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How to cook the perfect poached egg by ten top chefs


“I love a poached egg yolk with all the white missing on some burnt sourdough,” said no-one ever. But, it seems keeping the egg white in place in a pan of hot water is just one of the issues many of us face during a weekend brunch cook-up. We’ve tried egg poachers (great if you’ve got a spare 15 minutes per egg), and we’ve heard rumours of salt and vinegar but how is it really done? We asked 10 top chefs to share their expert tips in an ongoing quest to find the answers to the perfect poached egg.

Method: Bring a pan of water to the boil and add a tiny splash of vinegar. Crack an egg into a ramekin and gently lower the dish into the water, then slowly tip out the egg. Allow to cook just under the boil for three minutes.

Secret tip: It’s all about using the ramekin.

Serve with: Toasted sourdough with avocado, grilled chorizo, hot sauce and coriander leaves.

Method: Bring a pan of water almost to the boil and add white wine vinegar. Drop the eggs in and cook for about 3-4 minutes.

Secret tip:  Use really fresh eggs. When fresh, the whites are more compact so you get a better shape.

Serve with: Big Sur Eggs Benedict: chicken sausage patties topped with spinach, avocado, poached eggs and jalapeño hollandaise.

Method: We cook our eggs sous vide and we leave the shell on, so we don’t lose any of the egg white. We cook the eggs at 63°C for one hour. Once cooked, crack the shell and place the egg directly on the plate.

Secret tip: It’s hard to keep a pan of water at a steady temperature so a sous vide cooker is a must.

Serve with: Sweet potato puree and chorizo on sourdough.

Method: Fill a saucepan with enough water for a whole egg. Add white wine vinegar and bring to a boil. Break an egg into a cup and pour it into the pan. Immediately remove the pan from the heat and set it aside for four minutes until done.

Secret tip: Place poached eggs in warm water to so they do not go cold while you cook the other eggs.

Serve with: Chickpeas on toast or polenta and sweetcorn pancakes.

Method: Gary Rhodes taught me to use a deep pan, bring the water to the boil, add vinegar, then turn the heat down. 

Secret tip: The trick is to drop the egg on top of the bubble pockets. The egg will drop to the bottom, the bubbles will bring the whites around and when the egg rises to the surface it will be poached.

Serve with: Bitter leaves, such as chicory, crispy bacon and croutons.

Poached egg pasta salad

Method: The key to perfect poached eggs is to use fresh eggs. Crack them into cups with a splash of vinegar, give your boiling water a good stir and drop the egg in. Turn the heat off and leave it to sit there for 3/4 minutes.

Secret tip: Cook the egg in the shell for 10 seconds first to set the white and keep the shape.

Serve with: Loads of black pepper, freshly grated parmesan and salad cream.

Method: To make the eggpocolyptic ovum of destiny, line a mug with cling film then crack an egg into it. Stir 10 drops of food dye and edible glitter into the egg white. Tie off the cling film and tip into a pan of simmering water until done. Split the cling film and feast.

Secret tip: Use cling film to help shape the egg.

Serve with: This should be eaten on its own, but on a gold plate.

Method: There are so many schools of thought but I add vinegar, create a little whirlpool, leave the whirlpool to settle for a little while before carefully breaking in an egg. Then I turn off the heat and let it sit there for three minutes.

Secret tip: Drop from a height to get the perfect teardrop shape. 

Serve with: Avocado and sourdough. Classic.

Method: Bring the water to the boil then turn it to a simmer, stir it with a wooden spoon to make a little swirl and then drop the egg in close to the water and leave the heat on a simmer for a minute or two. That should be enough.

Secret tip: Don’t overthink it – you’ve got to just have confidence that the egg will be perfect.

Serve with: Sweet potato hash and an avocado salad.

Method: Bring water to the boil, add a bit of white wine vinegar and stir to create a current before dropping in the egg. Lower the temperature to bring the water to a light simmer. After 3-4 minutes, switch the heat off and serve. 

Secret tip: Use a tall cooking pot so the eggs take the shape of beautiful teardrops.

Serve with: At Balthazar, we serve with avocado, seasoned with garlic, chilli, coriander and salsa.

The poached eggsentials

All you need to create the perfect poached egg, whether you're following our chefs' tips or cheating.

Words: Lucy Frith, Jenny Tregoning
Tom’s Table by Tom Kerridge (£25, Absolute Press), out now  
Sophie Michell will be at Taste of London: the Festive Edition, 19-22 November, from £15, tasteoflondon.co.uk 

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