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Perfectly Poaching Eggs


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#1 porpoise_oil

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 02:13 AM

One of my culinary missions for the next few months is to learn how to perfectly poach eggs - like in a cafe or restaurant, where you get egg white in a neat and tidy bundle surrounding an oozey, custard-like yolk.

I've tried a number of techniques from a variety of sources, and although I can make passable poached eggs for home purposes, I can never come close to replicating the presentation of a professional's poached egg.

One thing I've heard over and over is that it is critical the eggs are fresh - so I've been making sure I use very fresh eggs. This does help but it doesn't solve the whole problem.

Other techniques I've tried to varying degrees of success are:

- Adding vinegar to the water (there seems to be mixed advice on this, even within the Modernist community)
- Stirring the water vigorously, and dropping the egg into the middle (perhaps putting it into a ramekin or other vessel first)
- Lining a ramekin with plastic wrap, dropping the egg into the wrap and tying it up tightly (this semi-worked - the egg seemed to cook well and had a nice shape, but removing the egg from the pouch was a nightmare and I lost much of the white in the process)
- Using a very deep pot (stockpot)
- Using a very shallow pot (deep frying pan)

I fully admit I may have just not done a good job with some or all of these techniques, but I was hoping there might be some advice I could get about which techniques are worth persevering with and which are based in fiction. The vinegar addition and the vortex techniques, in particular, seem to be contentious - half the places I read advocate for one while saying the other is a waste of time!

Thanks,

John

#2 LindaK

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 05:48 AM

Take a look at some of our older topics on poached eggs, such as Poached Eggs Redux, Cooking more than one poached egg at a time, Poaching eggs in the microwave.


 


#3 mkayahara

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 05:56 AM

Agreed that you should check out the earlier topics. My poached eggs don't always look professional, either, but I've never found the "vortex" approach to work for me at all. I don't use vinegar, though I believe it can help. Also consider draining off the loose white (see Ruhlman's explanation), which is usually what gives you the flyaways.

Or you could just get an immersion circulator and slow-cook the eggs in the shell. That certainly gives you perfectly rounded eggs! :wink:
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#4 porpoise_oil

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 06:51 AM

Thanks! I had searched for 'poached eggs' and variations thereof, and nothing came up - but I think this was my iPad app (Tapatalk) misbehaving! Thanks for the links, I'll look at those.

#5 JAZ

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 12:52 PM

I wrote an article on poached eggs for NPR's Kitchen Window a while back -- here's a link-- and also wrote up a tutorial for About.com, if you want a shorter version with photos: how to poach eggs. Most of my techniques are also included in the topics Linda linked to.

#6 David Ross

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Posted 02 November 2012 - 05:17 PM

Ironically, I was watching a classic episode of "The French Chef" last night, ca. 1963, and Julia placed whole eggs in simmering water for 10 seconds, then cracked them and proceeded. She said that it aids in drawing the white away from the shell, resulting in a better shape to the finished poached egg.

#7 Garth

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 02:46 AM

water temp is most important for perfect eggs & don't over crowd. Vinegar or pickles are or lemons are useful to alot of people. They make the water easier to be kept clean, they change the buoyancy this floats the scum & blow off making it easy to discard with a sloted spoon. they also keep the eggs from cooking directly to the bottom of the pan. I've never cooked more than 20 at once but I have cooked 20 at once for several hours.I like to use a 2" hotel pan with a lid on it & just set it right on a 350-375 degree grill. Kept filled with water & I just use oil, occasionaly a lemon wedgethe procedure would go like this: remove lid from pan crack eggs into the water delicately & replace lid. The less you disturb the water the nicer the eggs. Poach just until the whites are solid remove lid & take the eggs out. I use a slotted spatula. Perfect every time. Discard & replace pan & water often. You will have to get your own feel for how long it takes before the eggs are done. If using a pan on the stove at home use about 3" of water use a lid heat the water to just about smiling, that's when you can see creases starting to form on the surface, when you see this back the heat down to med, add oil or cooking spray & add to that a slice of lemon if you want to, gently crack eggs into the pan avoid splashing the water around in the pan. put lid on, you will be able to get a slotted spoon under the egg to inspect for doneness in 2 minutes. Alternatively: fill soup bowl with 2" water, heat in microwave for 1:30 secs, crack 2 eggs into bowl of water & cook for additional 30 seconds remove & serve. Be warned eggs can blow up as long as 1 minute after taking them out.

#8 nickrey

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 03:29 AM

I did a how to in my food blog (see this post that includes pictures.

More recently I let the whirlpool settle down more than is represented in the blog and then carefully place the egg in the vortex and watch the white wrap gently around the yolk. I use vinegar and a whirlpool because it works for me. I must add that it took a lot of practice to get it right.

It all comes down to what you are comfortable with and what works. I use a deep pan as I find the egg sets before it reaches the bottom. Others, such as Garth above, use shallow pans. To my mind the proof is in the product. Have a look at the product and see if it is what you want then be prepared to have a number of failures before you get it right.

Another method is proposed by Heston Blumenthal who says to cook it at 80C for four minutes in a pan that has an upturned plate at the bottom to stop it hitting direct heat. He also makes sure to remove the loose white before cooking. Type "Heston Blumenthal perfect poached egg" into you tube search to watch him do it.

Good luck.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#9 liuzhou

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 05:20 AM

I have cooked 20 at once for several hours


???

#10 Norm Matthews

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 07:46 AM

If you break the egg into a glass custard dish and look at the edge of the white and see no watery edge, it is fresh enough to use without vinegar. If there is a little water around the egg white, vinegar helps congeal it but you may also have to trim away some of the trailings to make it look 'professional' . I lower the custard bowl into the water and let some of the hot water in to help set the egg before slowly and carefully letting it drop in the water. If you must, take a spatula and coax the wayward white strands back in the middle. The biggest problem with the vortex method is that you can only do one egg at a time.

You can cook them ahead, then drop them in cold water to set and keep them until you have enough or are ready to eat, then just reheat in hot water.

Edited by Norm Matthews, 03 November 2012 - 07:49 AM.


#11 barolo

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 01:31 PM

I have cooked 20 at once for several hours


???


I interpret that as: 20 at a time, repeating batches of 20 over several hours.
Cheers,
Anne

#12 Garth

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Posted 03 November 2012 - 02:46 PM

. I use to prep them a day ahead for sunday brunch. poach them then place them in large plastic containers of Ice water then into the cooler overnight. To reheat I used a set up simillar to what you might use to heat cooked pasta like a china cap in a pot of heated water except not a china cap more like a basket. That vortex method is the french method for poaching an egg that I have found to be unfeasable & simply more trouble than it's worth do to the amount of attention each egg requires not to mention you can only cook 1 egg at a time in a single pan. It would be safe to say I have cooked as many as 50 batches of 20 eggs over a period of 3-6 hours give ar take a batch or an egg.
If you're gonna to experiment with using something to mold the egg I would recomend cooking the eggs en cocotte ( baked in a ramekin in water bath) or shirring the eggs (baked with butter).

#13 radtek

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 08:52 AM

There are "poaching pans" that will deliver perfectly poached eggs every time. My Cordon-Blue trained mother- god bless her- did them this way when I was a child and until my 30's never saw them done freestyle until my experiences in fine dining. What I did see then was a lot of wasted egg due to unskilled or just plain lackadaisical treatment of the poaching process.

I think egg-rings in some shallow simmering water would aid most folks and deliver consistently poached eggs without waste and just the right size for English muffins.

#14 iainpb

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 09:47 AM

I use Heston Blumenthal's technique - give it a try, it's worked well for me
http://www.channel4....hed-eggs-recipe

#15 nickrey

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 04:01 PM

This two-week old egg was cooked in a 2 liter saucepan with an inverted plate on the bottom. Water was around 80C, the egg was at room temperature, loose white removed by draining through a perforated spoon, vinegar in water, and placed into a gentle whirlpool in direction of the flow. Around four minutes of cooking, check doneness of yolk by lifting out of water and pressing gently.

The method gets a result that looks something like a boiled egg.

I find I can cook up to four eggs this way, placing the next in when the white is just firming on the first. If you need to do dozens of eggs, I'd use something more akin to Garth's technique.

poached.jpg

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#16 daydayxvi

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 04:57 PM

Thanks Nick for the great picture, I think seeing the end result makes it more compelling to try! Does the egg settle inside the underside rim of the plate or did I not understand that correctly?
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#17 nickrey

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 05:35 PM

It does settle there. The main point is that is doesn't touch the metal bottom and through that the heat source.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#18 Charcuterer

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 06:54 AM

This morning I tried the egg poaching method that JAZ linked to above. It was my first really successful poached egg. Where they usually come out shaggy and unattractive it was perfect. Watching the egg bob around in the pot is better entertainment than most of what FoodTV is airing these days...

#19 Heartsurgeon

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 02:40 PM

the purists will scream...but here it goes....

lay out a square of saran wrap (about 12x12 inch) and rub a little butter on the center 5 inches
crack open an egg and place the insides on the center of the saran wrap.
season the raw egg, if you wish.
gather up the edges of the saran wrap and make a little beggars purse out of.
hold the top of the package, and lower into simmering water until you achieve the consistency you want.

remove the saran wrap and serve

Edited by Heartsurgeon, 06 November 2012 - 02:41 PM.


#20 nickrey

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 07:35 PM

the purists will scream...but here it goes....

lay out a square of saran wrap (about 12x12 inch) and rub a little butter on the center 5 inches
crack open an egg and place the insides on the center of the saran wrap.
season the raw egg, if you wish.
gather up the edges of the saran wrap and make a little beggars purse out of.
hold the top of the package, and lower into simmering water until you achieve the consistency you want.

remove the saran wrap and serve

This is the Arzak egg. I don't really like the coin purse appearance of the finished product.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#21 dcarch

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 10:29 PM

The purists are not going to like this one either.

I have seen all the videos of "perfect" poached eggs, including those by famous chefs.
This is my egghead approach of poaching eggs:

1. I don't use vinegar, salt or baking soda.
2. I don't stir the water
3. And I don't want to waste any egg white.
4. I want my poached eggs done exactly the way I like, EVERY TIME, regardless of how big, how old, or how cold the eggs are.


The basic property of egg white and egg yolk and the thermodynamics of water are simple, and the desired end result can be predictable and repeatable.

1. Crack eggs into small plastic cups. Season the eggs if you prefer.
2. In a large pot bring water to rapid boil.
3. Place cups with eggs in boiling pot on a rack to STEAM the eggs. Do not BOIL the cups in water.
4. In a minute the egg white will be somewhat firm and the yolks are still runny.
5. Remove the cups, and turn off the fire.
6. Gently pour the eggs into the hot water. The egg white will not spread all over because it has been cooked firm.
7. Select from the egg charts (you can find many on the WEB) the degree of runny-ness you like the yolks, add cold water to the boiling water and use a thermometer to check the temperature. I use my sous vide cooker to keep temperature to within one degree F.
8. As long as you keep the temperature constant, your eggs cannot be overcooked.


dcarch

Posted Image

Posted Image

Edited by dcarch, 06 November 2012 - 10:30 PM.


#22 rotuts

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 06:28 AM

dcarth excellent ideas. ive done them this way but in buttered little pyrex prep cups.

I now do double SV: 40 min at yolk temp. ice. refrig. reheat in water bath that in the microwave but the egg does not touch the bottom: I use the two bottom parts of a salad spinner.

then 20 secs in almost boiling water for the outer white set.

I do 1 - 2 dozen at a time for the first part.

#23 nickrey

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 05:07 PM

The purists are not going to like this one either.



Posted Image

Not trying to be a purist; however, is it just me or do they look more fried than poached?.

Nick Reynolds, aka "nickrey"

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
My eG Foodblog


#24 dcarch

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 05:23 PM


The purists are not going to like this one either.

Not trying to be a purist; however, is it just me or do they look more fried than poached?.


What you are looking at is powdered bacon sprinkled on top.

You can't fry eggs in water :laugh:

dcarch

#25 nickrey

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Posted 07 November 2012 - 05:57 PM

Great imitation of frypan sear there ;)

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#26 BKYLN

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 03:58 PM

dcarth excellent ideas. ive done them this way but in buttered little pyrex prep cups.

I now do double SV: 40 min at yolk temp. ice. refrig. reheat in water bath that in the microwave but the egg does not touch the bottom: I use the two bottom parts of a salad spinner.

then 20 secs in almost boiling water for the outer white set.

I do 1 - 2 dozen at a time for the first part.

so much work for something so simple and easy

#27 nickrey

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 04:16 PM

Problem is that they're not easy, everyone just assumes that they are.

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Unless there are three other people." Orson Welles
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#28 weinoo

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 04:29 PM

A respected friend of mine tells me that he first boils the egg in the shell for 10 seconds, then poaches it. Seems to work great. It was on an old Julia show, iirc.

I now see that David has touched on this above.
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#29 rotuts

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Posted 08 November 2012 - 04:36 PM

well as I do it above, it has two parts: SV in quantity, no work at all. chill and placed back in the egg carton and the refig.

part two take 45 secd to 1 minute , no more. one makes the coffee while this happens

#30 BKYLN

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Posted 11 November 2012 - 08:16 PM

Problem is that they're not easy, everyone just assumes that they are.

maybe I should have clarified that I've cooked at 3 Michelin star restaurants, so to me, poaching eggs is easy.