Cooking Tip Thursdays is dedicated to making time in the kitchen quicker, easier, and just plain better….
Poaching is a gradual and gentle cooking process, using very little heat. It is best for very delicate foods, such as eggs, fish, white meat chicken and fruit. Poaching allows the proteins in foods to uncoil, or denature, slowly, without squeezing out moisture, leaving food plump, juicy and flavorful. Fish and chicken are typically poached in broth or a court bouillon (broth, acid, herbs, and carrot/onion/celery mixture). Fruit is often poached in sweet wine, juice or water with spices added to it. Eggs are generally poached in water with a bit of vinegar. Poaching is a technique near and dear to my heart as liquid—not fat—carries the heat into the food. And what’s healthier than that?
Today’s tip will show how to poach an egg. Namely to dismiss any mystery surrounding the process, but also because they’re one of my favorite foods. *For the perfect poached egg use the freshest produce available. Older eggs tend to spread faster due to thinner proteins, whereas fresher eggs will set faster giving you a greater chance of producing a nicely shaped poached egg.
How to Poach an Egg
Step 1: Fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil, then reduce to a very gentle simmer (boiling is too vigorous and damages the shape of the egg). To speed the set of an egg add 2 teaspoons of white wine vinegar to the poaching water. Acid speeds the coagulation process of the egg proteins, encouraging the egg to retain it natural shape before it has a chance to spread.
Step 2: Break egg, one at a time, into a very small bowl or cup.
Step 3: Using a ladle or cooking spoon gently swirl the water in a circular motion. Slide the egg into the center. The swirling water will pull the egg in on itself (due to centrifugal force) aiding the egg to maintain a compact shape.
Step 4: Simmer 3 – 5 minutes. For a soft egg: 3 minutes, a firm egg: 5 minutes.
Step 5: Using a perforated or slotted ladle lift the egg from the water. If there are any stray tendrils of egg white trim these with your fingers or with scissors.
Step 6: Drain well and serve immediately.
* To keep a poached egg warm while the rest of the dish is prepared, fill a bowl with warm (not boiling) water. If the water is too hot it will only continue to cook the egg. Leave the egg in the bowl to maintain its warm temperature.
Egg Poaching Pans: There are some appliances and devices out on the market that say that they are egg poachers. They aren’t. To poach, the food must be submerged in a liquid. These gadgets all have you place an egg in a cup, so the egg is not directly in the liquid. Instead, it is cooked in a water bath, like custard. While these gadgets do cook the eggs, they do not poach them. Trust me, I bought one once – out of 1 part curiosity and 2 parts laziness – and it was pretty much a disaster.