And what you're doing wrong
When you go out to brunch, you’re guaranteed a perfect poached egg—but it’s quite the opposite experience when you poach eggs at home. One hour in, you’ve probably worked your way through one carton of eggs with no signs of success. And that’s no surprise when you’re making poached eggs using plastic wrap. Boiling water in direct contact with plastic is not the healthiest thing. And when you try to fish out the poached egg, it’s stuck to the cling-wrap. After that so-called hack fails, you try making a poached egg in a microwave. But that’s cheating—in a weird way—because it's not actually a poached egg. Forget all these silly methods and return to tradition.
The only foolproof method to poach an egg over the stove with a pot of simmering water is basically the traditional way. Of course there’s still room for mistakes here, but we’ll run through all the scenarios in which something can go wrong in hopes that you do it right every single time after. It takes a few tries to learn how long to cook the egg (depending on your taste) and how to get the swirl going. But, practice makes perfect and we believe in you. You’re so close to making a perfectly round and smooth poached egg at home without any ridiculous tricks included. Watching a golden yolk spill from your knife onto your plate is an accomplishment. Soon, you’ll see.
Your water has come to a boil, but it’s too hot. The temperature of the water is a very important factor in poaching. It might seem like boiling water would be the best option. So, you’re probably thinking, The hotter the water, the faster the egg will cook. The faster the egg cooks, the less time there is for a broken yolk. This isn’t necessarily true. You want to make sure that the water is just shy of boiling. Let’s call it “a light simmer.” If you have a thermometer, make sure the temperature of the water is between 160-180°F. If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t sweat it. Just look for small bubbles around the edges of the pot—that’s the sweet spot.
The temperature is perfect, yet you crack the egg right into the water. EHHHH! The whites become watery and separate from the yolk while cooking. But regardless of how fresh your egg is, with this method, wispy whites will always appear. If you crack the egg directly into the water, the yolk will drop to the bottom and you’ll have a bunch of wispy whites floating around aimlessly in the pot.
Make sure there is enough water in the pot—about three-quarters full. Bring your water to a boil, turn down the heat, and bring it to a brisk simmer. When tiny bubbles form around the edges of the pot, get cracking. Break the egg into a ramekin, or small bowl, rather than cracking it directly into the pot. And whatever you do, don’t forget the swirl. Just before dropping the egg in, use a spoon to create a gentle whirlpool in the water. Quickly drop the egg into the middle of the pot and watch the whites swirl around the yolk as it cooks for two minutes. P-E-R-F-E-C-T-I-O-N.