How to Poach an Egg

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Poaching an egg is an easy technique once you learn how to properly do it. Many people are fearful of breaking the egg or ending up with soggy, runny eggs, but I have a few tips to help you become a pro at poached eggs.

This healthy cooking technique requires no added fat, and it is fast enough for even a busy morning. (Worried about the cholesterol in this "perfect protein" food? Check out this article to see why eggs are excellent any time of day.)

I put together a short video demonstrating the process, along with a list of helpful hints.

Some tips:

  • To keep eggs from getting too hard, the water should be about 180 degrees Fahrenheit--not boiling.
  • You'll know your water is ready when there are tiny bubbles in the bottom of the pan.
  • Add a tablespoon or so of vinegar to the pan to help keep the egg protein from disintegrating in the pan. The acid in the vinegar acts as a coagulant.
  • Give the water a few swirls with your wooden spoon to help keep the egg in the center of the pan.
  • Never crack the egg over the water bath. Instead, crack it into a shallow dish and slide it into the water just above the surface.
  • The egg will sink to the bottom, then rise as it cooks.
  • Poach eggs ahead of time and store in water. Reheat them in a water bath when ready to eat.
  • A soft poached egg takes about 3 minutes.
  • Serve on a slice of whole wheat toast with wilted spinach. Add on a cup of skim milk and two clementines, and you've got a hearty breakfast: 400 calories, 8 g fat, 26 g protein, and 9 g fiber.
While poached eggs are usually associated with eggs Benedict, a heavy dish made with Hollandaise sauce, Canadian bacon and an English muffin, there are plenty of other ways to eat them. Runny egg yolks make a great sauce or dressing in many dishes. In addition to serving the poached eggs on toast, you can also serve them:
  • atop salads for a very European twist
  • on fat-free refried beans
  • over brown rice and steamed vegetables
  • atop whole-wheat pasta and tomato sauce
  • with toast points for dipping
  • on a whole-wheat English muffin with two slices of Canadian bacon for a lighter version of eggs Benedict.

If you liked this video, be sure to check out my others at

What is your favorite way to cook an egg?

U.S. F.D.A. Safe Handling Instructions: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly.

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Telling people to eat runny egg yolks is irresponsible, and frankly, could potentially leave SparkPeople open to lawsuit. Hard poached, and hard cooked eggs are great, but according to the US FDA, runny egg yolks and raw eggs, are potentially deadly! Don't believe me? See for yourself:

Don't want to read through all the mumbo jumbo? Here's the relevant part, copied directly from that link: SAFE HANDLING INSTRUCTIONS: To prevent illness from bacteria: keep eggs refrigerated, cook eggs until yolks are firm, and cook foods containing eggs thoroughly. Report
yum, now I'm hungry! poached eggs are intimidating if you've never done, but quite easy once you try it! give it a go! Report
Size6ByJune, you are to be congratulated! FINALLY someone has the right idea! I'd lose the half-and-half, though; the idea is to reduce the carbs to almost zero - and you don't want - or need - the lactose.

The only thing I'd suggest is adding some turmeric - it's a very powerful antioxidant.

Now, is that a UK 6 (which I am) or a US 6? Report
My Grandfather lived to almost 91 & ate oatmeal every weekday but always had 2 poached eggs over toast on Sunday mornings.

I prefer scrambled with lots of veggies, or spinach & salsa, or anything but runny. They're wonderfully quick protein. Report
I recently learned about adding vinegar to the water, and it does make a difference in keeping the egg together. I also add a pinch of salt to the water before heating it. Regarding the question about poaching eggs until the yolks are hard, I believe that's called "hard poaching" and a perfectly good way to eat them. I prefer soft to medium yolks. These days, I poach two eggs in the same water (I can do up to four, but the last two don't have as much egg-white sticking to them), take the eggs out with a slotted spoon, and then put them into a bowl. Once my unbuttered toast is ready, I slide two eggs on top of the toast, and eat the whole thing with a fork and knife.

I can hardly wait for breakfast tomorrow.... Report
I am guessing thats White vinegar and not Cider vinegar?
I had a poached egg today and lost half the whites, forgot this trick to keep them from falling apart :) Report
My favorite is to chop some garlic cloves in half, maybe a little chopped onion as well, saute in a little olive oil just till lightly browned and tender. Push them to the side a fry gently two eggs. Turn over, cook till white is done but yolk is soft. Pour the oil mix over one piece of rye toast and top with eggs. Use other piece of toast for dipping. Ahhh. heavenly.

My newest experiment is an egg wrap using every imaginable hot pepper and hot sauce etc in the mix, with green and red peppers, garlic, onion and salsa etc. Then put a small amount on the wrap topped with cucumbers, diced tomatoes or whatever tickles my fancy at the moment. Boy are they HOT! Report
I've NEVER been able to handle eating a yolk anyway but cooked through and through! Wondering if a poached egg could be cooked until the yolk is hard? Or would that just be a "boiled egg" boiled out of the shell. Things that make you go Hmmm! Report
Fabulous reading today, thought I knew allabout eggs but I did get great ideas from all of this. My favourite is definitely poached. Used to be with S&P but only use the pepper now, I miss the salt. Report
Mornings are a rush. I microwave. I put hot sauce on my eggs. Dr. Oz says it increased your metabolism and cuts your cravings. Works for me. Report
I've poached eggs, but for a quick morning egg I use the microwave. I have a small glass bowl that works out great for an english muffin sandwich. Report
I love poached eggs they are my favorite. Thanks for the tips. Report
I love eggs any way you fix them!!!!! Report
I just spray a little microwavable container put my egg in and poke the yoke. 45 seconds on medium high and I have the best egg for whatever I want to do with it that day.... Report
Done in an egg coddler. My MIL got our kids to eat these and other odd things with her quiet British approach. Report
I can eat eggs for any meal. I like poached or soft boiled with chives on a whole wheat English muffin. Don't forget the salt & peppper. Report
I love soft scrambled eggs w/a bit of milk & salt & pepper mixed right in and fried egg sandwich w/lettuce, bacon & cheese (no runny yolk tho') Report
Boiled or scrambled with cheese and veggies. Can't do runny eggs Report
I dunno. You certainly make it sound so easy but when I actually poach eggs in water, they usually spread all over the place in the pan and I end up with blobs. I actually purchased an egg poacher that you place in a pan of boiling water. Just a dab of low fat margarine in the bottom then crack the egg into it. You have to practice though because the first time I made one for my grandson, it slid out of the pan okay but the yoke was solid and the whole egg felt like a lump of rubber. It did give us a good laugh though. Now I watch the egg and get it out before the yoke gets hard. I think a poacher is a lot better than water. Report
Fav egg breakfast is 2 eggs scrambled sprinkled with cheese sometimes add bacon and wrap in small warm tortilla, dip in hot sauce; and fruit on the side. Very satisfying and all that protein lasts me for a long while. Report
Vver easy so I can dip toast into the yolk! Report
omelettes - including spanish ones Report
I love poached eggs, I have silicone cups though that make it very easy! I just spray with a little oil and they come out easy! Report
I love just a plain old hard-boiled egg with lite salt and pepper. In fact, I think I will have eggs for dinner. Sounds yummy! Report
My two favorite ways to eat eggs are poached or scrambled with diced onions, but since my mornings are a little time-restricted I like to scramble them in the microwave too. I heat some chopped veggies in a coffee mug until they're steamed, and then add two beaten eggs and a tablespoon of milk. To keep them nice and evenly cooked, I heat them 30 seconds and stir, 25 seconds and stir, 20 seconds and stir, and so on until I pop them in for 10 seconds and then empty them onto my plate to cool for a minute. The only thing to watch is washing that mug. You have to scrub it with dish soap immediately afterward or the egg will cement to the inside and won't come off without a jackhammer. Report
At the start of the work week, I finely chop some onion, green pepper, red pepper, celery (an underused veggie), and radish -- enough to make up about a cup of this veggie-chop mixture, then store it in a burp-able Tupperware container. Each morning, I take about a tablespoon-full of this veggie-chop mixture, maybe add a sliced mushroom or a little sliced tomato, and either scramble with a medium egg or make a hearty one-egg veggie omlet. Add a piece of whole wheat toast, a little fruit -- a great breakfast gets me off to a good start. The veggie-chop mixture in the Tupperware stays fresh all week and it's ready to use each morning when I don't have time to be chopping vegetables! Report
Never had any luck proaching eggs. Maybe the vinegar makes the difference. Report
I love eggs, but never used to like them runny. Discovered a difference - fully cooked but yolk still soft is fine. Runny equals not fully cooked, for me.
Boiled eggs, on gas, bring water tot he boil, add the eggs, bring back tot he boil, reduce the heat to a light boil. 3 minutes and turn off the gas. 1, maybe 1 1/2 more minute in the hot water, then under the cold tap. Whites fully cooked, yolk still soft. Report
Hate running yolks, so I will have mine hard boiled or scrambled. Report
Hate running yolks, so I will have mine hard boiled or scrambled. Report
I do poached eggs occasionally and you can poach them hard if you prefer. I don't like runny yolks so I cook mine until the yolks are hard. I have a little 3 cup egg poacher that is put in a skillet with water in it and it works great. Report
My eggs have to be scrambled. Well done. Dry. Burnt. I can't deal with runny eggs. Report
Thanks for the tips. Love poached eggs. Report
I use pam. I also have a toaster that toasts my toast and cooks my egg and a slice of 25 calorie ham.
I eat sprouted no flour bread egg and ham. around 200 calories. Report
Does anyone know if you can do more than one egg at a time? She used a large pan and only did one. With the swirling motion that she requested, I wasn't sure if you put in more than one egg, wouldn't it disrupt that?? Also, does water depth matter?? (i.e. using a saucepan instead of skillet?) Report
I made poached eggs this a.m. in a pan which has little cups which I sprayed with a non-fat sprayl I had put water in the bottom of the pan previously to this. I had mine with one half Whole Wheat English muffin on which I placed the egg after it was done-took about five minutes, but was still soft but not runny inside. Had that with a spoonful of Low sugar Black Current jam on the side. Yum, Yum. Report
Scrambled with a bit of milk, salt and the microwave for about 45 sec. I sometimes add lowfat cheese and ham. I like them really soft. Report
Never tried the vinegar trick, will have to do so. Report
I love eggs, but I do not like runny yolks. Needless to say, I don't poach eggs in my house. Report
What a healthy choice and I don't think of this one much. I enjoy eggs benedict but not a pork or beef eater, however turkey ham works. When I'm on the go, a boiled egg is my choice however, when I have time, it's easy over, yeah, thanx! Report
Thanks for mentioning some gluten-free alternatives than whole wheat toast. Whole grains aren't healthy for a lot of people. :P

I have a question: why bother cooking the spinach, then again heating in oil in a pan? I'd just heat/sweat the spinach in the pan and be done with it.

I have to laugh at some comments about not liking eggs. I've heard B vitamin deficiencies can be a root of that. I was the same way, but after reading how healthful they were I made myself start eating them last year. They're an integral part of my diet now (veggie fritattas!); and now I'm eating runny yolks. I'd have gagged in my "old life" - lol.

Chef Meg, thanks for another idea (and to the poster who mentioned the Chinese strainer, I have one, so thanks for the idea).

GIANT-STEPS - I have heard raw eggs are healthy, and wanted to incorporate them into smoothies at some time, but wondered about raw whites. I heard they can lead to biotin deficiency:

Raw yolks are healthy and that's why I'm learning to like them runnier now. Report
I love poached eggs! Hubby bought me an egg poacher for the microwave which works perfect and FAST! Report
I love eggs and I'd like to find different ways to make them so I'm definitely trying this one for breakfast tomorrow. Report
I love eggs, especially if I can cook them so the white is solid and the yolk is runny. The poached eggs sound good. I also have put the uncooked egg on a slice of whole wheat bread and topped with salsa, and cooked it in the microwave at 50% power for about 3 minutes. Similar to poached eggs and soft boiled eggs. Report
I will definitely try this one! Report
I do love eggs this way. Thanks for the good way to cook them; didn't know about the vinegar. Report
I only occasionally eat eggs but my favorite way is very soft poached over dry wheat toast. This wasn't an uncommon dish where I grew up but in North Texas the waitresses at most diners look at me like I'm from Mars when I order my eggs poached. I like my poached eggs very soft, a little runny in fact. Most restaurants refuse to serve them as soft as I like fearing I'll get sick if the eggs are bad and undercooked. I've been eating raw and undercooked eggs for almost 50 years and have never had a problem though.

Another wonderful dish with poached eggs is huevos rancheros. Decades ago when I first ordered them they usually came with poached eggs but lately they are fried or scrambled. I guess styles change. Report
Never cared for eggs poached in water. Haven't had them for years, but when I was a kid, we always poached them in milk and served on (lightly) buttered toast with salt and pepper. Just might have to do that again and see if they still taste as good as I remember. Report
a tip from someone who's husband asks for these at least once a week - using the Chinese-type strainer to remove them from the water will insure you don't get water on your plate or bread Report