How to Poach an Egg
Here are my best tips for How to Poach an Egg quickly and easily. No vinegar, no straining, no fuss.
I eat between 3 and 5 eggs every single day, and have cooked thousands upon thousands of eggs.
In other words, I’ve tested and repeated quite a few variations over the years, and poached eggs are one of my favorite preparations.
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.
How to Poach an Egg Dont’s:
Should you use vinegar? In my experience, this has always made the egg white coagulate strangely, no matter what amount I experiment with. I don’t bother.
Should you strain the egg whites first? 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.
Should you 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 afterward.
Should you swirl the water into a vortex? Swirling the water is totally unnecessary for getting a beautifully rounded egg, and in my experience, a vortex will make your egg look like a raggedy shooting star.
How to Poach an Egg Do’s:
Use your freshest eggs: The newer the better. The egg will be tighter and hold together better.
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.
How to Poach an Egg Properly:
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 bowls 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.
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.
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.
How Long to Poach an Egg
Cook the egg for 3 minutes, completely undisturbed. At this point the 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 them off:
Why Quick Trimming Is Better than Straining Beforehand
Some people recommend that you strain the loose egg white first, 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.
Serve Poached Eggs Promptly:
A quick few seconds to drain on the paper towel is sufficient, and after that, serve them immediately.
You want to enjoy the runny egg yolks while they are warm.
Also see my method for easy peel Hard Boiled Eggs. Enjoy!
How to Poach an Egg
- 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.