Poaching Eggs

Sunday breakfast in our house is often poached eggs on toast.

I know my way around a kitchen pretty well but I used to be terrified of poaching eggs. Not sure why but I think it was a result of years of seeing experts swirling water around in high sided saucepans and producing perfect orbs of whiteness which, when sliced into, produced a satisfying ooze of egg yolk over a bed of something delicious. And thinking: I can’t do that. Well, you know what? I can. And so can anybody.

The trick is to make it easy on yourself. And how you do this came to me in a video by that well-known ex-jailbird Martha Stewart (can’t link to the video because it’s got some hard-to-get-rid-of advertising crap attached to it.)

So, first, assemble your stuff: eggs, a ramekin or a saucer, some vinegar, kitchen paper and a slotted spoon.

Next, forget the high sided saucepan. You need to be able to get at the eggs easily once they are done, so use a deepish frying pan or a wok.

Pour in about a finger’s depth of boiling water from the kettle and bring to just under a simmer. You are aiming for the odd bubble to escape from the bottom of the pan.

Vinegar is supposed to hold the egg whites together. I don’t know whether it works or not. I use a capful to give me confidence. The real secret to poached eggs that hold together without creating a lacy mess in the bottom of your pan is using the freshest eggs possible with whites that aren’t watery. But don’t panic if yours are a bit watery. In the general scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter. I’ve tried the Nigella trick of putting each egg in a sieve to drain away the watery stuff but it just created a mess and more washing up.

Most instructions then tell you to swirl the water around to crate a mini whirlpool. That may be fine if you are poaching one egg. But who ever ate one poached egg? Forget the swirling. Just crack the eggs (one at a time) into a ramekin and pour them into the pan as slowly as you can.

Set your timer. About three minutes should do it.

Prepare the thing you’re going to serve the eggs on: I got a roll from Lidl, warmed it in the oven, and topped it with smoked salmon and avocado.

With the low sided pan, you can use the slotted spoon to lift out an egg easily and see if it’s done. You’ll know yourself: the white should be firm and the yolk soft. If it’s not quite done after the three minutes, pop it back in the water for another 30 seconds or so and try it again. When they are done, lift them out of the pan and put them on your kitchen paper to drain. If you’re fussy, you can trim the whites at this stage to make them more orb-like.

Then pop them on to whatever you’ve prepared earlier, best side up.

Season with a bit of pepper or paprika and horse them down.

Using a wide pan like this you can cook loads of them at the same time without them getting all mixed up and not being sure which ones went in first.

So, to re-cap: assemble everything you need, use fresh eggs, use a wide shallow pan, have the water barely bubbling, pour the eggs slowly from a ramekin, test them after about three minutes, drain and serve.

That’s it.


  1. Wow! So easy. Great photos.

  2. Vitya Malirsh

    O.K. That looks good, now that we have next Sundays breakfast sorted, we wait for the next suggestion. Thank you David……V&S

  3. Joe Finnerty

    Excellent tip re the frying pan – my technique had been to use a big saucepan with loads of kettled boiling water, and then of course you have to fish them out!
    (btw, I refrain from making any snooty comments about Lidl rolls, with the exception of this one)

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