A second method for poached eggs, more suited to newbies or teaching your 7 year old son/daughter is the teacup method:

As mentioned above, you want a slow boil, and you want vinegar and possibly a little salt in the water to keep the eggs contained. Rather than stirring the water though - the whirlpool method employed by hardcore egg-poachers - crack the egg into a teacup instead. Lower the teacup into the water, and then quickly overturn it. If you hold the teacup there for a second after tipping, it will prevent the whites from spreading and your recipient will never know you cheated.

This method has the additional advantage, for those not so swift at egg-cracking on the first try, of giving you a test-bed, the teacup. That way you can pick out shell bits, or just throw away eggs that didn't work.

Two final tips on the perfect poached egg: use eggs as fresh as you can get them. Buy a hen. Whatever. The fresher the egg, the less diffusion of the whites you'll notice, making for a tighter package. Also, watch your yolks. Since the eggs float while boiling, and since you're remembering to use only a slow boil, the yolk will sometimes not get enough heat to cook fully. If you notice this happening, splash a little water over the egg.

If fried eggs are too fatty, boiled eggs are too fiddly and scrambled eggs too time-consuming, then the poached egg is for you. If you like eggs, that is.

A poached egg is a boiled egg without the shell, and is probably the most natural way to cook and eat an egg.

Personally it is my favourite way to eat eggs and I've tried all kinds of ways of cooking them.

First, though, you will need fresh eggs. Fresh means laid less than two or three days ago. The three-week old eggs in your 'fridge need to be scrambled or boiled or even fried. Not poached.

As eggs age, the almost-clear protein (albumen) that surround the yolk gets gradually more watery. Break a perfectly fresh egg into a pan of water and the egg white will remain together in a delicate gloopy lump. Do that with a week-old egg and the white will disperse through the water

You can overcome this to a limited extent by adding an acid such as vinegar to the water, as the proteins behave a bit better in the presence of acid, but to be honest, it won't help a really old egg.

My preferred way of cooking is to take a large, deep frying pan, splash some vinegar in the bottom (a couple of shakes of the bottle -- not enough to make the kitchen reek of the stuff, or affect the flavour in any way), boil a kettle and fill the pan with water to a depth of 3 - 4 cm. Set the pan on a very low heat. If the water is bubbling, then you risk breaking up the slowly poaching eggs.

Crack an egg and deposit it from a low height into the water. If you are a wuss, then break the egg into a small cup first and then tip the contents of the cup into the water. Repeat as many times as you need eggs, but try to avoid putting the eggs so close that the whites run into each other. Even a large pan will only hold four or five eggs at best.

If the pan has a lid, then cover the pan. After a couple of minutes' cooking, it's probably best to turn off the heat, to avoid those bubbles messing up the pretty eggs.

Depending on how large the eggs were and how well-done you like them, remove the eggs after 3 to 4 minutes and serve, ideally on top of a slice of hot, buttered toast. Add a sprinkle of fresh-ground pepper and salt if you must. Then cut into the yolk* and let the runny goodness soak into the toast.
* Government Health warning. Some eggs carry salmonella bacteria. Edwina Currie says never eat raw (runny) egg yolks. Stuff Edwina! I like my egg yolks runny.

Variations on the cooking method:

The whirlpool method

Cook only one egg in each pan. When the water is boiling, but before the egg is in the pan, stir the water to create a whirlpool. Stop stirring and break the egg into the middle of the whirlpool.

This is supposed to keep the white together better than simply dropping it into the water. I guess it kind of works, but IMHO, you should just use fresh eggs.

The clingfilm method

I found this on the web (http://www.b3ta.com/features/howtopoachanegg/). I've never tried it and don't guarantee success, but the author swears by it.

Tear off a strip of cling film / Saran wrap*. Place over a cup, push the film inside the cup, leaving the edges outside. Break the egg into the film inside the cup. Enclose raw egg in cling film. Tie, clip or otherwise seal into a neat (or not-so-neat) package. Drop package into boiling water.

Leave to cook for requisite 3 mins 45 seconds (or whatever time you prefer). Remove package. Cut top of package, deposit egg, minus clingfilm onto plate/toast/spinach. Eat. Enjoy.
*Government health warning. Clingfilm is made from highly plasticised PVC. The plasticisers love sticking to fatty molecules such as the ones in egg yolks. There is a risk of ingesting some chemical nasties if you let hot cling film mix with warm egg yolk.
Redalien says: I've tried a variation on the clingfilm method using a toaster. It's a somewhat different result but nice enough. You need a toasting bag that's sold for toasting sandwiches in a normal toaster. Break the egg into the bag (they're waterproof) and put the bag in the toaster. The inside of the egg will end up like a poached egg but the outside where it was in contact with the bag becomes slightly crispy. Admittedly they're not as good as normally poached eggs, hence why I've only done this twice. Oh, and I almost forgot. Technically eggs that are cooked in a vessel immersed in water are coddled, not poached.

Thanks for sharing.

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