My step-by-step guide to getting a perfect poached egg every time.
When I first decided to try poaching an egg I searched online to find how I should go about it. I (wrongly) assumed that something as simple as poaching an egg would have a very standard method, and I was surprised at the wide array of possible approaches I could use. After lots of googling and some trial and error, I found that the method outlined below works best for me.
My five top tips for perfect poached eggs (full method below)
- The fresher the eggs the easier to poach. As eggs get older the white separates more from the yolk. When you try and poach them they are more likely to come apart, leaving you with a bit of a messy looking egg.
- You want fresh eggs, but not too fresh. They must be at least a day old or they’ll disperse when you put them in the water (Thanks to Sarah at Taming Twins for this brilliant tip).
- Before poaching the egg, cook it for 30 seconds in its shell. This will help it to keep it’s shape when you add it into the pan of water later.
- To help the egg keep it’s shape you want the water to be moving. Before adding the egg I make circular motions with a whisk in the centre of the pan of water. You want to do this just fast enough so that the water will keep moving when you remove the whisk. If the water is moving too quickly it’ll pull the egg apart.
- Don’t crack the egg directly into the water. Crack it into a cup first and then gently tip it into the water.
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How To Poach An Egg
- Eggs - obviously - fresh eggs are best
- Ice water - if poaching multiple eggs at once
- Whisk - or similar to get the water in the pan moving in a circular motion
- Slotted spoon
- Kitchen paper
- Bowl - if poaching multiple eggs at once
To poach a single egg
- Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and then turn down to a gentle simmer
- Put the egg (in it's shell) into the simmering water and cook for 20-30 seconds - by slightly cooking the egg in it's shell it helps the egg to keep it's shape when poaching
- Remove the egg from the water and carefully crack into a cup
- Gently stir the simmering water in one direction - The stirring motion is the key here. You need to ensure that you use a tight stirring motion so that the water is moving fastest in the centre of the pan, a bit like a whirlpool. This will ensure that the moving water helps the white to wrap around the yolk for an attractive egg. If the water is moving faster on the outside of the pan than the centre, it will pull the white away from the yolk and you'll end up with an ugly poached egg. You also don't want the water to be moving too quickly, as again it will pull the white away from the yolk. This is especially important if you're using slightly older eggs.
- Once the water is moving quickly, gently tip the egg from the cup into the centre of the pan.
- Cook for a further 2-2½ minutes, until the white is just cooked.
- Once cooked, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place onto kitchen paper to soak up any excess water, then serve.
To poach several eggs at once
- To poach several eggs at once, you will need to poach them each individually and then heat them through when ready to serve. Don't be tempted to try and poach multiple eggs in the same pan, they'll end up looking a mess and it'll be difficult to cook them all consistently.
- Follow the instructions for cooking a single egg to the end of step 6.
- Once the egg is cooked, rather than placing onto kitchen paper, place in a bowl of ice cold water to stop the egg cooking further.
- Repeat this process until all of the eggs are cooked.
- Once all the eggs are cooked, remove them from the ice water and return to the pan and cook for a further 20-30 seconds until heated through.
- Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and place onto kitchen paper to soak up any excess water, then serve.
Any nutritional information provided is the estimated nutritional information per serving. Please refer to my guide to Charlotte’s Lively Kitchen nutritional information if you would like to learn more about how this is calculated.
Free From/Suitable For…
- Suitable for Vegetarians
- Tree Nut-Free
- Sulphur Dioxide & Sulphite-Free
Geoff Christmas says
I’ve just come here from using your crispy bacon recipe, thanks for that. Like you I’ve tried all kinds of methods for poached eggs but nothing giving consistently good results until I had a little brainwave of my own and now I turn them out consistently and easily and I can make two at a time. I haven’t tried three. No swirling, no breaking eggs beforehand. The type of saucepan is key; thick bottom and small, for two eggs no more than 6 inches across. I half fill it and boil it. Squirt in a random amount of white vinegar. Reduce the heat until you just have streams of small bubbles without the surface becoming choppy. Gently break in the egg close to the surface and momentarily turn up the heat if necessary to get your small bubbles back. Break in the second egg. Put some kitchen paper on a plate. After three minutes take out using straining spoon, put on the edge of the paper, lift the paper to roll the eggs until dry. Eat. Aside: the first time I tried a single egg in a three-inch Turkish coffee pan over gas reasoning that the egg had nowhere to go. Turned out perfectly! Currently using a halogen hob but I don’t think that it is important provided your pan has a thick bottom to reduce heat variation.
Carole T. says
Another great tip that makes it easier and needs no swirling is to put a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar in the water, it helps the egg to stay in a rounded shape, I always do it that way when making eggs benedictine and it works perfectly!
Charlotte Oates says
Thanks for the tip Carole. I’ve tried vinegar before and not had any luck with it but perhaps I should give it another try.
Sarah @tamingtwins says
Gorgeous photos as always. Total egg porn! The dribbly yolk gets me every time. I would add that if you keep your own chickens, there is fresh and then there’s FRESH, they are actually quite hard to poach the day they lay them as they seem to just disperse in the water. The day after they’ve been laid and then as fresh as possible is best I’ve found 🙂
Charlotte Oates says
Thanks Sarah, I didn’t know that. I’d love to add that little tip into the main post. Do you mind if I quote you?
Sarah @tamingtwins says
So sorry, I missed this reply. Yes that’s absolutely fine. 🙂
Charlotte Oates says
Thanks Sarah. I’ll add it in 🙂