The Zen of Poached Eggs

I’ve never met an egg style I didn’t like In fact, I was included in Best Food Writing of 2010 for a piece about my obsessive quest for the perfect soft boiled egg: Scrambled, fried, stirred raw into fried rice, omelettes, soft boiled, deviled, egg salad — name it, I love it. I especially love eggs when they’re mated with butter — oh, lots! — or bacon grease.

But then there’s the Vestal Virgin of eggs, the poached egg, so pure so fat free, so divalike in her means and methods. I used to love the perfect saucer-shaped poached eggs my mother produced when I was little, with the metal cups that fit into a steamer. (I think I have the same setup rattling around in the Goodwill box.) Julia Child instructed me in the whirlpool of acidulated water method, but even she, in “Mastering”  recommended an metal poacher that reminded me of an Thonet chair. I’m enchanted by the new generation of egg poachers, adorable silicone cups that bob in the water like coracles — but they’re steamed, in a covered saucepan, not poached.








I’ve fussed. In the last thirty years I’ve used

every truc and cute vehicle to a poached egg recommended by Julia or my mother. It was a big fail — this for an easy method for a cooked egg.

I love poached eggs. I eat a poached egg on toast for lunch every week, at least once. I love restaurant Brunchland Eggs Benedict, a poached  egg over a plate of corned beef hash, an oozy poached over a salad. It’s just an egg, cooked simply in water — any fat, like the butter on my toast, is aftermarket.

Six months ago I wanted a poached egg. I brought some water in a saucepan to a simmer (Yes, I added some white vinegar, and although there’s some new science that states the acid isn’t necessary, I’m not taking risks.) I slid an egg into a saucer, then into the water. I grabbed my slotted spoon and twirled  the whites around the yolk so they’re aren’t lacy bits in the water. I watched and waited. I waited for like, a big deal minute and a half.

Then I pulled the egg into the slotted spoon after a couple of minutes and poked the whites. If they’re too soft, I dunk the egg back into the slowly percolating water and test again until the white’s firm. It’s like being at one with your egg.  The toast is lying there, all buttery — I drain the egg on the slotted spoon and plop it on the toast — in this case an English Muffin, lots of pepper and, today, Himalayan Pink Rock Salt.








All those years fussing and fretting and wrapping eggs in plastic wrap, like the avant Spanish chefs. Such a waste. All I need is a pan, some water, an egg, a spoon and a little attention –and understanding that a poached egg isn’t science:it’s patience, calm, and attention.



Filed under Food, Incredible Edible Egg, Less than 50 cents

4 responses to “The Zen of Poached Eggs

  1. ” . . . it’s patience, calm, and attention.”

    Where were THESE when the Virtues were being enumerated for All Time? They’re easily a good match for any of the Seven, and could stand in good stead for most.

    GOOD Read, and SO good to see you back at the wheel, Dearie. Hope all is well in the ‘Ville.

    Any more thought to JUNE?


  2. Three days of sunshine-down-the-stairs, lots of music and dancing and drumming, and a lovely big box of CRAPE MYRTLES delivered yesterday from a dear friend! Can’t put them out safely til next month, of course, but I can dream.

    I think the dog has been banished, totally terrorized by the Dust Bunnies revealed by this unaccustomed sunlight.

    And you? Teeth, toes, throat?? All recovered?

  3. Kim Shook

    So my Michael suggests June 24th-26th. I really am hopeful that we can make this happen ladies.

    More eggs, Miss Maggie??? I am with you in you love of the egg. I can eat them any way (except snotty), any time. I still have an excerpt of your eG essay on soft boiled on the side of my fridge to guide and inspire me. I bought my first set of egg cups because of YOU, my dear. Now you say that I don’t actually NEED to wrap my poached eggs in plastic wrap??? Ok. I trust you. And goodness knows, I’d love to not have all that elBulli prep every time I want a poached egg on a salad or toast in the morning!

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