Saturday, 4 February 2012

Perfect Poached Eggs - It's All In the Planning

Whether it's a breakfast treat for overnight guests, a hangover cure or just a naughty little snack, to me the perfect poached egg is where it begins and ends. I measure the quality of a restaurant kitchen by it's poached eggs and always order eggs poached when given the option. It's an anxious moment as more often than not I end out disappointed. They are usually either two hard or worse, have unset whites.

I get annoyed when asked 'how do you like your eggs poached?'. Perfectly of course! A perfect poached egg should have a hot creamy yolk and a fully set white. You can see the difficulty, a few seconds can make all the difference. In order to have a fully set white, the outside edge of the yolk must also be just set, leaving an nice steamy runny centre.

I'm proud of my poached eggs and I think I deserve to be. I've perfected the method over decades and no longer feel anxious when preparing as many as 8 or 10 breakfasts for guests. So today I share with you my little tips and hope you can enjoy the same feeling as I do because, there is nothing quite like the satisfaction of delivering perfect poached eggs.

1. The eggs:

Fresh fresh fresh and organic is all I can say. We eat so few eggs so what is the difference in a few pence per egg when it comes down to it. Always choose the ones from the back of the shelf with the latest use by date. If the egg is not really fresh, the white will go to pieces in the water. Yuck. Some say you shouldn't keep eggs in the fridge (supermarkets don't) but then I don't think it really matters and what are the egg holders in the fridge for anyway?. To be honest, if they are cold there is less risk of overcooking them.

2. The kit:

A ladle (to break the eggs into first) and a saucepan with at least 5cm (2 in) of gently simmering water with a serious dash of vinegar. I normally use white wine vinegar but I had run out so used malt vinegar instead. The only difference is the darker vinegar leaves a slightly coloured residue on the finished egg. Use a slotted spoon to check and remove the eggs. A bit of kitchen paper is useful to remove any last bits of water before they go on to the plate.

3. Preparation:

Timing is what it's all about, so get prepared. Make sure all of the other breakfast ingredients are cooked and ready to serve before you start poaching the eggs. Make sure the plates are hot, and make sure your condiments and garnishes are all ready to go. And don't forget the coffee.

4. Timing:

Use the ladle to 'roll' the egg into the water. As the egg sinks it will plume as the white starts to set and create just the right shape. Now this is where it all gets a bit weird. I don't time poached eggs because there are too many factors involved. For example the temperature of the egg, the number of eggs being cooked and the volume of water. So, I invented the 'wobble test' instead. Pick up the egg with the slotted spoon and gently wobble it. If it looks like a bag of water, it's not ready. If it doesn't wobble at all it's overdone. It should wobble just like a set jelly. With a bit of practice you'll work this out in no time, it's intuitive. This tells you the outside is firm enough to hold it together and the inside is still liquid. It's weird , but it works. Roughly it takes about as long as the toast takes in the toaster, so I always put the toast on immediately after the last egg goes in the pan.

Two eggs is obviously easier than 8 or 10 eggs. When I do a large batch, I use a large pot and remember the order that the eggs went in. When serving, I remove the pot from the stove and continue to check each egg and remove them the moment the pass the wobble test. Everything else must already be plated up or you'll get into a right flap.

5. Make them pretty:

Fresh coriander (cilantro) and fresh chillies are my favourites plus lashings of freshly ground black pepper. I raided my chilli bounty in the freezer and finely chopped a mild red one, a pretty purple one and a little green bomb; super hot and full of flavour. It looks like a pea with a fuse and wow, it really does explode!

So there you have it. That's how simple and stress free it can be.

And last of all, the leading photograph is one of those happy accidents we all hope for. The word 'EGG' on the Emma Bridgewater dinner plate has somehow landed perfectly above the egg itself! It wasn't until I copied the photo on to my laptop that I even noticed. Priceless.


Pegasuslegend said...

looks wonderful!

Kim Bee said...

You did a wonderful job poaching. I actually hate eggs but I used to poach them all the time for my Dad. It's definitely something that takes practice.

Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen said...

Great shot! And eggcellent poached eggs. I like your wobble test. The perfect poached egg is food of the gods Anthony!

All That I'm Eating said...

This looks lovely. I agree, how can a restaurant serve a badly poached egg? I've had many more badly poached eggs than perfectly poached ones when out. Have you tried the poaching in clingfilm method? Always wondered if it works?

firefoodie said...

I've not tried the cling film method myself. I had a double yolker cooked for me that way recently by my South African foodie friend Ben. But me, I'm a puritan at heart and I love the shape of a 'natural' poached egg :)

Anonymous said...

Great advice about poaching eggs - mine always come across abit sloppy looking lol! Love the idea behind your blog, theres something so mesmerising by fire!

Grubarazzi said...

Poaching eggs is an art form! One that I have not quite mastered yet (although ask me to flip one and I'm all yours). Great post!

Jay said...

awesome version..truly tempting..;P

Tasty Appetite

German Mama said...

They look just, well, perfect. I only tried poached eggs once. They did turn out ok - for the first try that is. These pictures make me want to run to the kitchen and try again immediately.

Christine's Pantry said...

Looks great.

the food dude said...

I've always enjoyed poached eggs but could never do it at home. Yours are perfect, great photos too!

Marina said...

I've never poached an egg before. You photo recipe is so detailed, I shell try it! Thanks.

Mark Willis said...

One of my pet hates is the way some allegedly posh hotels make their poached eggs in advance, keep them in cold water and then just heat them up for a minute when someone orders one. There is no way they are going to be nice done like that.
I admit that I use those silicone poach-pot things, but they do work pretty well, especially in respect of keeping the white under control.

firefoodie said...

I can't believe that kind of thing goes on. Shameful! Explains my frequent disappointment. Never used the silicon thingies myself, I've heard the egg can stick to them?

Denise said...

I am doing some early morning catch up on my favorite blogs and now I want to go cook up some poached eggs for breakfast. Great instructions for poached eggs and yours look fabulous! I love how you put it all together on the plate. Even eggs look beautiful in your photos :-)

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