Saturday, 2 July 2011

Poaching Eggs

Doris is away in Australia for 3 months. Therefore I'm not being stretched in the kitchenery department.

However, last night I watched Doris, over webcam, poach two eggs and serve them on toast. It took only a couple of minutes, and I saw her make a mistake, which she said was impatience at the time taken for the water to properly boil (so I'll remember that, and make sure I don't try to move too fast) but it was salvaged with the aid of a pasta spoon and nice to eat.

Ok, can I boil water without burning it, can I whirl a vortex and can I crack an egg? If I can do these things, I can poach an egg.

Off we go then! Water in saucepan ... check!
I then ground some salt into the pan, (I have no idea whether it's necessary for this, but I was taught to do it, so I always do).
Saucepan on the hob, with its lid on, over a high heat ... check!
Cut some bread, put it in the toaster ... check!
Wait for the water to boil, then start toasting the bread ... check!

Ok, now we have the technical part. "Whirl a vortex" is a fine phrase, but what does it actually mean?
I have a wooden spoon, and I can stir the water. I stop stirring, the water stops moving.
I stir faster, the water moves faster until I stop stirring and the water stops moving.
I stir hard-and-fast, I get splashed with boiling water, I stop stirring, the water stops moving.
How on earth do I create a vortex?

By now, the water is bubbling very vigorously, so I need to get the egg into there, but I have a wooden spoon in my hand. So I take my chances and crack an egg with my other hand, and it works! Ok, I have albumen all over my hand, but the yolk dropped into the pan, and the albumen drips into it from my hand, so that's a result!

Now, I have a yolk boiling and some albumen whitening in my saucepan. I examine it, but it doesn't look much like a poached egg. I wonder whether I'm supposed to keep stirring, so I stir the protein solution. The albumen starts to clump together, on the opposite side of the pan to where the yolk is rapidly hardening. I try to guide them together and just manage to unclump the albumen.

My yolk now looks hard-boiled, so I decide to serve. I can serve the yolk, but the albumen won't clump. I end-up serving a load of water along with a hard-boiled yolk onto one slice of toast.

Ok, that wasn't very successful. I can do better the next time. I have another piece of toast and another egg.

The saucepan still has lots of streaky albumen bits in it, but I'm sure that won't matter. This time, I will boil the water less vigorously and keep the water moving.

I wait until the water starts to boil. I start to stir.
I stir harder and faster. The water stops boiling.
I stop stirring, the water starts bubbling and stops moving.

Ok, perhaps the bubbling is stopping the water from keeping the vortex? Perhaps I need to keep stirring and not worry about the water not boiling?

I stir, I stir more, the water stops bubbling, the water swirls
I keep stirring.
I take the egg in my other hand and crack it. The yolk drops into the middle of saucepan and starts to migrate to the outside, followed by the albumen dripping through my fingers.
I now have a comet with a golden head swirling around in the water
The head breaks away. The yolk comes free, it quickly escapes to the other side of the pan. I keep stirring, trying to force the albumen to catch up by force of will.

It won't do it, Again, I have an egg yolk on one side of the pan and albumen on the other side.

This time I don't interfere with the albumen, so I can at least combine the yolk and the white on my piece of toast. I keep stirring, the pieces of egg keep moving.

The albumen breaks apart without any action from me. I've kept stirring! I can't fix it! The yolk is going all hard-boiled again! I need to finish this!

I stop stirring, fish-out the yolk and put it onto the toast. I notice that the other piece of toast has disintegrated due to water damage, so I don't risk serving albumen on the second piece of toast.

I eat one piece of toast with two hard-boiled egg yolks, and I didn't set off the smoke alarm. I suppose it's a success of sorts.


  1. Funny Story, very similar to my attempts at egg poaching. @ColdDimSum (KineticPoet) is awesome at it. If you're brave enough to try it again, get in touch with him and he'll send you his detailed instruction sheet.

  2. Hahahaha you fell for the poached egg boondoggle, it's like snipe hunting for Chef's. I'm just sure of it.

    But, a few of tips:

    I've given up on the vortex method.

    fresh eggs
    Good Non-stick pan
    1" of water WITH vinegar (or lemon juice) (1 tsp/cup) & NO salt!!! this sets up the whites quickly
    gentle boil (just above a simmer)
    crack egg into a small bowl/custard cup and then EASE into the water out of the bowl
    Cook until the whites have set up nicely (~2-3 minutes)
    remove carefully with a non-stick slotted spoon into ice water [assuming you are doing more than 1 or 2 - otherwise just cook til done and serve]

    Once all the eggs are cooked you return them to simmering water for ~1 minute or until desired doneness

    Even with all that it still fails to be perfect from time-to-time. I have keep getting a little water pocket in my whites which causes them to have an icky runny bit.

    I like to dry the eggs off before serving.