How Long to Poach an Egg

Learning how to poach an egg is easier than you’d think! Here’s how long to poach an egg, and a few tips for the poaching process.

how long to poach an egg

When Alex and I were first learning to cook, we started watching some of the old Julia Child cooking shows. One of the best lessons we learned from Julia is that you can make a meal out of any dish by doing something very simple: by putting an egg on it. Salad + egg = meal. Potato + egg = meal, and so on. Poaching was Julia’s favorite preparation, as she said that they are the “purest and loveliest of ways to cook eggs.” It took a while to convince me, but when you finally learn how to poach an egg, it turns out perfect every time. A creamy poached egg on top of fresh greens makes about the best salad ever. How long to poach an egg? Keep reading for our method.

What is a poached egg?

Commonly enjoyed atop eggs Benedict and avocado toast, poached eggs are eggs that have been cooked outside the shell in boiling water Poached eggs typically have a delightfully runny yolk and are one of the healthiest ways to prepare an egg since no oil is needed during the cooking process. Poached eggs can be dressed with hollandaise sauce, served on salads and stir-fries, enjoyed plain with toast, and more!

How long to poach an egg

First, a tip: it’s best to use really fresh eggs when you’re poaching eggs. Otherwise you end up with a mess! Before you start to poach an egg, make sure that your eggs are very fresh.

To poach an egg, heat a small pot of water with a splash of vinegar until it’s almost simmering. (You won’t taste the vinegar, but it helps the egg whites firm up faster and prevents them from dispersing into the water.) While the water is simmering, crack your egg into a bowl. This does two things: it prevents you from adding a potentially broken yolk into the hot water, and it makes it easier to gently slide the egg into the water. After you’ve slid each egg into the water, cook the eggs for 4 minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon.

Your first few attempts at making poached eggs might not be perfect, but it gets easier with time! If you’re still struggling to poach an egg after a few tries, we recommend gently swirling the water with a spoon just before tipping in the eggs. This should help the egg whites stay together more easily.

Looking for more poached egg recipes?

Now that you’ve mastered how long to poach an egg, here are a few recipes for where to use it:

This recipe is…

This recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free.

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How Long to Poach an Egg


1 Star (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 1)

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 4 minutes
  • Total Time: 9 minutes
  • Yield: 4 eggs
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: American

Description

Learning how to poach an egg is easier than you’d think! In this post, we’ve laid out how to poach an egg in three basic steps.


Ingredients

  • 4 fresh eggs
  • Splash of vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Equipment: Small bowl, large skillet, slotted spoon, tea towel

Instructions

  1. Fill a large skillet with 1 1/2 inches of water. Add a pinch of salt and a splash of vinegar. Heat over medium-high heat until the water just starts to bubble, just below a simmer (about 190°F). Be careful to maintain the temperature throughout the cooking process and ensure the water does not boil.
  2. Crack each egg into a small bowl, then carefully slide each egg into the water. Make sure to give plenty of space between each egg. The egg whites will spread out a bit as they hit the water, then soon start to form up.
  3. Allow the eggs to cook for 4 minutes, until the whites set. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon, then place them on a tea towel-covered plate to allow the to water drain. If desired, trim the edges before serving.

Keywords: how to poach an egg

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

14 Comments

  • Reply
    Caramel Wings
    January 24, 2011 at 10:40 am

    I used to have so much trouble with poaching eggs before!! But thanks to Gordon Ramsay I got it right :D What I do is almost the same as your procedure except I take 4 inches of water, and make a vortex before sliding the eggs in the water. Once I have a good vortex, I pour my egg right in the eye of the vortex and all those whites just wrap around the yellow :)

  • Reply
    Katy@ThoughtForFood
    January 24, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I love Julia’s affair with the egg, and I too was delighted when I realized how a ridiculously cheap/accessible (while also ethically-produced) protein could be called a meal.

    Now, if I could just convince my kids of the same…

  • Reply
    Leah
    January 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    One of my all-time best cook moments:
    Roast asparagus with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.
    Toast bread crumbs on the stove with a little bit of butter.
    Plate asparagus, sprinkling a good amount of bread crumbs over it.
    Then add a poached egg on top.
    Then shave a few parmesan cheese curls over it.
    Then die and go to heaven, because it is both delicious and beautiful!!!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Haha. Sounds wonderful! Spring is almost here, right?

      • Reply
        Sonja
        January 25, 2011 at 6:24 pm

        Yes, sounds amazing! We’ll add it to our list :)

  • Reply
    Brooks at Cakewalker
    January 24, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    The vinegar does the trick every time. Beautiful yolk action captured in the photo, I can almost taste it over the texture of the whole grain bread. Marvelous!

    • Reply
      Alex
      January 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks! It was pretty marvelous :)

      • Reply
        Sonja
        January 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

        I agree! We’ve also found that it’s best to only use a small amount of vinegar – otherwise it tastes a little metalic (to me, at least)!

  • Reply
    Tes
    January 25, 2011 at 10:46 am

    I love my egg just like that! Your poach egg recipe is just simple and perfect :)

  • Reply
    Ang
    January 25, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    I have never tried to poach an egg before, but it always looks so good and creamy with the delicious yellow yolk. Your picture makes me want to try:)

  • Reply
    Julia
    January 26, 2011 at 11:11 am

    That picture is making me absolutely drool! Eggs with runny yolks are one of my favorite foods ever. You’re so right, they can make a meal! Thanks for the tips on poaching eggs. I always fail miserably. Am going to try vinegar next time.

  • Reply
    Da @Kitchen Corners
    February 15, 2011 at 5:31 pm

    What a beautiful blog. Couples who cook together make me happy. I’m so glad I stumbled upon your post today. It inspired me to make poached eggs. I linked to your post today on my poached egg post. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Reply
    Super Taster
    June 9, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing. I had my most successful experience poaching eggs this evening. It took about 5-6 minutes for the whites to fully cook, but the method and description was spot on. So, so helpful. The eggs were perfect atop sauteed portabellas and drizzled with heart-attack-inducing hollandaise. Breakfast for dinner is the best!

    • Reply
      Alex
      June 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm

      I’m glad it worked out! Poached eggs are so simple yet wonderful :)

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