Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs

May  4, 2012

Every week, FOOD52's Senior Editor Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that are nothing short of genius.

Today: The 40-second egg, and the perfect Mother's Day bonding experience.

poached scrambled eggs

- Kristen

You may think there are a finite number—say, 6—ways to take your eggs. Breakfast is a multiple choice test, and diner waitresses and short order cooks aren't about to allow a write-in (not to mention busy moms and dads).

Sure, over time we've learned to improve upon the fundamentals, by frying eggs in olive oil or hard-cooking them judiciously rather than boiling their yolks out. But rarely has a new technique been rolled out, especially one that doesn't take 40 minutes. This one takes 40 seconds, give or take.


It's all thanks to an off-duty chef who got bored, started tinkering, and reinvented breakfast—with the quickest and fluffiest scrambled eggs imaginable.

Adding to their mystique, they're also made without any fat at all (not that there's anything wrong with fat), and there's no crusty pan to clean. How could it be?

daniel patterson & family
photo: Liz Hafalia/The San Francisco Chronicle

This technique—a hybrid of poaching and scrambling—first came to San Francisco chef and writer Daniel Patterson out of necessity. As he explained in the New York Times Magazine in 2006, his then-fiancé made him throw away the Teflon pan he relied upon for scrambling, and he had to get resourceful.

draining egg whites

In the manner of the 6-minute egg and its variants, it's not such a stretch to call these 40-second eggs, because other than waiting for your water to boil, that's all the time they take. You barely have time to make toast!

scrambling eggs

Now pay attention: You beat your eggs while counting to 20, swirl the boiling water, then slip in the eggs, pop on the lid, and wonder what's going on in there.

vortex eggs poached scrambled eggs

20 seconds later, de-lidded, you have a poufed cloud of eggs, ready to be drained and seasoned to your liking.

In addition to being faster than many an ad experience on this very site, it's an exceedingly forgiving method:

• As written, Patterson's recipe uses four eggs and serves two, but you can always go with five eggs and invite a hungry friend; or two and dine alone; or one to fold into a killer breakfast sandwich.

• Patterson instructs you to drain away your thin egg whites (see above), lest they go skittering off in the water, but I've skipped this step with relatively fresh eggs and not regretted my laze.

• Depending on how you plan to dress them up, you can salt the water to taste without threatening the integrity of your eggs. Assuming you're serving them minimally, with just a ribbon of olive oil and sprinkle of flaky salt, go ahead and salt the water till it tastes like the sea, as you would for boiling pasta or blanching vegetables.

poached scrambled eggs

When Patterson occasionally serves them at his restaurant Coi, it's with vinegary grated radish, seaweed powder, radish flowers, and chicken jus infused with katsuobushi. Too much salt in the water would just get in the way.

But six years after stumbling upon the technique, Patterson most often poach-scrambles eggs at home, both for his buddies (like when René Redzepi and Peter Meehan came over to hang out for this Food & Wine article) and for his two young children (Louise, 16 months, and Julian, 3 1/2—see above!). And no wonder: it's the 40-second breakfast, after all.

poached scrambled eggs

It's as wondrous to kids as it is to adults, which makes it the perfect Mother's Day bonding experience (hint, hint). A grownup might need to handle the boiling water, but the kids can crack and whisk the eggs, butter the toast, and watch the magic unfurl from a safe distance. And, of course, trot it off to mom, with toast and coffee on the side.

Daniel Patterson's Poached Scrambled Eggs

Adapted slightly from the New York Times Magazine, "The Way We Eat: Which Came First?" (January 8, 2006)

Serves 2

4 large eggs
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

See a slideshow and the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Got a genius recipe to share -- from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].


Photos by James Ransom

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Joseph J. September 16, 2017
Just tried it with 7 eggs. Served one, because half the eggs went down the plug hole. I'm pretty good a scrambling eggs the normal human way, it is much better because you can see exactly how the eggs are cooking. This way, frankly, seems purely hipster.<br />
winona_plum December 15, 2014
This is an excellent way to cook your eggs. I have been poaching my scrambled eggs for the last year and I love it for a number of reasons. I find it to be texturally superior to the pan-scrambled egg: it's moist, it's light, and it's perfectly eggy. It's everything a scrambled egg should be, but is often not. I find that it doesn't take any additional time, especially if you use a straight sided, shallow saute pan - more surface area and less water (an inch or two is all you really need) will heat more quickly.
Patty K. May 4, 2014
If you have the good [great] fortune of having a couple score of insect-eating, hard-working hens in the back yard, these eggs never have to be drained. Just use that morning's eggs! Alternatively, your farmer's market will often label eggs as "fresh" (usually less than two weeks old). These work well, too! A strainer in the boiling water can also help you skip two steps here. Trouble is, it has to fit just right!
Ajay J. April 9, 2014
This looks pretty eggcellent.
dymnyno February 15, 2014
It is a "fun" way to make eggs, but too precious. Just scramble the f***k eggs and be done with it!