Q&A: Poached Eggs

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Q: What is the proper technique for poaching eggs?

A: Poaching an egg involves slipping a shelled egg into barely simmering water and gently cooking it until the egg holds its shape.(1) These delicate eggs form the foundation of many popular dishes such as Eggs Benedict or Florentine, but many people are intimidated by the thought of poaching an egg at home. The truth is that it's actually quite easy to do if you know the proper technique.

Here are the keys to making the perfect poached eggs:

- Make sure that you have plenty of water in the pan (at least 3 inches deep) so that the eggs are completely submerged and don't stick to the bottom of the pot
- Get the water to the right temperature. It should be at a gentle simmer (185-200 degrees F), which is just below boiling. If the water is too hot and is boiling rapidly, the eggs will become tough.
- Use fresh eggs. The fresher the egg, the more centered the yolk will be and the less likely it is that the whites will spread out and become ragged
- Add a small amount of acid (usually vinegar or lemon juice) to the water. Generally, about 1 tablespoon of acid should be used for every ½ gallon of water. It helps the egg whites hold their shape so that you don't end up with ribbons of egg white floating throughout your poaching liquid.

The Technique:

1. Fill a wide pan or pot with water to a depth of at least 3 inches. Add the vinegar and a small amount of salt (about 1 ½ teaspoons salt per ½ gallon of water). Bring the water to a gentle simmer- you should see small bubbles periodically rise to the surface.
2. Crack the eggs into individual ramekins or cups.
3. Gently pour the eggs from the cups into the poaching liquid. The eggs will drop to the bottom of the pot then rise to the surface.
4. Poach the eggs for 3-4 minutes. A properly poached egg should have a fully coagulated egg white with a yolk that's partially set (slightly thickened but still flowing).
5. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and blot on a paper towel to remove any excess water. Trim the edges with a knife if they're ragged. Serve hot eggs on toast or as desired.

So now that you know the proper technique, get cracking!

References:

(1) The Culinary Institiute of America. The Professional Chef, 8th Edition. New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons Inc., 2006.

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