Brunch 101: How to Poach an Egg

How-To, Learn, Primers

Poaching eggs is a technique even skilled cooks avoid, because frankly, frying them is a lot easier to manage. There’s no swirling the water, willing whites to coagulate or crossing your fingers the yolks don’t break in the water. An egg poacher streamlines the process, but if you don’t have one, here are a few tips to help you succeed.


The secret to a perfectly poached egg? Vinegar! Just a teaspoon of vinegar helps the egg whites settle around the yolks, keeping the poached egg neat and nicely rounded. Also, remember to keep the poaching water at a simmer, not a boil, or the bubbles could break the fragile egg structure.


Here’s how to pull it off, step by step:


Acidulate the water
Bring a generous amount of water to a low simmer in a large sauté pan. Add a teaspoon of distilled white vinegar to help the egg whites coagulate.
Crack the egg into a dish
Crack one egg into a ramekin or another small dish. This will help you pour the egg into the hot liquid. Check for shells.
Pour the egg into the water
Gently ease the egg into the simmering water, starting near one edge of the pan. Repeat with the remaining eggs. Keep track of the order in which you added the eggs.
Simmer the eggs
Gently simmer the eggs, using a slotted spoon to keep them separated, for 3 minutes if you like runny yolks or 5 minutes if you prefer the yolks more set.
Remove the eggs from the water
Using the slotted spoon, gently scoop out the first egg you put into the water, blot it on a paper towel and transfer it to a cutting board. Repeat with the remaining eggs.
Trim the eggs
Use a paring knife to trim off the ragged edges of the eggs to make a neat appearance. Serve right away.


Use your beautifully poached eggs to top a variety of breakfast and brunch dishes, such as Eggs Benedict or simply creamy polenta with sautéed greens. Try these recipes to get started:


Poached Eggs with White Bean-Tomato Ragout BLT and Poached Egg Salad
Potato Pancakes with Poached Eggs & Smoked Salmon Savory Waffles with Poached Eggs & Bacon
Asparagus Soup with Poached Eggs Chilaquiles with Poached Eggs and Black Beans


5 comments about “Brunch 101: How to Poach an Egg

  1. Laurie

    Hi! My mother and I were just talking about poached eggs. I really love them. My mother mentioned that she had just purchased the Williams Sonoma egg poacher pan and it’s the best purchase she ever made. She likes to prepare many eggs benedict for brunch with her RV club.

    It is a divinely perfect plate. I was wondering what was underneath the eggs. Hashed potato?

  2. Caz Wilson

    I had heard that vinegar affects the taste of the eggs which is why I never use it for poaching.

    I find if you have your water on the right heat, as you say, not a bristling boil but a gentle simmer, the eggs come out perfectly. After dropping the eggs in, I plunge the handle on my toaster to toast the English muffins. Once they spring up I know the eggs are ready. Not very scientific I know !!

  3. Brunch 101, From Savory to Sweet

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