6 Ways to Poach an Egg

Poached eggs are a quick, healthy option that taste delicious when sprinkled with salt, pepper flakes, and your favorite sauce (such as olive oil or hollandaise). Place an egg on top of bread to spread its jammy yolk, over a slice of protein like prosciutto or ham, or nestle within a dish. In this blog, we investigate six diverse methods to poach an egg, each with its own nuances.

Despite the simple appearance, poaching an egg requires not only finesse , but also the right approach that resonates with your cooking style. In this blog, we explore a range of methods, from classic techniques to innovative approaches, to help achieve the perfect poached egg.

Method 1 – Rolling eggs in boiling water

This technique, introduced in the New York Times, involves rolling eggs in boiling water before cracking them.

  • Allows poaching multiple eggs at once
  • Requires minimal extra effort
  • No vinegar required, so no chalky taste
  • Works well with week-old eggs

  • Some egg white may stick to the shell after rolling in boiling water
  • Careful handling is needed around boiling water

  • Using a ramekin helps achieve better consistency when lowering the egg into the water.

  1. Bring water to a boil.
  2. Using a spoon, carefully roll the egg around in the boiling water for 15-20 seconds.
  3. Using a spoon, carefully remove the egg as it will be hot to the touch.
  4. Crack the egg into a ramekin (a few white wisps may be present). If the egg is too hot to handle, wait a few minutes.
  5. Continue with the recipe card starting from step 4.

Method 2 – Passing eggs through a fine sieve

Gently crack an egg into a small, fine sieve positioned over a bowl, allowing the watery part of the egg white to drain away. Carefully transfer the intact egg to a ramekin. Slide the egg into the poaching water, continuing from step 4 in the recipe card. Dispose of any excess egg white collected in the bowl.

  • Works for older eggs
  • No vinegar required

  • Eggs should be relatively fresh to minimize egg white loss
  • An extra step adds more work for each egg

Method 3 – Whirlpool method

Create a whirlpool in the water using a whisk, then remove the whisk and gently slide an egg into the center of the swirling water. The egg white will wrap around the yolk, forming a neat and cohesive poached egg.

  • Limited to poaching one egg at a time
  • Can be stressful to perform
  • May require the use of vinegar, particularly for less fresh eggs

Method 4 – Using egg poachers

Available in stores, these include electronic poachers, poaching kits, and silicone poachers. [6]

Method 5 – Holding the egg in the water

Use a large, greased spoon or greased plastic wrap (drop the egg into plastic wrap and twist it closed) to hold the egg [7]. Lower the large spoon or plastic wrap pouch into the water and hold it in place while it cooks.

  • No vinegar required

  • Highly manual process
  • Limited to one or two eggs if you are very dexterous

Method 6 – Microwaving the egg

There are several techniques for microwaving eggs. One method is outlined by America’s Test Kitchen.

  • Limited to one egg at a time

Additional tips for poaching eggs

  • Use fresh eggs: Fresh eggs maintain their shape better during poaching, resulting in a more pleasing looking egg.
  • Utilize a ramekin or small bowl: Crack the egg into a ramekin, small bowl, or an easy-pour cup for better control when adding it to the water.
  • Gently slide the egg: Avoid dropping the egg from a height. Instead, hold the ramekin near the water’s surface and gently slide the egg into the water.
  • Storage and reheating: According to BBC, poached eggs can keep for up to 2 days in an ice bath, as long as they stay refrigerated. To reheat, place the poached eggs in simmering water for up to 60 seconds until warmed through.

Should we use vinegar to poach eggs?

Cooking vinegar consists primarily of water and acetic acid. For instance, distilled white vinegar typically contains 95% water and 5% acetic acid. Both heat and acids, such as lemon juice and vinegar, cause proteins to denature, meaning their ordered structures break down. Since egg whites are rich in proteins, they will denature and coagulate when exposed to heat or acid, turning white and setting more quickly. Thus, adding vinegar to the poaching water helps eggs maintain their shape better.

Do you need vinegar to poach eggs?

No, using vinegar is not necessary for poaching eggs. While vinegar can help the egg whites set faster and maintain a more cohesive shape, it does not completely prevent wispy whites. Additionally, eggs poached without vinegar tend to have a less chalky texture and a more natural taste.

How much vinegar to use for poaching eggs

For poaching eggs, using about 1 teaspoon of vinegar for 3-3.5 cups of water works well. This amount should lower the pH of the water sufficiently to help the egg whites coagulate. [2][3][4]

When to add vinegar to the water

The standard procedure is to add vinegar after lowering the heat. Since acetic acid has a higher boiling point than water (118°C versus 100°C), adding vinegar earlier likely won't diminish its acidity. However, be cautious, as acetic acid vapor can irritate the eyes, nose, and throat. [5]

Do you need to salt the water for poaching eggs?

Salting the water is not necessary for poaching eggs and generally does not affect the cooking process significantly. The typical amount used, 1-1.5 teaspoons of salt per quart of water, is insufficient to raise the boiling point of water meaningfully. For context, according to ThoughtCo., the boiling point of water increases by about 0.5°C for every 10.2 teaspoons of dissolved salt in 4.23 cups of water [1].

While salt is beneficial for seasoning scrambled eggs, pasta water, or blanching greens, its use in poaching eggs is not strongly justified. Even 1 teaspoon of salt per quart of water might flavor the eggs more strongly than desired.

How long to poach eggs?

The poaching time for eggs can vary depending on factors such as the amount of water, the shape of the pot, and the power of your stove. Generally, the recommended poaching times are:
  • 3 minutes for a runny yolk
  • 4 minutes for a slightly set yolk with a runny middle
  • 5 minutes for a firm yolk [7]
Typically, I remove the egg after 3-4 minutes. If the egg whites are set and the yolk has reached your desired level of firmness, you can take the egg out of the water.
Serves: 1
Prep Time: 0 minutes – Cooking Time: 7 minutes – Total Time: 7 minutes

Helpful equipment

  • 5.5” diameter saucepan
  • Large, wok-style slotted spoon
  • Ramekin, small bowl, or easy to pour cup


  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 tsp vinegar (optional)


Step 1
Crack an egg into a ramekin, small bowl, or easy-to-pour cup.

Step 2
Pour about 2 inches (approximately 3 cups) of water into a 5.5-inch diameter saucepan. Bring the water to a boil.

Step 3
Reduce the heat until small bubbles rise from the bottom but do not disturb the surface. Add 1 teaspoon of vinegar if desired.

Step 4
Carefully slide the egg into the water. If poaching multiple eggs, add them to the same pot, ensuring they are spaced apart. If needed, use a spoon to gently nudge the eggs apart and gather any wispy egg whites.

Step 5
Let the egg cook with the cover off. Once the whites are set and the yolk reaches your desired firmness (about 3-4 minutes), remove the egg with a large slotted spoon. Blot dry with a napkin before serving.


Most of the methods outlined above start from step 4 in the recipe. I prefer poaching technique number 1 in practice.


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