Help Wanted

Lest you begin to think that everything turns out perfectly in the shoe box kitchen, we’ve decided to come clean on something: we can’t poach an egg to save our lives.

What is this?  Only the second hurricane of the 2010 Atlantic season??  Hurricane Danielle is that you??

No.  More like Hurricane Fail.  This was our – let’s see – third or fourth attempt to poach an egg this morning.

How hard can it be, right?  Yes, we researched all over the internet.  We even consulted Martha Stewart, herself, who says that “it’s really not that hard if you follow these simple steps.”


Instead of describing everything that we tried, I’ll describe the method that gave us the “best” result.

We heated 3 inches of water in a saucepan until a few bubbles were just beginning to rise and burst on the surface, or, to a temperature of about 170 – 180 degrees, as verified by our instant read thermometer.  We also added about a tablespoon of vinegar, which is supposed to encourage the egg whites to congeal more quickly, thus avoiding Hurricane Fail (which attempt, incidentally, was done without the use of vinegar).

We cracked one relatively fresh egg into a prep bowl (rather than directly into the water).

We then stirred the water to create a vortex, then gently poured the egg into the vortex.  Immediately it looked promising (the vinegar helped hold the whites together), but before long, the egg had sunk to the bottom of the pot and began to stick.  In fact, this was the problem that we could not overcome and which continued to yield something more like an egg fried over easy.

During a different (not our most successful) attempt, we tried this “double-boilerish” approach, with the glass prep bowl filled with enough water to cook the egg but enough air to keep it floating, so the bottom would not come into contact with the pot.  We thought this might solve the “frying egg” dilemma.  For whatever reason, though, these results were even worse, as the egg went straight to the bottom of the glass bowl and stuck.

This was the result of our best attempt.  We served the “poached” egg on top of toasted whole wheat flat bread with a spreading of garlic hummus (we doubled the amount of garlic from the original recipe – HOO-wah!).  As it turns out, the concept was great – the garlicy hummus and runny egg yolk flavors complimented each other outstandingly well.  The execution, however, is in need of much improvement.

We read that some people add salt to increase the density of the water, thus helping the egg float, but we’ve also read that salt will counteract the purpose of the vinegar.  Nevertheless, we’ll try some salt next time, as well as a new batch of eggs.

So help us out, here!  Surely someone out there is an expert egg poacher.  What’s your advice on how to poach the perfect egg??

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13 Responses to Help Wanted

  1. Martina Jamison says:

    I had the same experience. I bought the poacher from Williams-Sonoma and have success every time.

  2. Daddy says:

    Well, let’s see, I don’t understand the problem. Bring water to almost a boil. Drop egg into water. Then begin splashing the hot water over the top of the egg to seal it, (small teaspoon will work). Then wait about 2-3 minutes and scoop her up and put on the toast. That’s the way I do it. Oh well.

  3. Gill says:

    The Shoebox realizes that eggs are being taken off the market due to reports of deathly disease, doesn’t it? However, live dangerously. I will pass the request for help along, but can there be a higher source than Martha? I’m thinking SB’s failure here is to prevent SB from eating bad eggs. I love W-S as much as anyone, but a dedicated egg poaching tool seems a bit much.

  4. Daddy says:

    The “sinking” of the egg is a mystery. Maybe you should consult with your left brain. Sounds like something related to physics. And you know how great I am with my left brain. Nothing worse than a sinking yolk. Someone had to have said that somewhere in history! Oh well, have you considered “light” eggs…just kidding…good luck!

    By the way, your pic looks like a good poached egg to me anyway.

  5. Daddy says:

    As a footnote: I crack my egg into the water. Do you do that?

    • We cracked the egg into a prep bowl then poured it into the water, per the suggestions on several websites. We’ll try cracking it directly into the water – more tests in the morning!

  6. Waverly says:

    Forget about the perfect looking poached egg – how it tastes is more important and that egg looks fantastic.
    We can’t all be Martha.

  7. pat says:

    my son makes perfectly poached eggs in a piece of saran wrap! …Spray it lightly with pam, put wrap in a cup and break egg into it…bring up ends and twist tightly and lower into simmering water… pull out with tongs to avoid burns!I was doubtful too until i saw him do it…seriously.

  8. Chris says:

    I like to have my water right at 200f when I poach eggs, but the rest sounds like what I do.

    Here’s one tip I picked up. Fresh, cold eggs retain their shape better when poached. Place raw egg in bowl of cold water. If it lays flat, it’s fresh. If one end floats up, it is older (good for boiling). If the entire egg floats, it should be discarded.

    I lucked into success the first time I poached eggs earlier this year and have been able to repeat it. Except for the one time I tried those silicone “poach pods” that are supposed to make it easy…..what a disaster!

  9. icemncmth says:

    I use to have to make poached eggs in a fancy French restaurant I worked at when I was younger..

    1st tip…put the egg in the freezer for 5 mins to get it really cold. When you crack the egg in a small bowl prior to placing in water make sure the bowl is sprayed with oil or nonstick cooking spray. If not the egg white will partially stick to the bowl and cause problems.

    Or how I did it at the fancy restaurant to get perfect poached eggs was to…
    Grab a metal spoon that is large enough to hold an egg. Spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Have the water boiling with vinegar and lower the spoon into the water, keeping the spoon level with the water. You want the egg to stay in the spoon and the bottom of the spoon the touch the water. The spoon will heat up and start cooking the egg. Take a smaller spoon and splash some of the hot water over the top of the egg causing it to cook. Once the egg is partially cooked you can lower the whole spoon into the water allow the egg to come free.

    Have you ever wondered why when you get a poached egg at a fancy restaurant why it is cooked and it is an elongated shape…it is the shape of a spoon .. An old trick!

    Oh..and a couple of reasons your egg may sink. If you “vortex” your water the vortex will actually draw the egg down. If you use this method you need a lot of water and not much spin in the vortex. The other reason is if your water is boiling..(not a rolling boil) but just enough for the bubbles to rise the bubbles displace the water under the egg with air and the egg is heavier than air thus the egg sinks.

    Try not having your water boil!

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