Once you've perfected basic techniques like frying an egg and cooking rice, it's time to move on to those things that may have initially scared you off. Every other Monday, chef Camille Becerra is going beyond the basics to help us tackle even the scariest cooking techniques.

Today: Put on a pot of water, and watch Camille demonstrate the technique behind a perfect poached egg. Then start putting them on everything in sight. 

Shop the Story

In the world of eggs, the poached egg is certainly king, the way it sits atop other food all regal. As cooks, we all know that presenting a perfectly poached egg puts us a notch up over others.

As the hashtag goes, #putaneggonit applies to many a meal: It’s a breakfast staple, it goes great atop a salad at lunch, and for dinner, the runny yolk becomes a sauce that finishes dishes like a carbonara, roasted vegetables, grains, and my favorite, pesto pasta.    

If you haven’t quite mastered the art of a proper poach, it’s probably because of one of these reasons:

  • Water is under- or over-acidulated (in other words, you've added too much or too little acid).
  • Water is not hot enough, or it's boiling too vigorously.
  • The egg sticks to the bottom of the pan.
  • The egg is removed from the water before it's ready.

Here's how to do it right: 

Fill a tall pot with water, salt it well, and add 3 tablespoons of vinegar per 1 gallon of water. (The vinegar helps to coagulate the egg.) I prefer a deep pot because I love how the egg develops a teardrop shape as its plunges into water and sinks to the bottom.  

When the water begins to boil, lower the temperature just a bit so it simmers; too aggressive of a boil can potentially break the yolk.  

Crack an egg into a small cup or bowl; this ensures the egg dives into the water in one shot, and no unwanted shells slip in.  

Using a slotted spoon, begin to stir water to develop a tornado effect, then quickly drop the egg into the eye of the tornado. As the egg drops down, the movement of the water will prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pot. If you find that the movement of the water stops before the egg develops a strong outer layer, stir the water gently so that the egg stays afloat.

After about 2 to 3 minutes, use the slotted spoon to lift the egg just slightly above the surface of the water and check its doneness. When the white has completely coagulated, your egg is ready! If you still see parts of uncooked whites begin to slightly seep out of the egg, put it back into the water and let it cook for another 30 seconds. Then check it again, being careful not to leave it in water too long lest you overcook it. When you are confident that the egg is ready, remove it and allow any excess water to drain out of the slotted spoon. Plate your egg and season it with salt and pepper before serving -- a bit of olive oil will also lend a fruity richness.

More good news: Poached eggs can be made ahead of time and held in an ice bath until they are ready to be served, and then reheated in simmering water for 1 to 2 minutes. 

More: Serve your perfectly poached egg atop toast with kale and sweet potatoes. 

Tell us: How do you like to serve your poached eggs?

Photos by Nicole Franzen; video by Tara Sgroi

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • madeline
  • Jamie
  • Hector Lahera
    Hector Lahera
  • Horto
  • Ange B
    Ange B
Camille Becerra

Written by: Camille Becerra



madeline July 17, 2016
can I poach an egg with apple cider vinegar if that's all I have, or will it make the egg taste funny?
Jamie March 16, 2015
What are good things to pair a poached egg with?
Hector L. December 25, 2014
What does one do with the twelve bucks of olive oil that now taste of fish? Wouldn't this method work just as well using, say, a preserve jar a little bigger than the filet to hold it in oil?
Horto March 8, 2014
Jacques Pepin drops cooked egg into water to remove the vinegar
Ange B. February 4, 2014
I also would appreciate a video or how to on poaching more than one egg at a time. I can always manage one and then the rest are lost causes.
Terry D. February 1, 2014
Poached egg instructions always read as if you're only making one egg, but who ever does that? How do you make a second "tornado" without disturbing the first egg? Or a third?
Cassandra B. February 10, 2014
I would keep a bowl of warm water at the ready and do one at a time, slipping them into the bowl to keep them warm. While I'm sure there are some who can pull off a double or triple tornado, I would most likely make a mess of it!
Antigoni S. February 1, 2014
I find that if I add too much vinegar it still works, but it "seasons" the egg more that I want it too. If the vinegar is part of the flavor that you are going for with the final product you can for sure add a splash more. You will see some recipes for poached egg dishes that call for red wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar, as it will give the egg a hint of flavor.
Burnt O. February 1, 2014
What Simon said - drain off the outer white before tipping the egg into the vortex. Use a slotted spoon.
Borrowed S. February 1, 2014
I use this method regularly but I never measure the vinegar. What is the outcome if I add too much?
Antigoni S. February 1, 2014
I find that if I add too much vinegar it still works, but it "seasons" the egg more that I want it too. If the vinegar is part of the flavor that you are going for with the final product you can for sure add a splash more. You will see some recipes for poached egg dishes that call for red wine vinegar, or rice wine vinegar, as it will give the egg a hint of flavor
Antigoni S. January 29, 2014
Thanks Camille! The large pot made all the difference! Perfect tear drops!!
Antigoni S. January 28, 2014
Great video and poaching tips! I often want to poach 2 eggs, or more at a time. Do you have any tips for this, since you can really only drop on egg into the "tornado" at a time?
Author Comment
Camille B. January 28, 2014
you could ideally fit 4 eggs comfortably in that amount of water... have them all cracked in individual bowls and drop one after the other, rather quickly so that the water's tornado effect doesn't have time to loose its momentum. :)
boulangere January 27, 2014
I love, love, love, love, love poached eggs! And the tornado tip is great.

Author Comment
Camille B. January 28, 2014
thanks :)
Pegeen January 27, 2014
Great video with gorgeous music (Tharaud). Thank you!
Author Comment
Camille B. January 28, 2014
thank you!!
Simon Y. January 27, 2014
One other thing that can mess with a poached egg: The egg not being fresh, leading to some of the white separating into wispy strands. Using a mesh strainer to drain away the loose white does wonders before you put it into the bowl you're going to use to slip it into the water.
Nancy January 27, 2014
I just tried your method Camille. Two perfectly tear-dropped poached eggs! So much more beautiful than my usual ragged (ruffled, if you were feeling generous) ones. :)

Author Comment
Camille B. January 28, 2014
right on!!!
S C. January 27, 2014
A poached egg (freshly laid by my hen) with freshly ground pepper and kosher salt on a piece of lightly buttered multigrain toast is perfection.
Author Comment
Camille B. January 28, 2014
couldn't agree more.