Friday, March 05, 2010

How to Poach (eggs, not trails)

Poaching. To mountain bikers this sometimes means riding trails where bikes aren't allowed. For lovers of delicious food it means gently heating something in water until it transforms into something delicious. I have some things to say about the former, but let's focus on the latter.

As anyone who knows me can tell you, I love good food. 3 squares a day. Just like my mom taught me. Many days start with eggs and for the past few years the go-to cooking method has been poaching. Pre-ride I love a big pile of buttered white rice with a couple of poached eggs, salt and Sriracha hot sauce. If you follow me on flickr you've seen this before.

Lately I've been asked by more than a few people how I poach my eggs. No gizmos, no tricks, just some hints from Julia Child and a little practice. Just like framebuilding, there are lots of ways to do this. Here's my way.

Water and vinegarI use a 2qt (2L) saucepan when I do two eggs. I rarely do more than two, but I can get 4 in the same pan. If you need to do more than that, use a bigger pan. Fill with enough water to cover the eggs, about 2" (50cm) deep. Add a glug of plain white vinegar and get it on the heat. The vinegar helps keep the whites together.

BoilI put it on high and get the water to a boil. You're not going to boil the eggs, but it gets the water up to temp fast. Once the water is boiling turn the heat down low. At my old place I had an electric range that kept enough heat and I could just turn it off at this point. With gas, you will need to keep the flame on. I leave mine on "2"--play around with it, this is where the practice comes in.

SwirlNext, give the water a swirl with your slotted spoon and while it is still swirling crack your first egg in. Do it quickly and gently. Hold the egg right over the water and let is slip out of the shell into the center of the pan. If you burn your fingers a little you are probably doing it right. Drop eggsThe swirling water will keep the egg white wrapped around the yolk, which while not totally necessary, is a step close to perfection. While the water is still swirling (and maybe with an additional stir) drop the second egg right next to the first. It is ok if the water bubbles a bit (which actually helps keep them from sticking to the pan), but it should not really simmer and definitely not boil.

Separation CheckSet your timer for 3 minutes and start it. After the eggs have been in the pan for 30 seconds or so, use your spoon to very gently make sure they are separate from each other and not stuck to the bottom of the pan.

CookingGo get your toast going. I usually make my first espresso at this point too (more on that in a future post).

When the timer goes off carefully lift an egg out with the slotted spoon, let the water rain away and give it a jiggle. If the white seems solid you're done, if not keep them on for another 30 seconds and check again. Don't overcook them! It will take a few tries to get a feel for the right amount of jiggle.

Serve them up.

If you did it right they will resemble the shape of an egg in the shell, the white will be barely firm and the yolk will be warm and runny. Enjoy!

#1 most important tip: use good, fresh, fresh, fresh eggs. Just like coffee, even if the eggs were fresh when you bought them a week ago they are not fresh any more. As they age the whites get runny and they will spread into a stringy mess when you drop them in the pan.


Caroline said...

This is so awesome. Cooking with Tony. Now you just need pairing suggestions ;)

Um, I'm going on two days' straight of poached eggs thanks to your hint. Usually I cook them over easy, but there's something about poached eggs that makes me eat them WAY too fast. They're just that gooooood.

Anonymous said...

I'm WAY too inept in the kitchen for this kind of culinary wizardry. Then again we both know my egg poaching crutch...

Yokota Fritz said...

I can't stand poached eggs, but you manage to make it look pretty good!

Patrickinpdx said...

great. But I'm already about 2 espressos in at this point if the morning!!

Bison D said...

Thanks for the recipe Tony. I'm sure you've got fresh eggs in your neck of the woods, but we definitely will have an abundance once the warm weather stays. And you are welcomed to them.

Tony said...

Thanks everyone. I had fun putting this one together.
Dave, We are hoping to get some chickens ourselves, but until then, I'll definitely take you up on the offer.

Kathleen Bauer said...

Poached eggs are my weakness! I love them plain, on toast, on pasta, anywhere, any time…glad to meet a fellow traveler!

EQ said...

luvs me some Good poached eggs!nice post, thanks for the tips TP!

Danielle said...

Yummy Tony. That picture with your perfectly poached eggs on a fresh baguette made my mouth water. Nice work. I'll try it soon. Thanks for the tips. I'll keep checking for more Chef Tony!

Unknown said...

Holy shit, Tony. I was just looking up a poached egg instruction (i always have trouble holding the whites together) to throw on top of my brussels sprouts. Anyway, I was directed here, and followed the recipe. Now I'm eating the result (pretty good, by the way), and I see whose page I'm on. Looks like Mainardi was right about this whole Internet thing.
Dennis Feldman

Tony said...

Dennis, that's hilarious! Yep, Mainardi was right.

Tony abaloney said...

Large coffee cup
2 eggs
water to cover
micro wave 1:22

Tony Abaloney
Port Townsend WA

Tony said...

Tony Abaloney,
I tried your microwave method. The results were not great. The eggs were both overcooked and undercooked with runny white and mostly solid yolks. They also did not look like a perfectly poached egg: a runny center surrounded evenly with delicately cooked white. Cooking time was a bit shorter, but I'll sacrifice the 1:38 to get them done the way I like them.
Thanks for the info.
-Tony P

Anonymous said...

OK, it might be lunchtime, but I'm putting down the laptop right now and walking over to the stove. Gonna drop in a couple of local yolks. Totally inspirational.


eain said...

Tony, thank you! I've been trying (and failing!) to make well-shaped poached eggs for years, and your technique is the first that actually gives me consistent results!

Lunch was delicious!

Unknown said...

Wow... Not being able to poach eggs properly (even though I can pull off sous vide salmon or complex sauce dishes) has always been an embarrassment! This was awesome and you have a happy camper (and the plus one) tonight. Thanks heaps- so simple!! S

Anonymous said...

"I usually make my first espresso at this point too (more on that in a future post)."

Where's the espresso recipe? Please.

Anonymous said...

Just annihilated 4 eggs! This is a perfect recipe. Now off to notch some chainstays......!
Brett from North England