How to Make the Perfect Poached Egg (Without Vinegar)

I haven’t been a big breakfast person for most of my adult life(with the exception of my Father’s pancakes).  The truth is that, most days, I’d prefer reheated pasta, cold pizza or even a hamburger to start my day.  I generally avoid such temptation but I’m not saying I don’t think about it.

Those days may have changed.  I’ve finally managed to make awesome poached eggs with repeated success.  And, like most things cooking, I’ve found it to be surprisingly easy.


Let’s start with what I don’t do: vinegar.  Many who have researched poaching eggs find a common tip: add acid (usually different types of vinegar).  The amount varies but I’ve seen up to a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water.  Vinegar helps coagulate the egg and makes for an easier task – but at a cost.  It certainly changes the taste (for those who claim it doesn’t, I challenge you to drink 2 or 3 cups of water with this ratio of vinegar added to it) and I believe, with no ‘real’ proof that it also changes the texture.  I find it makes the egg far more rubbery.

Here’s a few things I’ve learned about the process:

  • Crack the egg into a measuring cup in advance of the water reaching temperature.  I use as small a cup as possible – generally this means a 1/3 cup measure.  This ensures the yolk is in tact, shells are absent and, most importantly, allows you to gently coax the egg into the water.
  • It helps to use a spoon to create a circular current in the water.  Gently stir the water for 10-15 seconds to create a current.  You’re trying to leave a ‘hole’ in the center of the water while ensuring the water remains relatively level.  If the surface is pitching up and down, it’s going to toss your egg up and down as well as around in a circular motion.
  • Pot size matters.  I use one that’s around 2-2.5 times as wide as my spoon which makes created the current the easiest.
  • The water doesn’t have to be at a boil or a simmer.  I actually prefer to add the eggs as the first few bubbles appear on the bottom of the pot.
  • You don’t need an ocean of water – though you wan’t at least a few cups to keep water temperature stable.
  • I do one at a time.
  • Add the egg to the center of the current as soon as you remove the spoon from stirring.  Monitor the heat to prevent it from simmering (this often means lowering the temperature; many turn it off at this point) and don’t touch the pot or water.
  • The egg will lower the temperature of the water.  I like to keep the heat on for a few minutes but lower it before it simmers.
  • Remove it when it’s done to your liking (it will take 5-10 minutes).  I leave mine in until they look a shade overcooked – once removed from the water I tend to have exactly what I want.
  • Remove wish a slotted spoon but take your time to shift the egg back and forth to remove all of the water from it (including from its surface).

If you ever have to poach eggs for a large group and don’t want to wait for each one – here’s a foolproof way to poach as many eggs as you want at one time!

What do you like to eat with poached eggs?

  1. Springtime asparagus topped with a poached egg & a sprinkle of parmigianno reggiano.

    My grandmother couldn’t cook to save her life, but one thing she made that I am ever-fond of was soft boiled eggs, mashed up with lots of butter & toast. Comfort food…

    Totally agree about the vinegar – definitely changes flavor & texture.

  2. This is how I have always poached eggs–“always” makes it sound like I do this regularly. I don’t. But it isn’t difficult, I have seen the vinegar thing all over pinterest, and I don’t see what’s so hard about the good old Joy of Cooking way.

    But you inspired me. 3 baby bok choys chopped and sauteed in olive oil + one poached Buff Orpington egg + freshly ground pepper + pinch of kosher salt = YUM! Even though I did overpoach a touch.

  3. Poaching eggs for a crowd can be achieve with a little planning. Poach eggs using what ever method suits you until almost done and then shock them in an ice water bath. Store in the fridge in water to cover until needed. Then warm them up in a pot of simmering water for about 1 min. drain and use. Voila. Poached eggs for a crowd.

  4. The spinning vortex method never worked for me, sadly. My favourites are the cheats. 1 – put egg in greased ladle, submerge in water until cooked.. 2 – (from Lucky Peach) put egg in saran wrap, tie, and dangle in water.

  5. We always poached an egg using a “special” holder that set down into a small amount of water creating more of a steaming effect. Now, a put a small amount of water into a frying pan, place a silicone cupcake holder in the water, crack the egg into the holder, cover and cook on med-high until it’s done. Simple and I can make as many as I have holders/space for. MMMM. Add on top of slightly buttered toast – great breakfast.

  6. In cooking school they taught me the vinegar method, with your exact method, but also to transfer the egg into a bowl of salted water, which removed the vinegar, but also seasoned it nicely. I do agree about the texture, it makes it stringy or something. (but the salt water does mostly cancel that out).