What's the point of a poached egg?
November 22, 2010 7:22 PM   Subscribe

What's the point of a poached egg?

Growing up, we ate eggs in all manners ... sunny side up, scrambled, soft boiled, hard boiled, steamed in a savory egg dish. But I was never really aware of poaching eggs until I had eggs benny for the first time at a fancy brunch buffet.

What I don't get is... what's the point of poaching? Frying them sunny-side up gives the same set-whites-runny-yolk effect. Soft-boiling them would give roughly the same result, assuming you can get the shell off without rupturing the egg. Why do people bother poaching them? Is there something about the texture/position of the egg whites vs. yolks that make poached eggs especially desirable for certain dishes? Or is it simply aesthetics?
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 36 users marked this as a favorite
maybe the disc-like shape is desirable for sandwiching, plus there's no grease from frying it?
posted by torisaur at 7:26 PM on November 22, 2010

Poached eggs don't require frying oil, and the white part generally ends up thicker than in a fried egg.

I don't see how a soft-boiled egg would give the same shape or effect at all.
posted by muddgirl at 7:26 PM on November 22, 2010

Frying them sunny-side up gives you a completely different egg -- the egg white is much thinner and firmer. The point of a poached egg is DELICIOUSNESS. Plus, a uniformly soft texture and very soft yolk (often much softer than you're able to get when you're frying an egg).
posted by kate blank at 7:28 PM on November 22, 2010 [15 favorites]

Have you ever had a good eggs benedict? That's the point.
posted by oinopaponton at 7:32 PM on November 22, 2010 [8 favorites]

If you're me, the point is that it's easier to wash the pan for a poached egg (it's just water!) than a fried egg (SO MUCH BUTTER). But culinarily, I do prefer it over a fried egg, because (as mentioned above) the white is thicker and it's uniformly soft all over.
posted by pemberkins at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You ask: why do people bother?

It's actually no bother at all. Poaching requires no special equipment. Just drop the cracked egg carefully into almost simmering water, turn off heat, and cover for 5 minutes. Scoop out the egg. So easy. Try it you'll like it!

Some variants include adding salt to the water. And/or vinegar to help egg hold its shape.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 7:33 PM on November 22, 2010 [10 favorites]

Soft boiled eggs are similar, but they take longer to cook, are easier to screw up, and are not as easy to eat on a flat surface. Poached eggs are also more sensible in soup, such as ramen.
posted by acidic at 7:35 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Came in to say 'deliciousness'. Beat to it by kate blank.

…and a secret for a stay-together poached egg? Plastic wrap.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:47 PM on November 22, 2010

Well, aside from the ease of placing them on a surface like an English muffin half to which other delicious things such as spinach, salmon, crab, and hollandaise sauce can be added, with no fear of said egg squiggling its way off the surface while being prepared or eaten --

there are very few things as lovely as a poached egg on toasted bread, nude but for a little sprinkling of salt, pepper and perhaps a bit of paprika, running its warm yolky goodness onto the bread for ready chomping.

Don't get me wrong, I love eggs in many forms, including easy over, sunny side up, soft boiled, scrambled, hard boiled, deviled . . . but poaching is one of the nicest. I personally like a poaching pan but whatever floats your boat is fine.
posted by bearwife at 7:50 PM on November 22, 2010

It's a tradition in my family to add a dash of apple cider vinegar to the egg-poaching water. It kind of makes the house sink, but it adds a strange level of deliciousness. Also, the texture is completely different from a fried egg or a soft-boiled egg, and it is ideal for putting on a slice of toast, and then you cut the yolk and it runs all over the place and it's delicious.

One time, in a restaurant, I had a poached egg served on top of a giant whole artichoke heart. There was some sort of sauce on it, too. It was one of my all-time favorite eating experiences. Things like that are the point of a poached egg.
posted by wondermouse at 7:51 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Thanks all! I actually just poached a couple and mixed it up with some spinach and rice. Super yums, and easier than I thought (no vinegar this time, just made a swirl in the water). I guess I'm such a soft-yolk freak that I never noticed the whites much, but all your points make a lot of sense. Loving the recipe ideas too, please keep those coming! I feel like I've just upped my brunch game by like 20 points!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 7:58 PM on November 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

For decadent poached egg recipes, it is hard to beat the Williams Sonoma folks. The poached eggs with spinach and ricotta (though I'd substitute turkey bacon) look particularly nice.

Another favorite recipe site of mine, eatingwell.com, also seems to have some very interesting recipe ideas. One good looking brunch option appears to be the crispy potatoes with green beans and eggs number.
posted by bearwife at 8:12 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

Oh, and don't miss the golden polenta and egg with mustard sauce recipe.

This is all making me quite hungry.
posted by bearwife at 8:15 PM on November 22, 2010

It kind of makes the house sink,

Sorry, I just noticed my typo - what I meant to say is that it kind of makes the house "stink."
posted by wondermouse at 8:18 PM on November 22, 2010

I just love how tender eggs are when poached (or soft boiled)--the yolk on the verge of becoming solid, but no rubbery or crunchy bits...heavenly.
posted by Riverine at 8:22 PM on November 22, 2010

From what I was taught in grade school [citation needed], the term "poaching" came from the way people would cook food without anyone catching on that they had lit a fire to cook illegal food in the King's Forest. Since the fire was kept low enough that it couldn't boil water, it was harder to see through the forest.

Perfect thing to cook for breakfast whilst everyone else in the household is asleep...
posted by cathoo at 8:42 PM on November 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

I recently had farm-free organic eggs poached over crab cakes with home-made hollandaise and I really cant think of any additional answer to your question. soft, delicious, perfect...
posted by supermedusa at 9:08 PM on November 22, 2010

posted by supermedusa at 9:08 PM on November 22, 2010

Laid-that-day eggs poached on toast are a reason to live.
posted by endless_forms at 9:14 PM on November 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

1. I have found that poaching in water makes a much nicer poached egg than one made in a poaching pan. They seem more delicate and soft when done in water. Poaching pans always seem to give me something akin to a McDonalds McMuffin egg puck.

2. I'm going to go make a poached egg on toast RIGHT NOW.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:21 PM on November 22, 2010

Poached eggs on Vegemite toast are god's own food... and quite different to boiled or fried.
posted by taff at 2:55 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another nice thing about poaching eggs is that you can poach them in advance, remove to a clean towel, and then quickly reheat them in simmering water right before serving. This is a boon if you're making brunch for several people.
posted by donovan at 6:34 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

From what I was taught in grade school [citation needed], the term "poaching" came from the way people would cook food without anyone catching on that they had lit a fire to cook illegal food in the King's Forest. Since the fire was kept low enough that it couldn't boil water, it was harder to see through the forest.

From the Online Etymology Dictionary entries for poach:
poach (1)
"steal game," 1520s, "to push, poke," from M.Fr. pocher "to thrust, poke," from O.Fr. pochier "poke out, gouge," from a Gmc. source (cf. M.H.G. puchen "to pound, beat, knock") related to poke (v.). Sense of "trespass for the sake of stealing" is first attested 1610s, perhaps via notion of "thrusting" oneself onto another's property. Related: Poached; poaching.

poach (2)
"cook in liquid," early 15c., from O.Fr. poché, pp. of pochier (12c.), lit. "put into a pocket" (as the white of an egg forms a pocket for the yolk), from poche "bag, pocket," from Frank. *pokka "bag," from Gmc. *puk- (see poke (n.)).
So the most recent common ancestor seems to be the Old French pochier; it does not appear that one was derived directly from the other.

posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:46 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Aside from adding vinegar to the water to keep the whites from feathering, as mentioned above, two other tricks are to crack the uncooked eggs into ramekins so if needed you can add four at the same time.

The most important trick is to cover the pan as soon as the eggs are in and then turn the heat off. The eggs will cook just as if you had the heat on but will come out perfectly round as the water is not agitating the eggs as it is if you continue to boil.

Also, poached eggs on top of a spinach salad with freshly crumbled bacon bits.
posted by digitalprimate at 6:58 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Other reason for poaching eggs - you don't have to poach them in water, you can use other liquids. Red wine, for example.
posted by dnash at 7:22 AM on November 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I recently discovered a new (to me) way to cook eggs that may interest you, if you're experimenting with poaching. I sauté vegetables in a small pan, then, a little before they're really done, I add about a quarter cup of water, crack two eggs on top of the vegetables, sprinkle on some feta cheese and lid the whole affair tightly. The water boils off into steam, which melts the cheese and gently poaches the eggs in "midair" atop the veggies.

I didn't think it was possible, but I like this even more than regular poached eggs. The whites hold together very nicely and pick up a little flavor from the sauté. My best version so far has been leeks, tomatoes and chipotle powder.
posted by richyoung at 7:30 AM on November 23, 2010 [12 favorites]

Boil 2 cups of water. Add 1 pack of ramen noodles + half the packet of ramen powder, and let it cook til the noodles start to separate (maybe 2 minutes?)
Gently crack 2 eggs into the broth to poach. Lay 1 cup of broccoli florets over the noodles so they're above the liquid. Cover the pot, turn down the heat, and let it sit for a few minutes. If you still see raw egg white, gently pull the noodles over them to bury them and spoon over some of the hot water, then cover again and wait a minute or so. When the eggs are done and the broccoli is steamed bright green, put it all in a bowl and add a little hot sauce and/or soy sauce.
This is a delicious staple meal for about $2.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:39 AM on November 23, 2010

I know I'm marking a lot of "best answers"... really, they all could be marked as such. This is great guys, really loving all these ideas/tips!
posted by miss_kitty_fantastico at 10:06 AM on November 23, 2010

Maybe I'm imagining it, but poaching gives a clean, refreshing, purer flavor that frying certainly doesn't, but still the chew and runniness of other methods. And depending on the method, it's much faster too. Absolutely the best way to do an egg you plan to use to top an English muffin, in my opinion.
posted by ifjuly at 10:41 AM on November 23, 2010

Since we're talking about egg alternatives, I love, love, love "poaching" eggs in tomato sauce. You make up a quick tomato sauce (onions, garlic, herbs, tomato sauce) although your favorite from a jar would work too. Once it's nice and hot, you crack your eggs into the sauce and cover. Once the white sets, you scoop them out with tomato sauce and serve over toasted bread rubbed with garlic and a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle some cheese on top. It is truly delicious.
posted by Kimberly at 10:56 AM on November 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

A fairly awesome, mildly classy way to serve soup is to have in each serving an egg which was poached in that soup. (Just in case you were thinking that ramen is the only applicable form of soup to get eggs)
posted by ivan ivanych samovar at 11:01 AM on November 23, 2010

As a data point, I have literally gone most of my life without ever having a poached egg, until Mrs. W volunteered to make me two a year or so ago, after I kept seeing them used on Iron Chef and the like. I thought they were unbelievably delicious, and they have since become my favorite way to eat eggs. So, I also vote for deliciousness.
posted by wittgenstein at 2:58 PM on November 23, 2010

Because of this thread, I just tried making my very first poached egg this evening for dinner.

It came out really well, and tasted heavenly in a bowl of homemade chicken and vegetable soup. (I poached it in water, not realizing that you could poach it in the soup itself. I'll try that tomorrow.)

I believe that now I have a brand new favorite way to make eggs!
posted by spinifex23 at 8:51 PM on November 23, 2010

« Older Help me find the right toys in NYC!   |   When you're dreaming with a broken heart, giving... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.