The Poached Egg

I am still reading the New York Times Magazine from Sunday. It is so full of great stuff that I am having to pace myself. This morning I read the article about Christopher Kimball from “America’s Test Kitchen” fame. A fascinating article but I am afraid I don’t agree with his premise that most people are intimidated in the kitchen and live in fear, and that cooking is hard stuff.  That he disdains fancy cooking is what we have in common. I love to eat amazing food that is perfectly prepared, but I don’t like that it puts people off from cooking.

The poached egg has been made difficult by every chef and cookbook writer since chickens laid eggs. I don’t know if the motivation is to get you to come to their restaurant or that the fear has just been passed down. Time to put all of that to an end. Making a poached egg is simple. Julia Child may not think so, but I just made a perfect one without any fuss whatsoever.

There are several common myths. The first is that the eggs need to be really fresh. Well, this would be nice and I am sure that a fresh egg would indeed hold together better than the one that has been sitting in your fridge for two weeks, but it does not preclude the average store bought egg from being poached. Another myth is that you need to spike your water with vinegar. Vinegar does lower the boiling point of water, but this is not necessary. The third myth is that you need to use a shallow, non stick pan with exactly the right depth of water. Alton Brown, one of my favorite foodies, actually measures the depth to 1.5 inches. Sorry Alton, that is hogwash.

Ingredients

  • Eggs
  • Pinch of salt

Tools

  • Sauce Pan
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Slotted Spoon
  • Little Bowl
  • Paper Towels
  • Plate
  1. Fill the pan with about 2-3 inches of water and add a pinch of salt (optional).
  2. Heat over medium-high heat to a simmer (little bubbles coming up from the bottom, at a pretty steady pace). If the water boils then turn it down until it returns to a simmer.
  3. Break an egg into a little bowl or saucer.
  4. With a wooden (or any) spoon, start to spin the water into a little vortex.
  5. Gently slide the egg into the middle of the vortex. Get the lip of the saucer as close to the water as possible.
  6. The vortex will wrap the white around the yolk. Don’t be particularly worried about a few stray white bits.
  7. Once the water stops spinning you can try to gently nudge the white part over the yolk if it is not behaving, but you should not need to do much of this.
  8. Turn the heat off.
  9. Wait for 6 minutes then gently remove to a folded paper towel on a plate to cool.
  10. You can repeat this process or you can do as many pans as you have burners for. I usually do two at once.
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