I never bothered much with poaching eggs, probably because I'm not all that crazy about eggs in the first place. I mean, they have their uses (most definitely) and contexts. Rarely will I crave them, however, and I am probably about 50/50 when offered one.
Poaching eggs seems ridiculously hard and not worth it for water logged eggs. Still, it seems to be a thing and so I wanted to learn to do it and get it right. What I discovered was, in fact, it's almost ridiculously easy to poach eggs and yields soft, pillowy packets of wonderfulness. It might just be the perfect way to cook an egg.
The last time I'd poached an egg, I ended up with a rubbery disk which tasted like vinegar. I won't go into all the things I did terribly. I'll just tell you what I learned to do right.
First, I got the water to a nice boil. In the entire pot of water, I put a splash (about a cap full) of rice wine vinegar. I would have wanted to use white vinegar, but I didn't have any at hand. The three important points to remember are...
1. Swirl the water.
2. Crack the egg into a little bowl.
3. Watch the clock.
I'm now convinced if you keep these three in mind, you will have a perfectly poached egg, no matter what.
The biggest problem with poached eggs is making egg drop soup instead. In other words, the egg goes into the water at different points, resulting in independent gossamer ribbons of whites and a glop of yolk. The first two points address this problem. By swirling the water, you create a whirlpool which pressures the egg (once you slide it into the middle of the pan) into staying together. By cracking the egg into a little bowl before sliding it into the water, you come closer to ensuring the egg entering the water whole. I found that the rolling boil helps the egg tumble around and become a more formed thing, too, although it's important to keep an eye on the boil so that it doesn't boil over.
The moment the egg goes in, start the timer. For a large egg, you want about two and a half minutes to three minutes, depending on how runny you like your egg. I find about two and a half minutes to be perfect, with a molten center surrounded by set yolk. When you remove the egg (for example, with a slotted spoon) you want to dry it off. Place it to drain briefly on a pad of paper towels. Serve immediately, because residual heat will continue to cook the egg.
You can also do this ahead, and put the eggs into an ice bath. When you're ready to plate, simply slide back into hot water to heat. I've never done this but it's a chefy tip that I've heard at least three times on Food Network, so I'm passing it along.
Just now, I'm convinced that a couple of poached eggs over a bed of wilted arrugula is a perfect light lunch.
On a side note, can I just complain for a moment how frustrating it is that the egg people seem to have adopted the fast food fry and drink phenom? You used to be able to get small, medium or large things. Now it's large, really large and good God it's huge. They used to sell medium eggs, right? And, presumably, small eggs? I could've sworn I've even bought medium eggs. The last time I was at the store, I found large, extra large and jumbo. It's frustrating. And what makes a chicken lay a bigger egg? A bigger chicken? Mood music? Hormones?
Perhaps it's best not to think of it. Go poach an egg.