Steam, Don’t Boil, Your Eggs

Steam, Don’t Boil, Your Eggs

Forget all the tricks you may have heard for perfect soft- or hard-cooked eggs with easy-to-remove shells.

They might be overcooked, or undercooked or just a messy tangle of unappealing white tendrils. Whatever the problem, many of us struggle to perfectly poach an egg.

The ideal poached egg should have a tender, well-formed white encasing a warm, but still liquid yolk. Deceptively simple. Luckily, getting it right every time isn’t hard. In fact, the solution is all about being gentle. That is, using gentle heat and being gentle when moving the eggs in and out of the water. And our preferred approach to poaching eggs ensures both.

First, the cooking vessel. Rather than the typical high-sided saucepan many people use, we favor a 10-inch skillet. The low sides of the skillet make it easy to gently slide eggs into the water. This minimizes the tendency of the whites to spread when splashed or dropped in.

Next, the water itself. We keep it at no more than a gentle simmer. The churn of boiling water can cause the eggs to break before they have a chance to set. At the ideal temperature, just a few bubbles should break the surface every few seconds.

Boiling water also can over-cook the eggs. So we poach our eggs using just the residual heat of the water. Once all the eggs have been added, we cover the pan and turn off the heat. The lingering heat cooks the eggs in 3 to 5 minutes. This also is why a tight-fitting lid is key: It retains the residual heat long enough for the eggs to properly cook.

Finally, we use a slotted spoon to gently lift the poached eggs from the water and transfer them to a paper towel-lined plate. The paper towels will wick away excess moisture without disturbing the fragile eggs.