A poached egg, a perfect poached egg; one that has a firm, not rubbery, white, runny yolk and perfectly smooth and sculpted shape is a simple yet great pleasure. Without being dramatic, I would go so far as to say that a hard poached egg is one of life’s true disappointments.
If you google ‘perfect poached eggs‘, there are 371,000 results. Now, I cannot pretend to have read through them all, but I can promise that i must have gone through hundreds, if not thousands of eggs in the quest to get this basic but fundamental part of cooking right. I am also starting with it, as perfecting the poached egg very nearly caused me to have a minor nervous breakdown; I would like to think I am a competent cook, blessed with flashes of excellence even, but good poached eggs always eluded me. They were undercooked, overcooked, and nearly always ended up with a separate yolk and stringy white. A particularly low point was one Saturday afternoon, after attempting eggs benedict for a ‘spontaneous yet brilliant lunch’, my husband returned home to find is normally relatively sane wife, shouting at an empty pan of water, with every surface and most of the floor covered in smashed egg shells and numerous eggs in various stages of cooking-true story!
To save you and/or you other half from a similar experience, I will now tell you how to do it without need for fancy equipment or indeed medication.
The very most important thing is the freshness of your eggs. If they are not as fresh as possible poached eggs will not work, no matter what you do. Check the date on the box or, if there is no date, there are two things you can do. Firstly, you can crack the egg onto a flat surface and see how closely the white clings to the egg. If the egg is very fresh, the white will cling tightly to the yolk and will not spread out very far. If the egg is not so fresh, the white will spread out everywhere-this is not a poaching egg. Secondly , you can try the egg in water test. If you place the egg, in its shell, in a container of water and it floats, it is old, if it sinks, it is very fresh as there is less air inside the shell.
If your eggs are fresh-this method will always work-I promise!
You will need:
Eggs-these have to be as fresh as possible, otherwise there is no point
Small pan-non stick is great but any will do
White wine vinegar-at a push any vinegar will work
Mini whisk or fork
Fill your pan to just over half way with water and put on a medium heat. Add a teaspoon of vinegar and wait until the pan has bubbles covering the bottom of the pan-you don’t want to to boil, so if it does, you know the heat is too high. Put the egg (in it’s shell) in the water and count to ten. Take out the egg with a slotted spoon and crack into a ramekin or other small bowl. Take your mini whisk and whisk the water around so you get a mini-whirlpool in the middle of the water; there is no need to be violent with it, just get it moving around. Take the ramekin and gently slide the egg into the centre of the whirlpool. What you should see is the white wrapping tightly around the yolk and the shape becoming a smooth oval, with no stringy bits of white floating around. Now, just leave it; a rough time for a soft yolk and firm white is about 3 minutes-it does depend on the size of your eggs, pan etc. the best test is, when you think it is nearly there, to take it out with a slotted spoon and gently prod it-the middle should be soft and yelding, with the outside firm, but not hard.
Serve immediately with toast, muffins, ham, asparagus-anything you like.
This method works best by cooking one egg at a time, but If you have a few eggs to do, cook the egg for two minutes only, then place in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking. These will keep quite happily for hours and you can then reheat them for about a minute in simmering water when you are ready to eat.