Poached Egg. To those ignorant of food, the word poacher may come to mind, someone who illegally hunts. The image of someone wearing all black climbing over a barbed wire fence to access the golden eggs of the great chickens kept locked and protected from greedy society. After skillfully moving past the traps set for unwanted visitors, the burglar stands before the sleeping chicken. Carefully, a hand slips under to slide an egg out. Snatched!
No. That’s not what I did today. I did not do crazy acrobatics like Kim Possible to “poach” an egg. By the way, that would be illegal to steal those impossibly priceless egg and Kim Possible would never do that. Anyways. No. I can only do a cartwheel. I don’t believe that qualifies me to perform feats like hers.
Poach has two definitions: 1. “to encroach upon especially for the purpose of taking something” and 2. “to cook in simmering liquid” [Merriam-Webster]. I meant the second one of course. This, after all, is a food blog, not “Greed is the Best Thief.”
After some careful research, I gathered some advice. From Alton Brown on his show Good Eats web-episode, A Positive Perfect Poach, he recommends you have 1.5 inches of water and set it to a bare simmer. You should be able to stick your finger in without needing to pull it back and yell “Ow!” You will need to use the freshest eggs since they have stronger membranes and are les likely to splatter. The 3 digit numbers at the end of the box tells you from what day out of the 365 days in the year the eggs were packed. Crack the egg into a small bowl so that you can carefully slide the eggs in without breaking. This way, you have a poached egg that is cohesive. After you’re done, take the egg out and dry it. If you place the egg on bread, it would create a soggy bread. If you want to serve the eggs later, you can put them into an ice bath to freeze the cooking process. When you need it later, just put it into warm water to heat it up. Who wants a cold poached egg?
From Hilah Cooking, she recommends many of the same advice but also adds that it helps to add acid to the water. I would assume this is done because acid and high temperatures causes proteins to denature. This is seen when you fry or boil an egg, the liquidy egg white and yolk becomes solid. At the molecular level, the protein chains are no longer folded but become linear. This picture from Wikipedia provides a good explanation. In addition, you should try to create a small vortex by mixing the water before putting the eggs in. This will cause the water to swirl and bring the loose ends of egg white around the yolk to create that iconic pouch shape of a poached egg.
So today, along with my usual breakfast sandwich, I decided to do a poached egg instead of a fried egg. My usual way, with a fried egg, incorporates a lot of oil which definitely isn’t as healthy as just cooking the egg with water. Below are my pictures detailing this poached experience:
I tried to pour the egg in with a bowl, but I let the water heat to a really high temperature. When I tried to slip the egg in smoothly, my hand couldn’t bear the hot steam. I quickly let the egg fall into the water. The yolk was still intact but it splattered. I tried with a large spoon with a long handle to keep me away from the heat. The spoon wasn’t large enough to hold the egg but it was able to slide the egg in smoothly.
Both poached eggs had a slightly runny yolk, as detailed in the above picture. The first one was slightly messier with spindles. The second one had a nice pouch shape, since I dropped it in carefully. I’m not sure how helpful vinegar is, since Alton Brown didn’t suggest it, but I could taste a faint vinegary taste when I tried the poached egg by itself.
I accidentally cut a hole into the poached egg when I placed it onto the bagel. Normally with a fried egg, the yolk would be sliding down like a waterfall. But this time, the yolk was thicker and flowed slowly like lava, probably because I cooked it at a higher temperature. I had more time than normal to take a picture. Usually I quickly snap one picture and eat immediately before I lose anymore yolk. This time, I took three pictures. The salsa was ok. I usually really like salsa but it just didn’t work with the bagel. I liked the bruschetta sauce I used to use. However, the scallions were a nice touch since I like the taste. Also brought color into the dish!
As I was writing this post, I found more information on this difficult cooking method. Serious Eats’s The Food Lab also offered some advice. The 3 digit number that Alton Brown refers to is the Julian Number, so the higher it is, the fresher it is. If you’re in my situation, where your parents cut off the tops of egg cartons for easy access and no longer have the Julian Number, you can place the egg in water to test it. An old egg will stand up with the larger egg near the surface since air pocket in that region grows as it ages. A fresh egg will lie flat. I did this after finding out about this. Since I have no Julian Number, I quickly plopped one of the eggs from the carton into a cup of water. It laid flat, so I assume the eggs I used were fresh! Before putting the egg into a bowl, strain it since there is access liquid from the egg white, which would create a messy poached egg. It is also suggested that the egg be added into the pot with the strainer. Afterwards, keep the eggs moving.
- Keep the water at a slight simmer. I had the water at a strong boil, which probably caused the egg yolk to not be runny. I like runny yolk. Must practice.
- Use a strainer. Even when I cracked the eggs this time, I noticed that there was some more runnier egg whites. Also, it’s large enough to hold the egg and the handle keeps me away from the heat.
- Try it without vinegar. Science makes sense but maybe it’s unnecessary and superfluous. Also, it gives it a vinegary flavor.
Definitely a variation for my usual breakfast sandwich. However, I like my fried egg because it can be very hot while still have a runny yolk. The poached egg was not as hot, but that could be because I let it sit out for a bit since I was snapping pictures… Also, it didn’t cover the entire bagel. A fried egg is able to envelop the entire top and I can get a bite with every single bite. This bagel was small so it was fine. It’s nice that I was able to try a technique that I’ve seen used many times in food videos. Maybe one day I’ll try to make an Eggs Benedict with a Hollandaise Sauce. Maybe one day, I can perfect it and impress people. That way, I can actually use the cold bath method to prepare a lot and serve it to guests. Waterfall of runny yolk!