This easy technique is the best way to poach eggs, guaranteeing perfectly cooked eggs every time.

Carolyn Malcoun
Updated January 24, 2020
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Testing our way through various methods for how to poach an egg in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, we went through dozens of eggs and gallons of simmering water to find the best way to poach an egg.

We tried a variety of techniques gleaned from folklore and research–our favorite (but ultimately least successful) method was cracking eggs into little plastic-wrap pouches, which were then submerged into the water. The technique promised a pot devoid of crusted egg whites on the waterline, but the reality was this: the eggs simply stuck to the plastic wrap. One favored restaurant method is to create a whirlpool in the water by vigorously stirring it in one direction. This method was all right for the first egg or two, but it just lost its current by the time the third and fourth eggs were going in, making a mess of the pot.

The most consistent method was the most simple: gently add eggs to the simmering water. Nothing fancy here. Though some cooks are adamantly against adding vinegar to the water, science shows it does help the egg white to coagulate quicker (and our tests confirmed this). Cracking the eggs into smaller bowls before slipping the eggs into water kept the whites and yolks in a more cohesive package, and submerging the lip of those bowls delivered them in a gentler way, helping to ensure intact yolks.

The following technique will help you to become the brunch cook who delivers a perfectly cooked egg with a perfectly runny yolk at home.

Step 1: Prepare the Poaching Water

Break 4 eggs into 4 individual small bowls. Fill a large, straight-sided skillet or Dutch oven with 2 inches of water; bring to a boil. Add 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar. Reduce to a gentle simmer: the water should be steaming and small bubbles should come up from the bottom of the pan.

Step 2: Gently Add the Eggs

Submerging the lip of each bowl into the simmering water, gently drop the eggs into the hot water, one at a time.

Step 3: How Long to Cook Poached Eggs

Don't forget to set a timer–that's the key to getting the yolk the way you like it. Cook for 4 minutes for soft set, 5 minutes for medium set and 8 minutes for hard set. Turn off the heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the eggs from the warm water to a fine-mesh sieve or a clean dish towel to drain for a minute.

Dishes to Try with Poached Eggs

This asparagus salad topped with a perfect poached egg is satisfying yet light, making it a nice option for lunch, brunch or even dinner with some crusty bread. Roasting brings out a toasty flavor in the asparagus. We like this salad with medium-set poached eggs so the yolks are still a little runny, but poach your eggs for the full 8 minutes if you prefer hard-set yolks.

This sophisticated take on Eggs Benedict swaps a full-flavored, chunky vegetable medley for Canadian bacon and hollandaise sauce. Add whole-wheat English muffins and poached eggs and this combo makes a lovely brunch or an elegant light supper when served with a salad.

The sour cream-mustard sauce is a quick, delicious, and lower-fat stand-in for the hollandaise sauce featured in a classic Eggs Benedict recipe.

Eggs Benedict isn't just a meal reserved for eating out--this quick-and-easy version can be made at home and is sure to impress overnight guests. Instead of high-fat Hollandaise, our version is topped with a healthier sauce, made with creamy avocado, Greek yogurt and fresh cilantro. Best of all, it's ready in under 20 minutes! More Healthy Recipes