The Right Way to Poach an Egg

Egg on Spinach Rice

The Spruce / Molly Watson

  • Total: 10 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 5 mins
  • Yield:

While it's trendy to top everything from Buddha bowls to avocado toast with fried eggs, the healthier option is to replace the fried egg with a poached one.

With only 77 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of healthy fats, eggs pack a nutritional punch to start, but poached eggs go a step further: since they're cooked in water, they have no added fat.

Still, cooking the little marvels can intimidate even the most experienced chefs. Achieving a perfectly round shape, ensuring that the yolk is runny and the white is opaque (but not hard) seems like a job only a short-order cook could master. But it's simpler than that.

Ingredients

  • 4 fresh eggs, room temperature
  • Optional: 1 teaspoon vinegar or lemon juice
  • Optional: handful of salt

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Fill a large, nonstick pot with water and add a teaspoon of vinegar or lemon juice and a handful of Kosher salt if using.

  3. Bring the water to a simmer.

    Poaching water
    The Spruce / Molly Watson
  4. Crack a fresh egg into a fine strainer, then tip it into a cup, small bowl, or ramekin.

    Fresh Egg
    The Spruce / Molly Watson
  5. When the water is simmering (not boiling), gently tip the egg out of the dish and let it slide down the side of the pot and into the water.

    Egg into Water
    The Spruce / Molly Watson
  6. Cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until the white is firm but still tender and the yolks are still semi-liquid.

    Egg Poaching
    The Spruce / Molly Watson
  7. Carefully lift the egg from the water using a slotted spoon or ravioli skimmer.

    Poached Egg
    The Spruce / Molly Watson
  8. Shake off excess water, trim the egg as needed, and serve right away.

    Poached Egg
    The Spruce / Molly Watson

Tips

  • The trick to making perfect poached eggs is keeping the egg compact and making sure it holds its shape. This is best accomplished by using the freshest eggs possible. The older an egg gets, the more it tends to flatten or spread out.
  • Let eggs come to room temperature before poaching, as that helps them cook more evenly. Take the eggs you want to poach out of the fridge at least 30 minutes before you plan to cook them.
  • If your eggs are not farm-fresh, you can add a few drops of vinegar or lemon juice to the water. The acid in the water will help the egg hold its shape.
  • You also can crack the egg in a measuring cup then pour it into the water; this will help prevent any eggshells from dropping into the water.
  • While cooking the egg, the water should be simmering, not boiling. Too vigorous a boil will break up the eggs. But if the water's not hot enough, the egg might fall apart before it cooks. The ideal water temperature for poaching eggs is around 180 F to 190 F.
  • If you're poaching more than one batch, poached eggs can be kept in warm water until all are cooked, then "dry" them with paper towel right before serving.
  • To poach eggs in advance, slip the poached eggs into a bowl of cool water. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours. To reheat, place the eggs in hot water for about 10 minutes. Drain well before serving.

Serving Suggestions

  • Poached eggs are most often served plain or on buttered toast. Salt, pepper, and hot sauce are excellent accompaniments, as are salsas and chutneys of all sorts.
  • For a slightly more elegant presentation, melt butter in a frying pan, add some freshly chopped herbs and add poached eggs just to warm them up. Serve immediately.
  • Poached eggs also make a flavorful, protein-rich addition to soups and stews. They can also turn a simple salad into a meal, as with the classic French bistro favorite of a frisée salad with shallot vinaigrette, crumbled bacon, and a poached egg on top.