. Think of how delicate a raw egg white is. The water should not be moving fast enough to tear the white while it cooks.

For your first egg it would be better to put it into water that is moving too slow rather than too fast.

Adjust the amount of water and the speed at which you drop your eggs in accordingly.

Once the egg is in the water do not touch it. Wait at least two minutes. If you don't wait two minutes sometimes the egg will look done when it is not and when you scoop it out of the water it will break apart in the process.

The egg will sometimes look like it stopped moving and is sitting on the bottom of the pan. That's fine. If it hasn't been at least two minutes let it sit however it wants. Resist the urge to get the water spinning again. That will only break the egg apart.

The core of this technique is dropping the eggs into the center of slowly spinning water and then not touching anything for at least two minutes.

Treat the eggs gingerly when you are scooping them because if they handled carefully and they are not cooked, you can place them gently back into the water with little problem.

I take my eggs out after two minutes and then I poke the yolk with my finger. I can feel when the outside of the yolk is starting to cook and the center is still liquid. This is perfect.

The water you use will eventually get cloudy the more eggs you poach, and also strands of protein that have broken away from the egg will stay in the water. This is fine. Scoop the little bits of egg out if you want, or you can leave it in the water. I usually just skim what's on the surface of the water in between poaching the eggs.

You will lose a tiny amount of egg with this technique but it's really not that much and in my opinion a fair trade for an awesome egg. If the water becomes too cloudy or has a large amount of egg bits floating in it, you can always just change the water.

All that said, the best way to get the technique down is to practice it. Hot spinning water cooks the egg as it wraps around itself in the center of the sauce pan. Repeat with me: Hot spinning water cooks the egg as it wraps around itself in the center of the sauce pan.

You can find a video of Gordon Ramsay doing this on You Tube if you search for "Ramsay poached egg."

I put chopped up butter in a coffee mug and leave it on the stove next to the sauce pan while I'm poaching the eggs. When you are done with the eggs, the butter is warmly melted into a delicious and consistent liquid. I then salt and pepper and pour butter on my eggs.

If anyone has any comments, questions or suggestions concerning this technique, send them to my e-mail.

If you know of a better way, well… share. If there is a better and more delicious technique out there, I want to know it. If I learn how to improve on this technique and more importantly, on the quality of the egg, you can be sure I'll share it as well. Let's work as a team to find the best and most delicious techniques so that every poached egg is the most palatable on possible.

Now... go ruin a few eggs.

It will take a few tries and some messy eggs I'm sure, but I promise you, it works and it's worth it.

Stephan Kaliss is freelance writer who focuses on food and travel. He can be contacted through NewsBlaze or directly heckled via sk.soze[at]gmail.com

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