I eat between 3 and 5 eggs every single day, and have cooked thousands upon thousands of eggs for myself and my family. Here are my best tips for making Poached Eggs quickly and easily, in less than 10 minutes. No vinegar, no straining, no fuss!
Seeing as my family goes through four dozen eggs per week, I’ve tested and repeated quite a few styles of preparation over the years, and poached eggs are one of my favorite variations.
There’s something so appealing about a poached egg, with its warm runny yolk encased in gently cooked white. A lot of people think of poached eggs as more restaurant cooking than every day cooking, but there’s no reason for that. Making them at home is simple!
I’ve seen a lot of different “hacks” that people share around the cooking process. I’ve tested many of these over the past 10 years since I first published this post, and honestly, a lot of these “hacks” in my experience don’t yield better results, and often times they’re worse. I haven’t found them to be worth the fuss.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
Here’s some of the general advice out there that I’ve tested and personally recommend you don’t do for poaching eggs.
Vinegar – In my experience, adding white vinegar to the water has always made the egg white coagulate strangely, no matter what amount I experiment with. Plus, you can taste it, even if it’s just a little vinegar. Don’t bother.
Strain the egg whites first – People say that swirling the cracked egg gently in a fine mesh sieve or strainer reduces whisps later on. I talk about this in depth below, but I prefer to deal with the egg white whisps in a different way that is way less fussy.
Salt the water – I get the thought process behind this, but salting the water results in a rougher overall texture. It’s better to season to taste afterward.
Swirl the water into a vortex – Swirling water in the pot is totally unnecessary for getting a beautifully rounded egg, and in my experience, this whirlpool method will make your egg look like a raggedy shooting star.
There’s also no need to buy a unitasking egg poacher in order to get the perfect poached egg. I’ll show you a foolproof way to do it well with the pans you already have in your kitchen. Home cooks can easily master this simple method with a little practice.
Tips for Best Results
Now here’s what you should do to make the best poached eggs.
Use your freshest eggs – The newer the better. Fresh eggs are tighter and hold together better, with firm whites and yolks. The egg yolk in older eggs is always more likely to break.
Use a skillet instead of a saucepan – This gives you more space to gently drop the egg in, and the egg won’t plunk down as far.
Use plenty of water – Have you ever noticed that when you stick pasta in boiling water, it stops boiling for a minute, and then needs another minute to come back up to a boil? It’s the same concept here. A cold egg will cool the hot water too much if there isn’t enough of it. Fill the pot a couple inches high.
Step by Step Overview:
Here is a visual step-by-step guide of the process so you can understand what’s happening. Then I recommend following the recipe box below that when it’s time to make your poached eggs.
Crack the Eggs Into Bowls, Not Directly Into the Water
I know it’s slightly annoying to dirty a couple bowls, but this is essential. Cracking the eggs into a small bowl first allows you to gently slip them into the water, giving them that rounded shape you want.
If you crack directly into the water, you can’t get as close (without risking burning your fingers), and the egg will plunk down in the water a bit more and have a weird shape.
Also, cracking them into a bowl first ensures that the yolk is still intact. No point in poaching an egg if the yolk has already broken.
Note: I am using cold eggs straight from the fridge. There is no need to bring the eggs to room temperature first.
Bring the Water to the Perfect Temperature with Zero Movement
You actually don’t want boiling water for poached eggs, because the bubbles will move the eggs around too much. I don’t even cook it at a gentle simmer either.
I get the water to the perfect temperature by first bringing it to a boil:
Then I dial the temperature back and find the point where it’s just under a simmer:
You can see there are no bubbles, but it’s still very hot. Even gently simmering water can sometimes have too much movement, and cooking at barely under a simmer still has sufficient heat for cooking.
Use a Shallow Skillet
It’s actually better to use a shallow and wide high-sided skillet instead of a pot. This gives you more space to gently drop the egg in, and the egg won’t plunk down too far. You only need a couple inches of water.
How Long to Poach an Egg
Cook the egg for 3 minutes, completely undisturbed. At this cooking time, the egg white should be completely set, but the yolk will still be runny.
Remove the poached egg with a slotted spoon (affiliate) and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to absorb the excess water.
Trim the Whispy Egg White Threads
There will be whispy egg white threads, but they only take a few seconds to remove. If you look, you can see there are some thin parts below:
All you have to do is run a butter knife around the edges and trim these watery whites off:
Why Quick Trimming Is Better than Straining Beforehand
Some people recommend that you swirl the loose egg white in a fine mesh strainer before cooking, in order to minimize whispy threads. I tried this and found it to be too much bother and fuss for something that can be easily trimmed up after cooking.
And, if you prefer pastured eggs like I do, they tend to have extra delicate yolks. You have to shift each egg around in the strainer pretty vigorously to remove the loose whites, and it can risk breakage.
Once you’ve trimmed away any wispy whites around the side, serve right away, adding a little salt and pepper on top as desired. There is no need to plunk your perfectly poached egg into an ice bath or cold water.
How to Serve
After you’ve taken a quick few seconds to drain the egg on the paper towel and trim any egg white whisps as desired, serve the poached eggs immediately. You want to enjoy the runny egg yolks while they are warm.
Throw a couple eggs on top of this Sweet Potato Hash, or pair with Spanish Tortilla or Hash Browns. These are also perfect for eggs benedict (try it with a Homemade English Muffin), or for adding protein to avocado toast.
Recipe Tips and FAQ
It’s best to only make as much as you plan to eat. However, you can keep leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Not recommended. The texture will be horrid upon thawing.
Did you enjoy the recipe? Please leave a 5-star rating in the recipe card below and/or a review in the comments section further down the page.
- 2 large eggs (use the freshest/newest you have)
- Fill a large 10 or 12" high-sided skillet with 2 inches of water, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to wherever the water is just below a simmer, which is likely medium high or medium. You don't want any movement or bubbles in the water.
- Carefully crack each egg into its own small bowl.
- Gently lower each egg into the hot water, getting the bowl as close to the water as possible to minimize dropping of the egg.
- Cook the eggs for 3 minutes, then remove to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon.
Nutrition is estimated using a food database and is only intended to be used as a guideline for informational purposes.
Post updated in November 2020 with new photos and tips. Originally published January 2011.