Perfect poached eggs – the type you get for breakfast in smart hotels and restaurants – can look impressive but if you master a few simple techniques, you can achieve the same results at home. What you're looking for is a smooth, not wispy, ball of tender egg white enveloping a soft yolk that gently spills out when broken into. There is little more tempting on a dish than this simple pleasure – it's no wonder Instagram is crammed with videos of punctured poachers.
We have two simple methods for poached eggs. The first is for that restaurant-standard look and the second takes an easier approach for those who are less concerned about achieving the perfect sphere. You’ll need a deep frying pan or saucepan and a slotted spoon. You don’t need an egg poacher – they tend to increase the cooking time for the egg which will give you a rubbery white.
How to make perfect poached eggs
- Make sure your eggs are really fresh. Fresh eggs have a thicker white near the yolk that will better hold a round shape as it cooks. You can tell how fresh an egg is by putting it in a glass of water; if it lies horizontally at the bottom, it is very fresh; if it starts to float or stand on end it is less fresh. If your egg isn’t so fresh, crack it into a small bowl and drain off the runnier white.
- Crack your egg into a bowl or onto a saucer, this makes it easier to slide into the pan. If there is any very runny white surrounding the thicker white then tip this away.
- Add a drop of vinegar (you can add this to the water in the pan if you prefer).
- Bring a pan of water filled at least 5cm deep to a simmer. Don't add any salt as this may break up the egg white.
- Stir the water to create a gentle whirlpool to help the egg white wrap around the yolk.
- Slowly tip the egg into the centre. Make sure the heat is low enough not to throw the egg around – there should only be small bubbles rising.
- Cook for 3-4 minutes or until the white is set.
- Lift the egg out with a slotted spoon and drain it on kitchen paper. Trim off any straggly bits of white. If you need to cook more than one poached egg, keep it at the right temperature in warm water, but make sure the water isn't hot enough to overcook the egg.
An even easier method for poached eggs
This gives you a poached egg with a flatter appearance but is easier to do if you want to cook two at once.
- Crack your egg into a bowl or onto a saucer. If there is any very runny white surrounding the thicker white then tip this away.
- Bring a pan of water filled at least 5cm deep to a simmer. Don't add any salt as this will break up the egg white.
- Tip the egg into the pan. The yolk should follow the white.
- Cook for 2 minutes then turn off the heat and leave the pan for 8-10 minutes.
- Lift the egg out with a slotted spoon and drain it on kitchen paper.
Our best poached egg recipes
Kedgeree with poached egg
This kedgeree recipe uses a pack of fish pie seafood mix, but you could use the same weight of smoked fish. It makes a great brunch dish.
A classic breakfast dish. Treat yourself to Gordon Ramsay's eggs Benedict at the weekend and show off your new skill.
Sweetcorn & courgette fritters
Vegetarian fritters make an excellent base for poached eggs. Try this idea for a light lunch or dinner.
Indian chickpeas with poached eggs
This gently spiced chickpea dish gets our healthy tick. It's packed with veg, fibre and protein.
Smoked haddock salad with poached eggs
Traditionally made with bacon, this smoked fish salad makes an ideal light lunch.
Like this? See other egg guides...
Poaching an egg
The water should not be boiling, but more than simmering so that the movement in the water can be seen.
Poaching an egg
Never season the water with salt because this will cause the white of the eggs to break up and go wispy.
Poaching an egg
Use the freshest egg you can find.