Friday, August 8, 2008

how to poach an egg, smitten kitchen-style

how to poach an egg

I am tortured by two opposing forces in my life: the fact that I love poached eggs–on anything and everything, from asparagus to slow-roasted slices of tomato, crisped cups of Canadian bacon, black bread, I could keep going… — and the fact that I’m terrible at making them.

And this is why it is so ridiculous amusing that I am giving you–or at least the eleven of you that said you were afraid of poaching eggs–a poached egg tutorial today. And by “today” I mean two days because it took me two tries to even get one worth photographing (though in my defense, holding the camera in your right hand while lowering an egg into a pot with your left does have a certain inevitability of disaster).

Obviously, this makes me some sort of expert, so let’s get started!

How to Poach an Egg

There are about as many methods to poaching eggs as there are eggs on this earth, from plastic wrap (sorry, ew) to poaching cups to cupcake liners seriously, I’ve lost track but I am sure that people will be eager to share their own in the comments. This is simply the one that works for me. When I’m not holding a camera in my other hand.

First, heat a pot with a few inches of water in it.

1: heat up some water

Put a splash of vinegar in the water. This helps tighten up the egg. I know there are strong pro- and anti-vinegar in egg-poaching waters out there, but like I said: this is just what works for me!

2: add a splash of vinegar

Now here is the first of the two Very Most Important Things I Will Tell You About Poaching Eggs: You don’t want boiling water. You don’t want simmering water. You want very hot water at the point right before it simmers, like you see here. Once it gets there, turn the temperature down a bit so it doesn’t bubble. If your water has already begun boiling, bring the temperature down to below the boiling point. See, that’s not so hard?

3: when the water gets like this

Break an egg into a small dish. It is always easier to slide the egg in from a dish. I’ve tried it the other way a million times and it never comes together as well in the pot.

4: crack an egg in a small dish

Make a whirlpool with your spoon, spatula, whatever you’re using.

5: make a little whirlpool

Slide the egg into the middle of the whirlpool with your other hand. See how much easier this is when you’ve already put the egg in a dish?

6: gently slide the egg into the middle

Now here is the second of the two Very Most Important Things I Will Tell You About Poaching Eggs: Don’t panic. Seriously, it’s going to look a little chaotic in there for a moment. You’ll probably have a little white fly off that you had wanted to keep attached to the egg. Breathe. It’s okay. It will still work out.

7: it will wrap around itself a little

The reason for the whirlpool is that it really helps the egg stay together, wrapping the white around the yolk. However, you can help it along too with your spatula or spoon by gently pushing it all in as it initially sets. If your egg has stuck to the bottom of the pot, just slide the spatula very very gently underneath after 30 seconds or so of cooking.

8: you can help it along

A few minutes later, your mostly-perfect egg should be ready. (I look for an egg that wobbles, but just a little, when nudged with the spoon, about 3 to 4 minutes of cooking time.) Scoop it out with a slotted spoon.

9: scoop it out when it's ready

And let it drain on a folded paper towel. Now let’s say you’re having company and you’ve been insane enough to think you want to poach eggs for all of them. The cool thing is, at this point you can save them for a little later. To reheat them, put them back in hot (but not boiling) water for a minute.

10: drain it on a paper towel

Prepare your toast. I’m a big fan of cutting my second slice into fingers. I’ll show you why in a moment.

11: prepare your toast

With the egg on top, the fun begins!

12: pop it!

I like to make a little slice and let it roll on out.

14: your stomach might grumble

Then I salt and pepper it.

15: season it with pepper

And now you see why I like those fingers of bread. They keep the yolk from going everywhere. They make your poached-egg-on-toast a hands-free device.

18: keep the runoff under control

Well, almost. Once I’m done torturing my egg with toast sticks, I can never resist a final smash pulling everything together: egg, toast, butter, salt and pepper, gah. Seriously, I want another one just looking at it now.

19: the smittenkitchen smash (TM)


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