Not So Perfectly Poached Eggs

I love a good poached egg. It complements many dishes so well – and by no means should it be reserved for breakfast. The subtle richness of a poached egg takes any burger up a notch, and who doesn’t love steak and eggs? Toss one on top of some grilled vegetables or fish to add a totally different flavor dimension. Or simply lay it on a lightly browned piece of toast with a little crack of pepper for a simple breakfast classic. There’s really no wrong way to eat a poached egg.

I always feel it is a bit ridiculous to order eggs as a primary dish when eating out, eggs are so cheap that the markup on any dish with them is absurd. However, I have a real soft spot for poached egg sandwiches, and will almost always cave and order one if I see another patron crack open the plump yolk of a glistening poached egg.

3 hours, and a dozen eggs later; I no longer have any qualms about paying for someone else to make me a poached egg. I now have so much respect for anyone who can cook a nice poached egg, and feel bad for anytime I have criticized a poached egg that wasn’t ‘just so’ at a restaurant. I’ve poached eggs while having hot-pot, and have tried to make them before, but I never put much thought into it and they usually reflected that. I knew learning this one would be a challenge, but I didn’t think it would take a dozen eggs to just get a half-decent looking poached egg. Here is my most presentable egg for the night:

This definitely leaves some room for improvement.

This definitely leaves some room for improvement.

Thankfully, all of the eggs were edible, even if they weren’t too easy on the eyes, and I was able to recruit some friends to help dispose of them.

I tried three different methods (with minimal success), and added a little vinegar to the water for each:
1. The ‘whirlpool’ method: Stirring the simmering water before gently dropping the egg in the middle of the vortex. (As described on the Smitten Kitchen blog.)
2. Poaching it in shallow water on a non-stick pan, at a relatively low heat and very slowly. (As described by Delia Smith on her website.)
3. Eyeballing it and guessing. I had the water just at a simmer in a non-stick pan, with a little more water than method 2, and used a spoon to gently push the egg together throughout the cooking process.

For each method I also tried dropping the egg into the water with a small bowl, spoon, and a small cup trying to see which one provided the smoothest entry. They were all about the same, but the spoon would not work with larger eggs.

The whirlpool often produced eggs with the wildest whites-sticking every which way and not surrounding the yolk. I’m not sure if I put the egg in too late to benefit from the centrifugal force of the vortex, if I put it in off-center and the egg spun out of control, or if the water was just too hot, or what the problem was. But something wasn’t working with most of my attempts at this one.

The low-and-slow method resulted in a poached egg that looked more like a sunny side up. I also found it hard to get the whites to set without having the yolk begin to cook. I will assume that this is because I couldn’t get the temperature and timing just right.

Winging it did produce the nicest looking of all the eggs, but also produced the worst which was a straggly mess.

I don’t know how much of a difference the freshness of the egg makes, but these certainly weren’t farm fresh eggs. Unfortunately, the market I usually get my eggs from is behind on their orders, so I wasn’t able to pick up a fresh box at the start of this week. Despite how much of a difference many websites claim it makes, I really think the extra fresh eggs would’ve turned out just as askew as this batch did. I’ve got some more learning to do!


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