Perfect Poached Egg
Julia Child's Take on Eggs in Need of a Good Poaching:
- 4 to 6 fresh eggs
- 2 quarts boiling water in a saucepan about 8 inches in diameter, (depth of water should be 2 1/2 inches)
- 1/3 cup white vinegar (2 1/2 tablespoons per quart)
Equipment: A pin or an egg pricker; a perforated spoon; a kitchen timer; for eggs to be served hot and soon, a bowl of very warm water (120 degrees) and a clean, folded dish towel; for eggs to be served later, or, for eggs to be chilled, you’ll also need a bowl of cold water.
Preparing the eggs for poaching: Pierce a pinhole 3/8 inch deep in the large end of each egg, to allow the air bubble located there to escape from the egg and prevent the shell from cracking. Lower the whole unbroken egg into the slowly boiling water and time the eggs exactly 10 seconds. [Count “one thousand, two thousand, three thousand, etc.” - not too fast - to time them.] Then, remove the eggs immediately. This 10-second boil in the shell helps coagulate the loose-flowing white inside the egg and gently sets the oval shape – if the egg is reasonably fresh.
Preparing the poaching water: Pour the vinegar into the boiling water, and reduce the heat so that the water is just at the simmer – quietly bubbling. Vinegar quickly coagulates the white when the naked egg enters the water, and this, in turn, helps preserve its oval shape – again, if the egg is reasonably fresh. [Cook’s Note: Whether or not to use vinegar, and how much, depends on the freshness of your eggs and on the quality of your local water. Use it in the proportions indicated for your first experience, then cut down on it until you have reached the right amount for your usual local conditions. Vinegar does alter the texture of the outside white to a slight degree, and the less you can use the more natural the texture of your egg will be.]
Breaking the eggs into the water: One at a time and rapidly, crack an egg sharply on the edge of the saucepan to break one side of the shell cleanly. Then, holding the egg as close to the water as you dare – with your fingers almost in the water – swing the shells open fast and wide to let the egg slide with one movement into the simmering water.* Set timer for 4 minutes. Rapidly continue with the 3 other eggs, adding them clockwise around the edge of the pan.
*Note: You can also crack each egg into a small cup if you are not dexterous about this shell-cracking.
Finishing the eggs: Regulate the heat so that the poaching water remains at hardly a bubble, and when 4 minutes are up, carefully remove first egg with a perforated spoon and slide it into the bowl of very warm water, to wash off the vinegar. Estimating how much time you took for each additional egg - it will be 15 seconds at most when you are used to the movements - remove the other eggs in turn. (The eggs should be cooked just long enough so white is set but the yolk remains liquid; if white is not coagulated throughout it tends to crack open and the unset liquid white dribbles out onto your toast, or into your aspic, or whatever. Julia found 4 minutes to be just the right amount of time for large and extra-large eggs.)
Holding the eggs: The eggs will keep warm as long as the water remains warm, and they cannot overcook if water is not hotter than 120 degrees; if your wait is a bit long, pour a little boiling water into the bowl from time to time.
To serve poached eggs hot and soon: Take the eggs, one at a time, out of the hot water with a perforated spoon; holding a folded towel in free hand, roll the egg around against the towel to drain off all moisture. Then proceed as you wish, for example. laying the egg on a piece of buttered toast, and sprinkling the egg with salt, pepper, droplets of melted butter, and perhaps a pinch of fresh minced herbs.