Julia Child took eggs very seriously. She devoted an entire chapter to them in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1, our Cookbook Club book of the month, and Club members have wasted no time perfecting everything from French omelettes to soft scrambles. But the ones we can't stop talking about are her poached eggs, because it turns out that Julia had a 10-second trick up her sleeves (and we can never resist a good kitchen trick!).
A perfect specimen is neat and oval in shape, and the white completely masks the yolk. The most important requirement for poaching is that the eggs be very fresh, the yolk stands high, the white clings to it in a cohesive mass, and only a small amount of watery liquid falls away from the main body of the white.
The most important requirement is that the eggs are fresh! So are you out of luck with older eggs, then? No, not necessarily:
If the eggs are not quite as fresh as you could wish, simmer them in their shells for 8 to 10 seconds before poaching. This will often firm up the white just enough so it will hold its shape around the yolk when the egg is broken into the water.
She pre-cooks them in their shells(!), but from there, she follows a follows a fairly standard method for poaching eggs: in a pan filled with a shallow layer of simmering water (and a little vinegar), initially gently turning the egg to push the white over the yolk, and then removing the egg after 4 minutes.
So the main difference is her suggestion to briefly pre-poach eggs in their shell. Is the extra step worth it? Maybe. Here's what two Cookbook Club members have to say about it:
Sarah Rose thinks so: "This has been mentioned before but can’t be said enough: Julia is a total genius. She solved poached eggs: to firm up the whites, drop it in the shell into hot water for 10 seconds then crack it! Where has this advice been my entire life? They are perfect."
Ethnea H. Ferguson admitted that Julia's instructions resulted in perfect poached eggs, but isn't as sure that it's worth it: "I punctured the egg with a pin and pre-boiled the eggs for 10 seconds, when I slid the eggs into the poaching liquid it looked as if they were going to be a feathered out, but they ended up nicely rounded. That being said, it took three pans and one bowl of cold water—there are much easier methods to poach an egg. I'm going to try to poach them in a muffin tin."
Tell us: What's your method for perfectly poached eggs?