Apart from the plethora of amazing coffee, nothing speaks to the globally celebrated café culture of Australia more than the perfect poached egg. Over the last decade I have poached and served so many eggs in cafes around Melbourne I have lost count. Some kitchens take a modernist approach to poaching and sous vide the eggs in their shell at 63 degrees, before poaching to achieve a perfectly round egg. Others take the more classic approach and drop the fresh egg in a large pot of boiling water, producing a more natural shape. No matter the technique, the poached perfection we’re chasing is a firm white and a runny, gooey, satisfying yolk.
We have more time than ever before to whip up and enjoy our favourite breakfast moments in the comfort of our own homes. For me, one of those moments is a fresh egg, simply poached in water on a piece of buttered seeded toast paired, of course, with a delicious fresh coffee. However, the simplicity of this classic cooking technique is deceptive and catches many people off guard. It’s easy to end up with a pot of coagulated foam without any discernible part you could actually eat, so here are a few tips to help you nail the breaky cornerstone, the poached egg.
The number one tip for poaching eggs is extremely fresh eggs. And the best way to have access to this level of freshness is of course having a chook or two in the backyard and poaching the egg soon after it has been laid. If that is not a realistic option, then knowing your egg producer at the farmer’s market is the next best thing.
Use a Timer
Sounds simple, but most people don’t use a timer. So now you want to know how long? Well, that depends on the size of the egg, size of your pot and temperature of the water (next tips). I recommend starting at 2 minutes 30 seconds and adding or subtracting time in 15 second blocks.
Types of Pot
Cafes often use 8 -12 litre pots that are taller than they are wide. This gives the egg a chance to set before it hits the bottom of the pot, creating that lovely natural shape, plump on one end and a smooth tail on the other. I know, I know, it uses more water than you feel comfortable with. Answer: save the water for the garden rather than dumping it down the sink. Ultimately, use the deepest pot you have handy at home and you should be right.
The surface of the poached egg sets better when the water in the pot has been acidulated. What does that mean? You need to add 50ml of white vinegar to your large pot of boiling water. Simple.
The large pot of water needs to be boiling to rapidly set and cook the cooler temp eggs you drop in. Once those tell-tale bubbles are rising to the surface and the kitchen windows are steaming up, you’re ready to go.
Just before adding the eggs, I always swirl the water with a kitchen spoon to create a whirlpool. This will help keep the eggs separate and bind the yolk and white together. Using this technique, I’ve had great results with 10 or more eggs at a time. Just try it!
Adding the Eggs
Crack the eggs into a small bowl (don’t worry about them touching each other, they don’t stick) and pour them gently into the water when you have completed the previous tips. Hit the timer straight away and stand by for perfection.
Removing the Eggs
Get them out gently! A poached egg is delicate and you need to get it out with a soft touch. Use a slotted spoon and a plate lined with a tea towel to allow excess water to drain away.
A generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt and a crack of pepper is the difference between bland and delicious.
Arm yourself with these tips and get poaching towards perfection!