How to poach an egg? Master this simple yet sophisticated egg preparation and be a breakfast champion. 

By Dawn Perry
Updated July 25, 2018
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Making poached eggs doesn't have to be intimidating. But for whatever reason, learning how to poach an egg has become a kitchen hurdle only attempted by the most confident home cooks. Why bother when you’ve got frying, scrambling, and sunny-side-upping down pat? But poaching an egg shouldn't be something you psyche yourself up for. In fact, if you can boil water, you can poach an egg. Just keep these pointers in mind for perfectly poached eggs, every time.

1. Fill a pot with water. About 2/3 full. Cover it.

Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down so there are thin streams of bubbles rising from the bottom but no big bubbles breaking the surface. A rolling boil is too aggressive for poaching and will bust up your egg whites before they're set. Instead, think delicate. Think champagne.

Pick a medium pot (saucepan, whatever you want to call it). It should be big enough to accommodate 4 eggs or so, but not so big that you’ll be tempted to drop 10 eggs in at a time. That's fine for the advanced short-order cook, but tough to keep track of for most amateurs.

2. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.

Set it next to your pot. If you’re making a big batch, say, brunch for a crowd, set a bowl of ice water next to the pot.

3. Use the freshest eggs you can find.

The most important thing you can do to improve your poaching is start with the freshest eggs you can find. As they age, egg whites get loose and watery and have a harder time staying together once dropped into a hot bath. Take a look at the date on the carton and aim for the freshest dozen you can find. Note: it’s a super annoying catch-22 that older eggs are actually better for boiling in their shells (it makes them easier to peel). You’ve been warned. Plan accordingly.

4. Crack eggs into a strainer.

You’ll read lots of articles that suggest salting the water or adding vinegar to help coagulate those egg whites, but I find they don’t make a lick of difference. If tidy whites are your priority try this: working one at a time, crack your eggs into a fine mesh strainer. Any thin whites will fall through the strainer leaving the sturdier white and yolk behind. Once you’ve strained, transfer your eggs to individual cups.

I know it seems fussy, and I am all about eliminating unnecessary steps, but cracking into individual holding stations ensures 1) an easy dismount and small splash and 2) no egg shell shrapnel. These Pyrex prep cups are ideal, but any small bowl or ramekin will do. Crack a single egg into each cup and set next to your pot.

5. Poach each egg for 3 minutes.

Give your simmering water a good stir to create a gentle whirlpool. Slip one of the eggs from it’s cup into the water. You’ll see it start to set and turn opaque almost immediately. Once the first egg is on the move, add the second, then the third, or as many as you can keep track of. Set a timer for 3 minutes.

When the whites are set, use a slotted spoon to transfer the eggs to the paper towel-lined baking sheet to blot dry. If you need to hold the eggs for more than a few minutes, go ahead and transfer them to the bowl of ice water. To reheat, simply dip them back in simmering water until heated through, about 30 seconds.

Use your new perfect poaching skills for silky eggs destined for salads, soups, even a bowl of spaghetti. But why reinvent the wheel? A perfectly poached egg is right at home on a piece of buttered toast. Sure, you could play it safe and fry your eggs, but we can think of a dozen reasons to give poaching a go.