How to Poach the Perfect Egg

The other day, my darling curly-mopped little 5 year old crawled into my lap and said, "Today, I would like to learn how to poach an egg."

How could I say no to so sweet and simple a request? I swear, this kid melts me into a puddle. They all do, but this one loves cooking so much that she and I frequently find ourselves bonding over a hot and happy stove, or flipping through cookbooks or even peeling the copious amounts of garlic that go into a typical meal here at Wildhaven Hills. 

How to Poach the Perfect Egg

For starters, you really do need fresh eggs. I have a lot to say on this subject. Where do you get your eggs? The ones on the shelf at your average grocery store are nowhere near fresh. Egg farmers have a fairly large window of time to get their eggs to the store, and the store can have them for sale for 3-4 weeks. Some reports I've read state that average eggs in the store are 6 weeks old. USDA considers eggs 'fresh' until they are 45 days old. 

No matter how old they are, they're certainly not as fresh as the eggs at your local farmer's market.

I'm very privileged to be able to use just-laid eggs every day, but if you don't have that luxury, try to support a local farm, or get yourself to a farmer's market. Can't make that happen? Then don't take your carton from the front of the selection at your local grocery store.  The freshest eggs will be in the just-added carton in the back. 

So, you can either ask a staff member to give you the just-brought-in eggs in their cooler, or you can risk looking a little silly, and dig allllll the way to the back to get that freshest carton. Trust me though, it's worth it! 

Fresh eggs are really nothing like old eggs. The whites hold together with a lovely, soft and almost custardy consistency, making a poached egg something elevated beyond your usual over-easy.

But I digress. Here's the nitty gritty on how to poach an egg.
  • Fill a saucepan with water and add a pinch of salt. If you're using older eggs, a quick splash of vinegar helps keep the white together. But just plain water is great with fresh eggs.
  • Bring the water to a simmer. Not a boil - you don't want bubbles that will tear the egg apart. 
  • Crack your egg into a small bowl.
  • Holding the bowl close to the surface, slip it gently into the simmering water. (Again, if you're using older eggs, one trick to keep them together is to swirl the water into a whirlpool, and drop the egg directly into the centre.) If fresh, you can drop multiple eggs into one pot, one at a time.
  • Simmer until the egg is the done-ness you prefer. I like mine right at a super-soft 3 minutes. 
  • To test the egg, lift it out of the water with a slotted spoon and push lightly on the yolk with the back of a spoon (or, if you're me, a clean finger). You'll get the hang of it in no time.
When your egg is done the way you like it, lift it all the way out the water with the slotted spoon and let any excess water drain before serving. Some like to dry them on a paper-towelled surface.

Season or sauce however you wish - your eggs are ready to eat!

Ok, next question - what about a good Hollandaise sauce? I can help you there, too! Eggs Benedict is a family favourite for us. I love my Hollandaise to be super-sunshiney-lemony, but that's not for everyone. If you like a mellower sauce, I can send you in the right direction! Here are two options:

Sunshine Lemon Hollandaise

Like my mother used to make. This makes a small amount, and is very quick to prepare.

  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 2 T fresh lemon juice 
  • 1/3 c butter, melted
  • pinch of salt

Use a small pot of simmering water with a bowl on top (make sure the bowl isn't touching the water), or use a double boiler. 

Place the egg yolks, lemon juice and salt in the bowl - off the heat - and whisk until light. Then place the bowl onto your pot of simmering water, and whisk until the eggs thicken and increase in volume. Remove the bowl from the heat, and drizzle the melted butter in slowly, whisking as you go.

If it gets too hot, the butter will separate. Don't despair! Place the bowl into a dish with cold water, and whisk until the butter re-incorporates.

Here's another hollandaise option that is more complex, velvety and delicious:

Chef Michael Smith's Hollandaise Sauce

from his website, here.
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 2 T white wine
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup butter, melted
  • the juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 3-4 drops of your favourite hot sauce
Use the same double-boiler method as above.

In the bowl off the heat, whisk together the egg yolks, white wine, mustard, lemon juice, and hot sauce until light and frothy. Place the bowl over the barely simmering water and continue whisking until the mixture thickens and more than doubles in volume, about 4 or 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk for a few more moments to cool.

Since you’ll need both hands for this next part, ask an assistant to hold the bowl steady. If you’re flying solo, you can secure the bowl with a damp tea towel wrapped around the base. With one hand, slowly drizzle in the melted butter in a steady stream while whisking continuously with the other hand. The sauce will thicken as the butter emulsifies with the egg. Once all the butter has been slowly incorporated, slowly whisk in the lemon juice.

Keep the Hollandaise sauce warm for a few minutes by covering the bowl and placing it over the pot of warm water, leaving the heat turned off beneath the water. 

My little lady loved learning how to poach eggs herself for the very first time. We served them on toasted English muffins with the hollandaise, salt and pepper and a little shaved parmesan.  

Eggs Benedict
There's nothing like a beautiful Benedict, along with a bit of shaved parmesan...


  1. Yum. Can't wait to try these sauces. To answer your question we get our eggs hand delivered bi weekly by a local farmer :)

  2. That's fantastic! I feel like people would be shocked at the difference if they knew it.


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