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Julia Child's 10-Second Trick for Better Poached Eggs

January 12, 2018

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!).

Photo by Sandra Hickman Simmons
Photo by Leah Lewis

Here's what Julia Child has to say about perfect poached eggs:

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:

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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."

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Top Comment:
“Next, to ensure that your poached egg is perfectly round for Eggs Benedict, here's a great trick. Fill your pan with water like normal, then place Canning Lids in the water. When the water is up to temperature, crack each egg into it's own canning lid then cook normally. This will ensure that your poached eggs are perfectly round for Eggs Benedict!”
— Marvin L.
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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?

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I like esoteric facts about vegetables and think ambling through a farmers market is a great way to start the day. My first cookbook, available now, is called Cooking with Scraps.

37 Comments

verocate May 18, 2019
Interesting techniques. We have the usual six cup “poacher” although agree technically not poaching and fiddly to clean. My pet peeve is restaurants which use the classic technique but add too much vinegar, disgusting.
 
Heather Z. May 18, 2019
Technically, using those special egg poacher pans isn't really poaching them. It's more akin to steaming them in cups. Same with using a muffin tin as mentioned in the article. Actual poaching involves submerging the food in question all the way under water.
 
CHeeb January 5, 2019
I poach eggs by filling a one cup tea mug half full with water,then heat it in the microwave for a minute on 80% power. I also add salt to the water before heating. I then crack an egg into the hot water and heat again ,in 20 second increments,until the white begins to cohere around the yolk. I gently pour off the water and add a tsp of butter or hollandaise. It is a technique that WORKS everytime tried!
 
Eric B. January 4, 2019
For a neat, perfect poached egg simply drain (strain) the outermost watery white from the raw egg. Easy and extremely neat. It’s no secret - McGee pointed it out in “On Food and Cooking...” (2nd ed., page 90). Kenji has his own spin on it:
https://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/04/foolproof-poached-eggs-food-lab-recipe.html
 
Mickey S. January 25, 2018
Really? All that for a poached egg?! I grew up on a dairy, chicken, corn farm in the north...give me a fried egg any time!! Lol! Altho, I DO have one of Leslie’s toys for “in case of” situations!! 👍🏼
 
Marvin L. January 20, 2018
Here is my personal favorite way to poach the perfect egg. Go to a local fresh food market to first purchase your eggs. This usually ensures that you get NEW, FRESH EGGS for poaching. Next, to ensure that your poached egg is perfectly round for Eggs Benedict, here's a great trick. Fill your pan with water like normal, then place Canning Lids in the water. When the water is up to temperature, crack each egg into it's own canning lid then cook normally. This will ensure that your poached eggs are perfectly round for Eggs Benedict!
 
christine M. January 19, 2018
Seriously? all this for a poachegg? I do 5 at a time in a 2'' bath of rolling boiled water. Once water comes to a rolling boil, I just lower the heat, crack my eggs "as close to the water as I can stand(the heat) and "gently drop each egg in. I use a "sloted spoon to gently bath the eggs and "push the feathers toward the egg"....Granted they are "not a perfect circle"...But, they always are always perfectly "right"...And unless you work in a restrurant...Who "really cares?"....Its sort of like...The "perfectly dressed dinner plate", but the "food is not tasty...lol
 
Lesley January 19, 2018
I don't know why you all go through these frustrations when you can buy a perfectly good egg poaching pan or a pack of two silicone floating cups to break your eggs into, cover and float them in the simmering water until cooked.
Both ways work well and give you perfectly round eggs.
 
Lucia F. January 18, 2018
Recently I have been putting the eggs from the fridge in a warm water, from the tap, bath for about 20 minutes before I poach them. The difference is amazing. They actually look like poached eggs!
 
dan K. January 18, 2018
This from Kenji Lopez-Alt: Crack the egg into a fine mesh strainer and let what would be the "feathers", if you just cracked the egg into the simmering water, drain into a bowl. Tip the portion of the egg that remains in the strainer into the simmering water. Resulting poached egg will be perfectly formed with no feathers. Easy peasy and works like a champ. Acknowledging that no one ever has a totally original idea, Kenji says in got the idea from somebody else.
 
mtnnewf January 19, 2018
This is how I do mine, also. Straightforward. Kenji has the best ideas. Of course, I think he then goes a little overboard when he suggest cutting the egg into a perfect round with a cookie or biscuit cutter, but then, I never worked in a restaurant kitchen.
 
rbrock1225 January 19, 2018
Kenji's article on poached eggs: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5932548/episodes?ref_=tt_ov_epl
The article is good -- and there's also a link for a video. His instructions emphasize why the water temperature you poach in is important, why you don't need vinegar -- but the use of the strainer is the most important information.

I grew up with a mother who had gotten a degree in Home Economics in the 30's. She always added the vinegar (which helps the whites to coagulate); swirled the water in the pan w/a spoon to help them hold the shape; and emphasized using fresh eggs. She would have loved the hint about using the strainer.

I finally acquired a small fine strainer that I keep in the crock by the stove. Just the thing for when making poached eggs -- but also great for catching seeds from a just-squeezed lemon.

The little poacher inserts doesn't actually produce what I call a poached eggs. More along the lines of coddled eggs. And if you want coddled eggs, _get an egg coddler_ and add your seasoning ingredients.
 
rbrock1225 January 19, 2018
http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/04/foolproof-poached-eggs-food-lab-recipe.html
 
Jason T. April 6, 2019
In a normal priced breakfast restaurant, you'd crash and burn using this method.
 
Melanie B. January 18, 2018
When in a hurry, I half fill a custard cup with water, drop an egg in the water and put it in microwave for 50 seconds.
 
Adam J. January 18, 2018
Isn't that risky? Couldn't the yolk explode?
 
Carol E. January 18, 2018
I have a new toy for my kitchen....a sous vide. The best poached eggs I've ever had. Heat water to 147.0 degrees. Put in as many extra large eggs as you'd like. Cook for 1 hour. Take them out and then crack open the top (enough get a spoon inside). Scoop out the egg and discard the dangling participles. (joke) Serve on buttered toast. The yokes are like a creamy custard. Not runny. They are literally perfect. You can use these for Eggs Benedict, or in any recipe calling for poached eggs. Ultimate perfection!!!
 
Liz C. January 19, 2018
I use a sous vide, too. I sometimes cook my eggs in advance and heat them in a water bath for 10 minutes before serving. Perfection, as you say!
 
Liz A. January 19, 2018
i recently got one of these - have yet to try it for eggs! saving your instructions ;)
 
Adam J. January 18, 2018
I poach my eggs using a biscuit cutter. Just spray the inside with butter spray in a fry pan. Add about 1/2 cup water to the pan. Bring to a boil. Then break the egg into the biscuit cutter. Reduce heat and cover. Cook to desired doneness. Perfectly poached egg that fits great on an English muffin!
 
jph January 18, 2018
My husband makes them...
 
Carol E. January 19, 2018
those are the best ones!!
 
Sharon T. January 18, 2018
I love Julia! And I miss her so. much. She was a genious and we are the recipients of that genius!
 
Pat L. January 18, 2018
I use an egg poaching insert. Spray a little Pam in the cups and put it in a shallow pan of water, cover and steam. Eggs come out perfectly.
 
Toddie January 18, 2018
That's the way I have always poached eggs. I don't bother to prick the end because it won't be in the water long enough to crack. Also, I use the same pot. I just dump out a bit of the water before cracking the eggs. Perfect poached eggs every time.
 
Spencer A. January 18, 2018
Ever since I started pricking my eggs and boiling for 10 seconds, my poached eggs come out perfectly! I fought with poached eggs for years and really got to the point where I just didn't want to make them anymore because they were always finicky! I will NEVER go back to the old method!
 
jane January 18, 2018
Boil water. Add egg, cover and turn off heat. Remove after 4 minutes. This method has been a game changer.
 
Betty A. January 13, 2018
I have tried Julia's method -- without pricking and par boiling the egg. Maybe the eggs weren't fresh enough. Or could it have been that I live at 7300 ft. above sea level and the water boils at only 185 degrees?