Ruth eloquently shares smart cooking tips in her column “How to Make a Better…” Francis goes smell-for-smell and sound-for-sound with killer recipes in “Watch the Stove.” Me? Starting today, I’m getting down and dirty with the nitty-gritty of cooking techniques in “Don’t Sweat the Technique (shout out to Eric B. & Rakim).”
Good technique is the key ingredient in any recipe. Great cooks know their techniques so well, they never have to sweat ‘em, which allows for fun things like experimentation and creativity in the kitchen. If you’re already familiar with my technique-of-the-week, hopefully you’ll get a good refresher or a new take on it. But either way, I’ll also share lots of ways to use it or a rad recipe. - Whitney
There is something unexplainably magnetic about a delicate object that was made to be broken, but that’s just one of many reasons poached eggs are great. A soft fabric of egg white hiding a warm, velvety yolk, sunny and runny— it triggers something in the brain that makes us ooh-and-ahh.
Despite being a marvel for the senses, something about poaching eggs freaks home cooks out. “They’re too fragile,” my fiancé says. “Too easy to overcook,” chimes my mother. And so most people are like my otherwise I’ll-cook-anything-friend, who says, “I leave the egg poaching to restaurants.”
Ok, so they’ve got a point, but that only makes a well-poached egg even more special. And really, anyone can do it—a great poached egg just requires following five simple steps. It may take you a few tries to nail it, but if you stick to this guide, I guarantee you’ll get to be an egg poaching pro.
1) Pick the right pot
To form the beautiful, signature teardrop shape, a poaching egg needs to cook for about 30 seconds before it settles to the bottom of the pot, so the pot or saucepan should be either wide or deep (or both). My favorite choice is a large saucepan about 4” deep and 10” wide.
2) Use fresh eggs, and get them on deck early
Fresh eggs have thick whites, sturdy yolks, and the two cling to each other tightly; as they age, everything starts to thin and loosen, which makes it hard to keep them together while they’re poaching. Slightly cloudy egg whites and a bright yolk that sits up high are good signs that your eggs are fresh. Get them ready by cracking them into something first—one per ramekin, tea cup, whatever. You’ll get more control that way, and you won’t be fishing bits of egg shells out of the pot later. I like cracking them into ramekins just before I start heating the water. That way they’ll temper a bit and ultimately cook a little faster and more evenly.
3) Get your water up to a gentle (vinegar-spiked) simmer
Fill your pot with at least 2” of water and add ½ tablespoon of white vinegar for every 5 cups of water in the pot. This doesn’t have to be exact, just enough to be barely perceptible when you taste the water. The vinegar helps the egg white firm up. It sometimes adds a teeny taste of vinegar to the egg, but I think it’s a nice balance to the rich yolk.
Bring the water to a boil. I don’t salt the water, but you could. When you’re ready to poach your egg, turn down the heat to low, so that the boil subsides, but medium sized bubbles continue to rise the surface and steam comes off the surface of the water—a gentle simmer. This is about 180 °F.
The cadence of the bubbles in your pot really matters; a vigorous boil will cook the egg too quickly and violently toss it around the pot which makes for uneven, overcooked eggs, while still water isn’t hot enough, and will cause the egg to sink to the bottom and stick.
4) Make a tornado
With a spoon, start stirring the simmering water—do this carefully because the water is hot (obviously) and you don’t want to slosh it all over yourself. When you’ve got a good vortex, dip the ramekin into the pot and gently slide the egg into the water. Watch it spin. If you start to lose swirl, you can gently stir the water again. All this whirling makes the egg do somersaults and the whites will set evenly and smoothly around the yolk. Don’t freak out; let the egg and water do their thing. Repeat with the other eggs, but don’t crowd them so they deform or cool down the water too much. Give them enough room to settle down comfortably, and keep an eye on the bubbling.
5) Time it
Whip out your timer. The egg (depending on the size) should be in simmering water for 3 to 3½ minutes—no more than 4 minutes—for tender whites and a thick, runny center. At about 3½ minutes, using a slotted spoon, carefully scoop out the egg, dry it slightly by resting the slotted spoon on a paper towel, and serve immediately.
You can hold poached eggs in a bowl of cold water in the refrigerator for up to eight hours. To re-warm, dunk the pre-poached eggs in simmering water for about 30 seconds before serving.
Now that you’re an egg poaching prodigy, what do you put them on besides Eggs Benedict?
- Garlic bread like you’ve never seen. Cut a baguette into thick slices and toast them dry. Serve the toasted slices for dipping in a bowl that hides a warm poached egg, seasoned with salt and pepper, a pat of butter and a smashed garlic clove. The flavor from the smashed clove will infuse the yolk once you break into it.
- Caesar salad. With crunchy croutons and thin planks of freshly shaved Parmesan, a poached egg makes this salad a hearty meal.
- A grilled (or seared) pork chop. It’s amazing, especially if you accidentally overcook the chop. The egg almost turns into a sauce.
- Spaghetti. There’s a reason why carbonara sauce (a classic Italian sauce made with egg yolks and cheese) is beloved. Top almost any sauced pasta with a poached egg for extra luxuriousness.
- Kale or other hearty greens. Raw, roasted, sautéed or braised, greens are killer with the soft, velvety texture of a poached egg.
- Noodles in soup, and by that, yes I mean 99¢ ramen. After you’ve dished the noodles out of the pot and into a soup bowl, add your poached egg and it will stay warm without over cooking.
- A baked potato. Add finely chopped scallions and dill dressed in champagne vinegar and grainy mustard. It’s like a reconstructed potato salad.
- Fried rice. Skip the scrambled eggs and top a bowl of simply fried rice (with green peas, scallions, salt and pepper and some ham or Chinese sausage if you’ve got it) with a poached egg instead. The yolk runs into the bits of rice so seductively.
Greek Eggs Benedict
6 ounces spinach leaves, washed and dried
1 clove of garlic, grated
Juice from a lemon
2 thin slices of red onion
3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
½ cup of Greek yogurt
½ cup of crumbled feta cheese
1 teaspoon of Zatar seasoning (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste
White vinegar, as needed
1. Bring a pot with water for poaching your eggs to a boil. Add just enough vinegar to the water to be perceptible.
2. Using a biscuit cutter or highball glass, stamp out two rounds from each pita, making 4 rounds
4. In a small bowl, mix the Greek yogurt with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and the lemon juice. Season with the zatar and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
5. Heat the last tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a sauté pan. Spread the pita circles in the pan, dabbing each in the oil. Top each of them with some of the spinach, feta cheese crumbles and a few raw red onion slices. Crisp the bottom of the pita rounds while the eggs are poaching.
6. Poach the eggs. Right before serving, put a dollop of yogurt on each of the spinach-topped pita circles. Top each with a poached egg and serve.