How to Poach A Perfect Egg

The Perfect poached egg
The Perfect Poached Egg. David Marsden for Getty

This easy tutorial on how to poach the perfect egg may change your relationship with making wonderful brunches and breakfast at home. I spent my early years in the restaurant world paying cook's dues -working Sunday brunch was part of the trial by fire that young chefs had to endure until they gained some seniority in the kitchen. I made poached eggs until I could cook them with my eyes closed. Poached eggs are not as difficult as we often think, and are a great food to have in your repertoire.

They are essentially soft boiled eggs without the shell, and make a beautiful presentation for brunch. There are many ways to poach and egg, and everyone has a theory, but I'll share the way I've been successfully cooking them for years.
I like poaching eggs in a deep frying pan or a shallow saucepan. You need a pan that will allow you access to the eggs but still hold 2-3 inches of water. Add 1 teaspoon of white vinegar for each liter of water. This helps maintain the integrity of the egg whites. This is an optional but effective step. Set the pan over medium flame and either bring the water to a bowl and then turn it down to very low, or simply bring it to a low simmer, (160-180'F). Boiling water will yield tough eggs, so this is important.
While the water is heating, crack single eggs into ramekins or very small dishes. I generally use 2 ramekins at a time (I never poach just one egg) to make sure my timing is good.

If an egg breaks, it's not poachable and needs to be reserved for another use. When the water is ready, gently but quickly slide the eggs into the pan, holding the bowl just at the surface of the water. Repeat with remaining eggs, leaving plenty of space between them. Don't try to poach more than 4 eggs at a time.

Allow the eggs to cook, undisturbed, for 3-4 minutes each (3 for medium, 4 for firm), until the white is set and the yolk covered by a thin but opaque layer of white. Do use a timer. I've sent back "snotty" eggs more times than I can count -this is when the egg white is a runny, undercooked mess.
Gently remove the eggs with a slotted spoon or spatula, letting them drain off over the pan. You can blot them on a heavy paper towel or simply make sure they are well drained. Either way you don't wan to eat watery eggs! Serve immediately.
A few tips: Make sure your eggs are very fresh. The poached egg is a naked egg and you want it at its best.
You can poach eggs ahead of time. Slightly undercook them (2 - just under 3 minutes) and shock the eggs in ice water. Place on a tray in a single layer, and cover with plastic wrap. Chill as long as overnight. When you are ready to serve them, heat them for 1 minute in simmering water and serve immediately.
Serve your eggs on sautéed greens, roasted asparagus, polenta or bread.