There Is No Wizardry—only Practice—to Perfect Poached Eggs

A few years ago, after ordering an especially magical Lyonnaise salad, I told myself I would learn to poach eggs. I approached egg-poaching in the same way I approached double pirouettes as a young ballet student: Repeat, repeat, repeat until I get it right—and try not to cry when it turns out ugly.

So I bought two dozen eggs, set two pans of water simmering, and commandeered the kitchen from my roommate for most of the morning. Through the alchemy of internet tutorials, trial and error, and intense concentration, I eventually nailed it. I banished the stringy egg-white floaties, perfected the just-set yolk, and reveled in my triumph. There's no magic trick I learned, no ancient technique I uncovered. The key was becoming comfortable with the "slip," the ever so gentle passing of the egg from the cup into the simmering water. Once you've practiced the slip, you own the slip. My mastery of it swiftly ushered in my "put an egg on it" phase, during which time my cholesterol levels soared to previously uncharted altitudes. What a rapturous time it was, that time of poached eggs. Guests were wowed. Weekday breakfast was so elegant. Oh, the salads!

But in the intervening years, I lost my egg-poaching mojo. Egg poaching is like pirouettes in that way, too: If you don't use it, you do in fact lose it. Facing a steady supply of about five eggs a day from my backyard chickens this summer, I realize I need to get back on my feet. (With the egg poaching, not the pirouettes.) So I started over: More eggs, more simmering water, more slips. Here's how I got my groove back.

Kate’s tried-and-true poached egg

  • An egg
  • A cup with a handle, like a measuring cup (I use a half-cup measuring cup)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • A skillet
  • A slotted spoon
  • Fill the skillet nearly to the top with water. Add salt and bring the water to a boil. Crack the egg into the measuring cup. Once the water is just boiling, add the vinegar and move the skillet off heat. Slowly ease one side of the measuring cup with the egg in it into the water, allowing increasing volumes of water to mingle with the egg while still mostly inside the cup. Gently slide the egg out into the water, removing the cup slowly so as not to disturb the egg whites. Cover. Keep off heat. After four minutes, remove your gorgeous egg with a slotted spoon.