Are poached eggs the sort of thing you only ever have when you go out to brunch because trying to make them at home seems way too complicated? Yeah, I’m the same way.
Or I was, until I learned the easiest way to make poached eggs. After chatting with Frank Proto, a chef instructor at the New York’s Institute of Culinary Education, I found out just how simple it can be to achieve poached egg perfection. There’s no special equipment, gigantic vats of boiling water, or swirling the water into a vortex. And despite what you might think, you can totally make them ahead of time.
Since this revelation, I’ve become a bonafide egg-poaching fiend. And not just when I’m doing a leisurely Sunday spread. Nope, I’m cranking out poached eggs on busy weekday mornings when I need food ready in 10 minutes flat. Here’s how I do it—and how you can too.
How to Make Poached Eggs
Perfectly poached eggs have a firm (but never rubbery) white exterior and a gooey, runny yolk. Making this happen in a home kitchen, without a culinary degree, might seem impossible. But you can do it—easily. Just follow these steps.
1. Bring your water to a boil.
Start by filling a small, shallow-sided pot with 3 to 3 1/2 inches of water. Then clamp on the lid and bring the water to a boil.
This might not seem like much liquid, but it’s actually the perfect amount for making poached eggs. Low pan sides make it easier to get your egg closer to the water when you’re ready to drop it in, Proto says. And less water means your egg won’t have to float too far to get to the bottom of the pan—so your white is less likely to spread out or get stringy.
2. Lower the heat and add some acid.
Once the water is boiling, turn it down to a low simmer. “If the water is boiling, the egg will break up when you put it in,” Proto says. “You want the water to be as still as possible.”
Now, add a big splash of vinegar. This is key because the acid in the vinegar helps the egg white set up faster, Proto says. Whatever you have on hand will do. Just don't use balsamic (the flavor is too strong, and the dark color will turn your egg whites a weird brown color.) I stick with apple cider vinegar since I always have a big bottle in the pantry.
3. Gently lower in your egg(s).
Cracking your egg directly into the water would be a little terrifying, no? Thankfully, there’s no need to do that. Instead, just crack it into a small bowl or cup. Then slowly lower the bowl or cup into the water and gently pour out the egg. (Even with the vinegar and simmering water, it’ll still spread a little bit, and that’s OK.) You can repeat with a second egg, if you’d like. But to avoid crowding your pot, keep it to two at a time, max.
But wait, what about that whole thing with swirling the water to create a vortex? A lot of poached egg recipes say to do this because it makes the egg white look a little neater. The swirling water encourages the white to sort of “wrap” around the yolk instead of spreading out. But Proto argues that it’s not worth the trouble. “Mainly because it only allows you to do one egg at a time,” he says. (Also, because it’s an extra step that isn’t necessary, I say!)
Will your egg look as picture perfect as the one on top of the Benedict at your favorite breakfast spot? Probably not. But if you get stuck with a few rogue egg white strands that you’re convinced will ruin your #homemadebrunch shot, just trim 'em off after cooking. Either way, your egg will still taste delicious.
4. Cook them to perfection—then eat ASAP.
After dropping your egg into the simmering water, set a timer and let it cook for 3 minutes, Proto says. That’s just enough time for the white to set while leaving the yolk nice and runny. Use a slotted spoon to scoop the egg out of the water and blot it gently with a towel to sop up any excess water.
If you space on setting the timer, you can still rely on visual cues. The egg white should be bright and opaque. The white should also hold its shape when you pull the egg out of the water. “If it splits, it probably isn’t cooked enough,” Proto says.
Can You Really Make Poached Eggs Ahead of Time?
You definitely can, but reheating the eggs means the texture won’t be quite as delectable. Poach the eggs for 2 minutes and 15 seconds instead of the full 3, then submerge them in an ice bath to stop the cooking, Proto says. When you’re ready to eat, just reheat them for a minute or so in the same poaching liquid. (Or make it fresh, if you’re reheating much later that day or the next day.) To keep it easy, just go ahead and eat them right away. Now that you know how easy they are, there's no need to do any meal prepping.