Learn how to make poached eggs with slightly thickened yolks and whites that are opaque and set, yet soft and almost silky, with our easy four-step guide. We'll answer all your questions about the process, including how long to poach an egg and how to poach an egg in the microwave. (Yes, it can be done.) With a little practice, you'll master this cooking technique.

By BH&G Food Editors
Updated March 26, 2019
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Because of their delicate nature, making poached eggs might seem like an undertaking best left to the weekends. But with a little practice, you can perfect this egg-cooking technique for busier mornings too. It takes about 10 minutes to poach an egg, and you can cook one egg at a time or several eggs at once to get breakfast on the table faster. You can speed the process a little by learning how to make poached eggs in the microwave too. We'll show you how to do it both ways and how to make poached eggs even easier with a special egg-poaching pan.

Step 1: Bring the Water to Simmering

Lightly grease a medium skillet (about 10 inches in diameter) or large saucepan. This greasing step is optional but helps keep the whites from sticking to the sides of the pan. Add water so the skillet is half full; add a tablespoon of vinegar—this helps the egg whites stay together. Bring the water to boiling; reduce heat to simmering (bubbles begin to break the surface of the water).

Egg Poaching Tip: For more flavor, stir 1 to 2 teaspoons instant chicken bouillon granules into the water. You can also poach eggs in other hot liquids, like broth, milk, wine, or tomato juice.

Step 2: Add the Eggs

Break one cold egg into a small dish. Carefully slide the egg into the simmering water, holding the lip of the dish as close to the water as possible. Take care not to break the yolk. Also make sure you slip the whole egg in at once to  prevent the egg whites from spreading out and getting stringy. Repeat with up to three more cold eggs, adding them one at a time and spacing them in the skillet so each egg has an equal amount of space around it so they don't stick together.

Tip: The fresher the eggs, the better for poaching. Fresh eggs hold a more compact shape with a thicker white and centered yolk so they don't spread out so much during cooking.

Step 3: Poaching the Eggs

Simmer the eggs, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard. Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon. If desired, trim any rough edges and season with salt and pepper.

Tip: Do not let the water boil while cooking the eggs. High cooking temperatures can result in eggs with tough whites and mealy yolks.

How to Use a Poaching Pan:

If you really love poached eggs, you can make them a little easier by investing in a poaching pan. Lightly grease the cups of your egg-poaching pan with cooking oil or shortening. Place the poacher cups over the pan of boiling water (water should not touch the bottoms of the cups); reduce heat to simmering. Break an egg into a small dish. Carefully slide an egg into a poacher cup. Repeat, filling each cup with one egg. Cover and cook for 4 to 6 minutes or until the whites are completely set and the yolks begin to thicken but are not hard. Run a knife around the edges to loosen the eggs. Invert the poaching pan to remove the eggs.

Step 4: Serving Poached Eggs

Poached eggs are best known as the star of eggs Benedict, the crowd-pleasing brunch dish consisting of an English muffin, Canadian bacon or ham, a poached egg, and hollandaise sauce. But there are tons of other tasty ways you can serve them too, and it doesn't have to be breakfast or brunch. Use them to top a veggie-filled breakfast or grain bowl, serve them in a spicy tomato sauce, add one to top of a salad. There are tons of possibilities. Once you know how to make poached eggs, you'll want to use them on everything.

Get the recipe: Florentine Eggs Benedict

How to Poach an Egg in the Microwave

No time to wait for water to simmer? Don't give up on making a poached egg yet. You can still make the perfect poached egg but in the microwave instead. Start by adding 1/3 cup water, 1/4 teaspoon vinegar, and a pinch of salt to a small microwave-safe dish like a custard cup or ramekin. Then gently crack one large egg into the water mixture and cover the dish with plastic wrap, a lid, or a small plate.

Place the covered dish in the microwave, and microwave it on 80 percent power for 50 to 55 seconds or until the yolk looks round and set on the outside and the white is almost set but still a little translucent. If you use plastic wrap or a clear lid, you'll be able to see the white start to solidify and turn white over the egg yolk as it cooks. Because all microwaves are different, keep an eye on your egg as it cooks so it doesn't end up overdone.

Carefully remove the dish from the microwave. If you want firmer whites, let the egg sit in the water for an extra minute. Uncover the dish. If the egg white still looks too translucent, microwave the egg another 30 seconds. Using a spoon, lift the egg from the water and tip the spoon just enough to let the liquid drain out. Season to taste with salt and black pepper.

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