Perfect Poached Eggs

20140224-224109.jpgI’m a huge fan of eggs; you know this. To me, a perfectly fried egg on sourdough toast is the epitome of deliciousness. The crispy caramelized white shatters like glass and the thickened, but runny, yolk soaks into the bread like gravy. But my once and only true love has recently been usurped by one better: poached eggs on toast.

Where a fried egg has crispy whites, which add texture but are somewhat boring, the poached egg has a luxuriously silky white that is almost like custard. And where the perfect fried yolk is difficult to obtain, always either too runny or too cooked, the perfect poached yolk is a mere matter of timing. Once you find that sweet spot your yolks are perfect forever.

There is a mystique around poached eggs, as if they are some culinary delight that only a trained chef can make. And I don’t even care to enumerate all kitchen implements I’ve auditioned for this job; unitaskers that inevitably fall short. Yes, poached eggs are a lost art, but it turns out the perfect poached egg is a trivial exercise; possible with only the simplest gear you already own and ingredients you have lying around. Here’s how:

Perfect Poached Eggs on Toast
2 eggs (the fresher the better)
Splash of vinegar
Salt and Pepper
1 english muffin or 2 slices of sourdough

Start by filling a large pot with water. How large? I like my 2 gallon soup pot which I fill about 1/3 of the way. Add that splash a vinegar, cover, put on high heat, and bring to a boil. While you are waiting, gently crack the two eggs into a small bowl. Don’t break the yolks!

Once the water has reached a hard boil, turn off the heat, stir the water briskly in a circle to form a vortex, then gently drop the eggs into the center by lowering the bowl right down to the top of the water. Cover the pot and let stand.

Now the key question: how long? It is a question of heat flow. For my stove, and my pot, with 3-4″ of water, and 2 eggs, the perfect time is 3 min 20 sec. That time may be different for you and will change with elevation, number of eggs, amount of water, etc. It will also depend on how runny you like your yolks. I like mine perfect, so if you’re like me, start with 3m 20 s and adjust from there. Once you find the perfect time stick with it and you’re good.

When the soak time is up, use a slotted spoon to retrieve the eggs one at a time. They may stick together a little, but they actually come apart fairly easily as two separate egg-like things. Put them into a bowl with a folded up paper towel, to absorb the water. Then onto to toast, add a little S&P, and you’re good to go.

For larger batches, poach 4 eggs at a time, increase the soak time to about 4 min, and transfer them to a second pot of very warm water as they are ready. 120F is about right to keep them warm without cooking them further. When all the eggs are cooked proceed to the paper towel stage above.

You seriously can’t go wrong with poached eggs on toast. I especially like them for dinner with a frosty homebrew. The photo above shows my eggs on a grilled ham and cheese, a.k.a a croque-madame; but that’s advanced topics.

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