The Food Groupie Club

Hi my name is Sarah and I'm addicted to food. I have been a chef professionally for about 12 years now and am currently teaching cooking classes at a culinary school. I seriously love to cook and eat good food. The problem with cooking and eating like the professionals though is that it can be kind of intimidating for a home food enthusiast. My goal is to bring good food into every-day homes. Anyone can make healthy, good quality, good tasting, and good looking food with the right know-how. So here you made easy by a professional!

I will be featuring some of my favorite chef's recipes in my posts and will note in the post what book was used. Their books that I use will be listed in my must have cookbooks tab.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How to poach an egg

Egg poaching is one of those things that is so easy its hard.  Its really not that complicated, yet everyone is afraid to try it.  Here are the tricks to easy, perfect poaching!

Side note: Before I get to the steps I want to address regular Joe schmo eggs vs. cage free vs. free range.  There is a huge difference in taste and how the egg cooks up between the different varieties.  I'm a little bit of an egg snob. I only buy organic free range eggs.  Love them. Happy birds=yummy eggs. I had to the other day eat {gulp} a Joe schmo egg and I could instantly tell the difference.  The egg didn't have as much flavor and it wasn't as firm.   Don't bother with the caged free...that does not mean they are roaming around outside. It just means they are not in a cage. They are still kept indoors with no light and crammed in and coop with a million of their friends. Not worth paying the extra moola.

Step 1: Use the freshest eggs possible. The egg whites lose a lot of its strength as it ages. Have you ever cracked open an egg and the whites ran EVERYWHERE?? That my friend is a not so fresh egg.

Here is how you tell if your egg is fresh..... put it in water. If the egg sinks and stays on its side.....its fresh. If the ends point up its ok, but not at its best.  If it floats.....use it for scrambled eggs or hard cooked eggs, its not so fresh.

{sinks and stays on its side...... that's a good egg}
Not so fresh doesn't mean bad though. Like I mentioned, those not so fresh eggs are actually perfect for hard cooked eggs.  They are still "good" {not spoiled} they just don't have any elasticity to the egg white.  When hard cooking an egg that is actually a good thing because it means the peel will slide right off. Don't you hate it when you need to make deviled eggs and the shell sticks and pulls half the white off with it and they look all ugly? Yeah, your eggs are too fresh.

Step 2: Crack the egg into a small bowl and add 4 tablespoons of white vinegar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. The acid in the vinegar will help the whites to firm up faster which means less loss of the thin white when it cooks.  This makes a HUGE difference. As an alternative if you need to do a bunch of these and don't want to dirty a million bowls, you can just add about a 1/2 cup vinegar to the poaching water after it comes to a boil, but I like the individual bowls better.

 Step 3: Use a pot, not a saute pan.  The deep water helps keep the white together as it drops vs. with a saute pan the only direction the egg has to go is it spreads more instead of wrapping the white around the yolk. Salt your water and bring it up to a simmer.  Back the heat down so it is steaming but not bubbling.

Step 4:  There's a couple techniques you can use to add the egg to the water.  
First method: Do one at a time and swirl the water with a spoon to create a whirlpool in the center.
 Pour the egg into the center and as the water spins it will force the white to wrap around the yolk. Keep stirring the water for about 10-20 seconds or until you see the white start to set up.
 Let the egg cook for exactly 1 1/2 to 2 minutes tops depending on how firm you like your white. I get gaggy when the white is slimy so I go 2 minutes and it is perfect! Nice, runny yolk.... no gaggy slimy white.
I did this egg as an example of why I like the soaking in vinegar method over just adding the vinegar to the water.  This one was with the vinegar in the water, no pre-soak.  You can see how the egg white is mostly together, but the edges are kind of scraggly. Not horrible, but not beautiful
 Here is a finished picture of the egg soaked in vinegar for 10 min. before cooking:
 See how much nicer it looks and how it wraps itself in the white and is nice and oval? Perfect!

{Here's a side by side of both eggs. Left is no vinegar soak and right is with the vinegar soak.}

As an alternative......If you need to do a bunch and don't have the time to do one at a time, its ok to poach 3-4 at a time.  They will separate in the water.
 Repeat with the other 1-2 eggs adding one at a time. Let the previous egg slightly set up for a few seconds before adding the other eggs so they don't all flow together. You may need to use a spoon to push the white over the yolk a little because it will try to spread slightly. I don't like this as much because the shape of the egg won't be as nice as the swirl and will look like this on the edges:

Step 5:  This is the coolest step.  Eggs need to be eaten pretty quickly after cooking.  If you are making several of these, the cooking one at a time method will mean eggs sitting and waiting for the others to finish. That will lead to overcooked, cold eggs.  Dunk the cooked egg into an ice bath to stop the cooking. This is great for breakfast in the morning when you don't want to take the time to do all these steps! Do it the night before and they will keep for a day in the fridge and can be re-warmed by submerging it in hot water for about 15 seconds right before you're ready to actually eat it.

This is my favorite breakfast food ever and the greatest thing ever to do with a poached egg: Eggs Benedict!
Use a toasted English muffin or piece of crusty bread like a baguette and layer a couple pieces of Canadian bacon, the egg, then top with hollandaise sauce.  I love to add a little dill and dijon mustard to my hollandaise for this dish.  MMMMMMmmmm.