Misadventures in Poaching Eggs


Eggs are a staple in my life. Maybe I’ve going to brunch too much [is that even possible?], where dishes featuring poached eggs are my go-to item, but these little nuggets are the icing on my delicious savory brunch cake.

In theory, poaching an egg is super fucking easy. You’ll find legitimate directions below, but basically, all you do is crack an egg into a small bowl and lower it into its own special whirlpool bath of was-boiling-now-simmering water spiked with a splash of vinegar. Then you wait for 3 to 4 minutes until it’s ready for its glorious debut, take it out with a slotted spoon, pat it dry and enjoy the fuck out of it.

I’ve only made poached eggs one other time and it was a disaster. I figured that now I am more of an adult, this would be easier, but I was clearly wrong on both counts. This was also a disaster and I’m still not an adult.

The first part is easy. I’m a decent cook, but even if I wasn’t, it’s hard to screw up boiling water. So I boiled the water, splashed some vinegar in it, and started the whirlpool. My apartment does not own a slotted spoon, so maybe that was my first mistake. More likely, my whirlpool just sucked, ’cause the whites immediately went everywhere, like this was some sort of free-for-all. Apparently I was supposed to keep the whirlpool going until the egg maintained its eggy shape on its own, but oops. I panicked and without that slotted spoon, it seemed that all hope was lost.

I took pictures–well, I started taking pictures–but I was trying to save this disaster and the pictures were ugly. I finally fished out the sad, sad egg mess I had created. It was still edible hidden between some toast with a liberal amount of salt & pepper.

You can also poach an egg in the microwave (if you’re so inclined), so I tried that too. Just fill a mug or a microwave-safe bowl with half a cup of water, crack an egg directly into the bowl, or crack it into a measuring cup first and gently slide it in, and then microwave it for 1 minute. Way harder to ruin but still not great. My microwave is apparently not the best (or it’s just dirty…) and it took an additional 15 seconds to poach. Way less work, but still not that pretty egg shape that restaurants get.

Brunch places probably have poaching fairies that do all this for them, because it seems like magic. I guess the moral of this story is that I should step away from the whirlpool pot and let the restaurants do the work. But let’s be serious, I definitely ate both of my attempts.

Want to create your own kitchen disaster, or discover you’re a wizard? Have at it.

Poaching an egg the traditional way:

  1. Add a small dash of vinegar to a pan of simmering water. There should be bubbles, but it shouldn’t be a rolling boil.
  2. Crack eggs individually into a cup or small bowl.
  3. With a slotted spoon, create a gentle whirlpool in the water to help the egg white wrap around the yolk.
  4. Slowly and gently tip the egg into the water. Leave to cook for about three minutes.
  5. Remove with your slotted spoon, and use the edge of the spoon to cut off any weird edges.
  6. Place on a paper towel to remove any excess water.
  7. Serve and eat!

Using a microwave:

  1. Fill a 1-cup microwaveable bowl or teacup with 1/2 cup water.
  2. Gently crack an egg into the water, making sure it’s completely submerged.
  3. Cover with a saucer and microwave on high for about 1 minute, or until the white is set but the yolk is still runny.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the egg to a paper towel to dry off.
  5. Enjoy!

Post by Lian Weinstein. Photo from what’scookingamerica.net. Directions by bbcgoodfood.com and bonappetit.com