The Elusive and Illustrious Poached Egg

No, I’m not being metaphorical!  I’m really going to talk about poached eggs!

We eat poached eggs almost every morning.  Our truly free-range front-yard flock of hens provides the most delicious and nutritious eggs.  And when their laying slows in the winter months, we supplement our habit with eggs purchased from a nearby farm, where the hens are also allowed an existence full of chickenness!

I grew up on poached eggs.  They are as familiar to me as French fries are to most Americans.  The only twist… my son will eat poached eggs whereas he hasn’t touched a potato-based food ever in his five years of existence!  My whole family likes a yolky egg!  The other day, I accidentally overcooked the eggs while I was on the phone.  My own eggs, which I made after I got off the phone, were perfect.  Well, both my son and my daughter stole my eggs and left their overcooked yolks there on the plate! 🙂

I was on the phone with my sister when the overcooked egg travesty occurred.  During the course of our conversation, she asked what I was doing.  I told her, “making poached eggs.”  I’m always amazed at how many times people tell me they’ve never made poached eggs and they ask me how to do it.  My sister had also never made a poached egg!

Poaching is method of cooking food in liquid that is barely at a simmer.  It isn’t dropping a fragile egg into a catastrophic rolling boil!  No, it’s much more nuanced than that… but it isn’t difficult.

You’ll need a shallow pot or a pan with edges high enough to hold several inches of water.  Adding a bit of white vinegar will encourage the albumen in the egg white to stay together… a few tablespoons will do… I never measure.  But in my opinion, the ultimate key to perfectly poached eggs is freshness.  The whites of old eggs will run like water.  If you crack a fresh farm egg, you’ll notice the difference right away.  The egg white will stay together in a thick mass of jelly around the egg yolk.  Some people advice swirling the water and dropping the egg in the middle to help it stay together.  I’ve never done this.  Some people also advice cracking the egg into a small bowl from which you can more easily pour the egg gently into the poaching water.  This can make it easier.  Although ill-advised by many poaching coaches out there, I crack the egg right on the edge of the pan and separate it slowly just above the water, allowing the egg to slip gently into the poaching liquid.  I rarely have a problem!  I don’t use a poaching pan.  I don’t use a poaching cup, or any other apparatus on the market out there.  Just a pan, that’s all I need.


How long does it take to poach an egg?  A single egg can cook in anywhere from 2-4 minutes, depending on how set you like them.  But remember, the more eggs you put in the pan, the longer it will take.  You can check your egg by gently lifting it above the water with a slotted spoon and jiggle it slightly to get a sense of how set they are.  Always remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on a paper towel to remove excess moisture.  Otherwise you’ll have soggy toast!

I serve mine on toasted homemade bread.  A sprinkle of freshly ground salt and pepper, DELICIOUS!  But poached eggs are also the method of preparation for the divine Eggs Benedict!

Did I mention that my hens provide the most nutritious eggs?  Yes, it’s true!  Eggs from pastured hens are healthier than your typical store-bought variety, with “More vitamins, less cholesterol and saturated fat — not to mention great flavor! — free-range eggs are far superior to supermarket eggs.”

Read more:

pastured egg versus store egg

Did you know that the yellow color of an egg yolk is related to the hen’s diet?  Hens that haven’t access to fresh greens, like hens locked in cages, won’t produce a yolk as rich in color as that of a free-range hen.  In fact, the feed used in large factory egg farms contains an additive to produce any yellow at all.  These additives may be the culprit behind some egg allergies.

Be wary of ‘organic‘ or ‘free-range‘ labels on cartons in the supermarket!  Are they better?  Are those hens treated more humanely?  “The truth is that buying organic or free range eggs from the supermarket or healthfood store is no guarantee that the hens providing those eggs lived a healthy life or that the eggs they provide are nutrient dense.”  Want to know more?

Yes, poached eggs are the method of preparation for me!  And I know that my children are starting the day with a healthy and natural breakfast.

For one last comparison, can you tell which egg came from my hens?

pastured poached egg versus store poached egg


One thought on “The Elusive and Illustrious Poached Egg

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s