What’s Eating You? is a weekly advice column where I answer all of your burning cooking questions. To get the ball rolling, I’ve asked some of my friends to send me theirs. If you’d like your kitchen dilemma solved, feed it to me here.
Sophie W. is a Jew who can’t eat lox due to a salmon allergy discovered in the fourth grade. Despite this food deficiency, she enjoys experimenting and trying new recipes with a preference for one-pot meals that last all week. A native New Yorker, living in DC, she wishes she had NY bagels for her poached eggs at all times.
I became a poached egg lover last summer and since then have been trying to master the art of the perfect poach. Methods tried: swirling madly with a whisk, swirling madly with a spatula, not swirling and simmering, using Sur La Table overpriced egg cups (waste of money). I end up wasting so many eggs that end up with broken yolks, or eggs with distended-yolk-syndrome (not very attractive). How can I perfect my poaching skills and take the stress out of making my favorite food? –Sophie W.
You’re absolutely right about those Sur La Table egg poachers. Go sell yours on E-Bay! Everyone has their own way of getting a perfect poach, so I’ll share some of the best ones with you, and also a few rules of thumb to keep in mind.
First, never bring your water to a rolling boil. Anything resembling a Jacuzzi will be way too aggressive for your eggs. Instead, bring the water to just a boil, then turn the heat way down to maintain the gentlest of gentle simmers. We’re talking just a few air bubbles here and there. This should combat broken yolks.
Second, try adding a splash (1 or 2 teaspoons) of vinegar to the water. Something neutral like white wine or rice vinegar works best. I’m no scientist, but I know that this step gets the egg whites to firm up faster, helping to prevent distended yolk syndrome.
As for the rest of the process, it helps to be a bit of a helicopter cook. Slowly lower the egg into the water using a pyrex prep bowl, or even a large spoon. Keep an eye on the egg as it cooks and use a spoon to gently tidy up the whites, spooning any separated strands back towards the mothership. You want to keep the egg as tight and unified as possible. I usually don’t whisk – this feels too aggressive too – just tidy with a spoon.
Amanda Hesser published this video on Food52 on how to be the ultimate egg poaching control-freak. Her method actually involves holding the egg on a large spoon for the duration of the cooking process, and using a smaller spoon to tidy it along the way. I haven’t tried it out yet, but it looks awesome.
Last but not least, Elise Bauer of Simply Recipes sometimes uses the metal ring from the top of her mason jars to keep the egg contained in the poaching liquid. I imagine you could also use a ring mold to get the desired effect. She then covers the pot and turns off the heat completely.
I’m a fatty when it comes to breakfast, so I vastly prefer fried eggs to poached. Let me be the first to admit that I’m no expert when it comes to the perfect poach. Give some of these tricks a whirl (maybe for Mother’s Day brunch?), and check back in to let us all know how your eggs turn out. I’m counting on you to teach me a thing or two!