How to poach an egg – the guide to rule all other guides

Let’s talk about poached eggs.

It’s a common breakfast staple, beloved by many and for a lot, the favourte way of eating their eggy-weggs.
Now, I’ve been to many, many cafes, restaurants and everything inbetween and I had a good poached egg about 50% of the time. It’s always a gamble.

At best I’ll have a nice round egg with a runny yolk, not too glibbery, not too hard in the middle.

bad poached egg

At worst I’ve had a hard golf ball yolk with what looks like bits of white tissue hanging off it.

Yes I’ve been served this before by a well known restaurant/cafe chain (rhymes with chills) and yes, I’ve complained and got a bag of very hard cookies as an apology which I threw in a bin. Is everything they have hard?!

Needless to say, I won’t be going back in a hurry.

I don’t expect everyone to be able to poach an egg or even care enough to learn it but if you’re a chef at a restaurant and you struggle to do this, I seriously worry about your other abilities.

So, how do you poach an egg?
I know there are a million and one guides out there but I don’t think any describe it well enough, so here it goes:

Base rule:
You have to have fresh eggs. No way round it. By fresh I mean, no older than a week since you bought it. By old I mean of course still in date but close to them going off.
Why? The egg whites will separate from the yolk when you drop it into the water and you’ll have the terrible golf ball with tissue effect as described above.
If I only have old eggs, I don’t even bother poaching them.

You need a splash, and by that I mean maybe a teaspoon of vinegar to help the egg be shapely.
I use red wine vinegar but I’m sure cider vinegar and white wine vinegar will work just as well.

A big enough saucepan
A little bowl
A slotted spoon

egg in a bowl

Crack your egg in a little bowl and set aside.
Boil water until it’s simmering but not aggressively bubbling.
Add the vinegar.

simmering water

Pick up the bowl with egg and hold it in one hand, with the other gently stir the water with the slotted spoon. Don’t turn it into a hurricane, just so the water is moving in one direction.
When you stop stirring, gently, but quickly drop the egg into the middle of the pan. Get very close to the water, don’t drop it from a height.

You will see the yolk steady on the bottom of the pan while the whites are slowly circling around it until they settle.


Put the heat down a smidgen.

Wait approximately 3 mins, then with the spoon, gently ease the egg off the bottom and take out of the water. If the whites seem a little too glibbery, you can lower it back into the water.

It will depend on how runny you want it. Some people prefer it slightly harder and less runny.

You can even test it by pressing down on the yolk with your finger tip, see how much resistance you feel.

Leave the egg on the spoon to drain. Slide it on top of your chosen breakfast when sufficiently dry.

That’s it.

It might look like this:

avocado on toast


Happy poaching!



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s