The most effective modernist way to cook an egg is in a temperature-controlled waterbath in the range 62-63C for 60-90 mins. More of this in another post…
The more common methods involve cracking the egg into a pan of hot water on the stove.
There are many methods for refining this process (whirlpool, vinegar, plastic wrap, egg-poachers, etc). I’ve tried all these, but they have their limitations.
It’s the spidery egg white that is most problematic. And to deal with it, it helps to know something about the makeup of egg whites: see the post on how a chicken makes an egg.
As that post explained, the egg white is made up mainly of two parts, a thick and a thin. This can be seen by cracking an egg on a plate. It’s the thin part that spreads out in the pan when poaching, creating a messy and unappealing effect.
The simplest solution is to remove it. Crack the egg onto a perforated spoon, and the thin part will slide through the perforations, and the thick part remain on the spoon. It may be necessary to experiment with perforation-size.
The thin white is fine for other purposes, and will whip, cook etc as usual. It also freezes perfectly well – its a good way of accumulating egg white for your next meringue.
Then just poach what you have left.
My suggestion is to use a medium-large lidded saucepan filled with plenty of water. This is so that the water retains its heat. Bring to a boil, then either turn the heat source off, or put it on its lowest possible setting. Slip the egg into the water, and replace the lid. Leave undisturbed for 2 mins 30 sec, or according to desired doneness. This timing will give a just-set white and a warm runny yolk as shown.
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