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How to poach an egg

Lynn Wright / 06 February 2015

Perfect on toast, in a warm salad, or smothered with a velvety Hollandaise sauce in eggs Benedict, poached eggs make a truly delicious dish.

The p[erfect poached egg
The percet poached egg

How to choose the best egg for poaching

With a tender set white that pierces easily to reveal a runny golden yolk, the perfect poached egg is a simple but delicious pleasure. The secret to this poached perfection is to use really fresh eggs.

There are a couple of ways to test the freshness of an egg:

  • Place the egg in a glass of cold water. If it sinks to the bottom in a completely horizontal position, it’s very fresh; if it sinks but tilts up slightly at an angle, it could be up to a week old; if it floats, then it is stale.
  • Crack the egg onto a saucer. If it’s fresh, the yolk will stands up plump and proud, surrounded by a thick gelatinous layer of white. An older egg’s yoke will be flat and the white watery.

How to poach an egg

1. Fill a shallow, wide pan with water and bring it to the boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer.

2. Add a teaspoon or two of white wine vinegar to the water, as this will help the egg white to set. You can skip this step if the egg you’re using is really fresh.

3. Carefully crack the egg into a ramekin or onto a saucer. This makes it easier to slip the egg into the water so that the egg white surrounds the yolk when it begins to set.

4. Use a spoon to swirl the simmering water, creating a gentle whirlpool. This will help the egg white wrap around the yolk so you can get that classic shape of a poached egg.

5. Gently slide the egg into the water, white first. Leave to cook for three minutes. This will give you the perfect poached egg with the white set and a runny yolk.

6. Lift the egg out of the water using a slotted spoon, drain it quickly on a plate lined with kitchen paper and serve immediately.


For the best results, poach only one egg at a time. If poaching multiple eggs at once, don’t bother swirling the water when adding the second and subsequent eggs.

If cooking for a crowd, consider poaching the eggs ahead of time, then store them in a bowl of cold water in the fridge for up to a day. To reheat, add them to a bowl of hot water for a few minutes before serving.


If the edges of your poached eggs aren’t quite neat enough to appear in your favourite dish, use kitchen scissors to trim them to the perfect shape.

Now you’ve mastered the art of poaching eggs, try these delicious recipes: Chargrilled asparagus with tarragon hollandaise and poached egg  and toasted sourdough with grilled asparagus, Serrano ham and poached eggs.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.