Poaching is a method of cooking eggs in simmering water. The result is a light and delicate flavor without any of the excess fat you can get from frying in butter. When poaching, the key is to be vigilant of the water temperature, cook time and the egg quality. If you do that, you'll end up with soft and evenly cooked eggs.
But you also need to start with fresh eggs. They make a world of a difference no matter how you cook them. While checking for freshness isn't as easy as, say, squeezing an avocado, there are a couple of easy ways to tell if your eggs are perfect for cooking or better for pitching the shells in the compost. Along with a better taste, fresh eggs won't produce any of those icky white wisps that can show up while poaching.
Method for Poaching Eggs
- Fill a shallow saucepan or skillet with several inches of water and bring to a boil. (Don't reach for that big Dutch oven unless you're poaching an ostrich egg — a shallow saucepan is all you need.)
- After the water comes to a rolling boil, turn the heat down to simmer. (Note: The water should be lightly boiling; you should see just a few bubbles reach the surface.)
- Add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. The vinegar doesn't affect the flavor of the egg, but it helps the albumen (the egg whites) coagulate.
- Add your eggs by either carefully cracking directly into the simmering water or into a small bowl first. (Cracking them into the bowl will ensure you won't have any shells in your egg, but it could lead to broken yolks if you're not careful.)
- Simmer the eggs for about 3 minutes for a soft poached egg. Let cook for about 5 minutes for solid yolks.
- Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. Gently move the spoon back and forth — if the egg wobbles along with it, your poached egg is ready to eat.
Now you just have to master hollandaise sauce for the perfect homemade eggs Benedict. (Good luck with that!)