How to Poach an Egg

Before our whole vegetarian/ethical/healthy-eating thing came about, we started learning that real food tastes great – and we started seeking out how to make it ourselves. In a moment of inspiration, a friend of ours shared her well-worn Julia Child cookbook with us, and the rest is history. A lot of what we know about cooking today came from an obsession with reading that book and watching Julia Child DVDs a few years ago. One of the best lessons Julia taught us was that you can make a meal out of any dish just by adding an egg to 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 to poach an egg

In a twist of irony, we’ve found Julia’s recipe a little too complicated for our tastes. I once made poached eggs every night for over a week, trying to master our technique. I’m not saying it’s the best, but it works for us – and hopefully for you too. The most important tip we’ve found is to have really fresh eggs, otherwise you end up with a mess! Hopefully you can get the method down, and enjoy what I think is one of life’s purest and loveliest foods.

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 (very technical sounding, I know). 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 to Poach an Egg

To poach an egg, you need to heat a small pot of water until it’s almost simmering. While the water is simmering, you crack your egg(s) into a bowl. Cracking the eggs into a bowl does two things: it prevent 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 the eggs into the water, let them cook for around four minutes before removing them with a slotted spoon. Sounds easy enough, right? A key part of this entire process is the addition of vinegar to the cooking water. You won’t taste the vinegar, but it helps the egg whites firm up faster and prevents them from dispersing into the water.

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, I 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?

This recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.


How 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


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.


  • 4 fresh eggs
  • Splash of vinegar
  • Kosher salt
  • Water
  • Four small bowls
  • Large skillet
  • Slotted spoon
  • Tea towel


  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, the 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


About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is an acclaimed vegetarian cookbook author and cook based in Indianapolis. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food website 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 food 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.


  • 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
    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
    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
      January 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

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

      • Reply
        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
      January 24, 2011 at 6:30 pm

      Thanks! It was pretty marvelous :)

      • Reply
        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
    January 25, 2011 at 10:46 am

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

  • Reply
    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
    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
      June 9, 2011 at 10:35 pm

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

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