How to poach an egg

Poaching an egg is a healthier alternative to frying one – and we think it's tastier, too. Rustle up the best brunch by learning how to poach an egg. Our tips ensure perfect results every time

Poached egg and tomatoes on avocado toast
(Image credit: Getty)

If you know how to poach an egg you also know how to have a tasty and healthy breakfast on the table in less than five minutes. Yet so many of us seem confused about how to get it right with over 25,000 people a month searching how to do it on Google, and people sharing all manner of weird tips and tricks to do it.

It really isn't complicated. All you need is a pan, an egg, hot water and something to serve it with (we have some great poached egg serving suggestions after the recipe). The fresher the egg the better – you won't need white wine vinegar or to whisk the boiling water round to hold the white together if you use a fresh egg.

The Realhomes.com team are egg aficionados (egg-ficionados) as luck would have it – the combined poached egg on toast tally for the team is likely the highest per capita in the country. So who better to walk you through poaching an egg? 

Follow the best recipe below and read on to see our alternative method for cooking a poached egg in a microwave.

If you do decide you want to up your egg game, check out our pick of the best egg cookers – poached, boiled and omelettes are all easy peasy with a fancy egg cooking device. For more easy egg recipes, don't miss our full guide. 

  • Find all our recipes and healthy eating suggestions on our dedicated page

How to poach an egg

Serves: 1

Cooking time: up to 5 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1–2 fresh eggs
  • Salt and pepper
  • Boiling water

Method:

1.  If serving with toast, pop that in the toaster now. Boil water in a kettle or in a large pan on the hob. Even if you are only cooking two eggs, we recommend using a nice big pan with lots of space and at least 5cm depth, as it is less likely to bubble over. 

2. Crack each egg into a small ramekin or mug (one egg per mug). With the water on a high simmer in the pan, gently slip each egg into the water.

3. Put your timer on for two minutes and watch that the pan doesn't foam or bubble over. After two minutes, take a slotted spoon and lift an egg out to see if it is done. The egg should be firm but give around the yolk. If you don't want a runny yolk, put it back in the pan for a further two to three minutes. 

4. Turn off the heat as soon as they eggs are done. Lift the cooked eggs from the pan one at a time and let as much water drain as possible before serving. Season with salt and pepper.

Top tips:

If your white is a bit straggly when cooked it could be that the egg is not fresh enough. It is still perfectly good to eat, but doesn't create the pleasing orb of a perfect poached egg. If you are worried your egg is not super-fresh rather than messing with vortexes to keep the white together (when you whisk it to bind it round the egg) or vinegar to pull the white around the yolk, you can try a super easy alternative. 

Simply slip the eggs into a wide-based pan of hot water, simmer for a minute, then take the eggs off the heat and leave to cook slowly for six to 10 minutes. It takes moretime, but the gentler cooking helps stop the white from spreading as much.

How to poach an egg in a microwave

Don't want to wash a big pan? You can poach an egg in your microwave instead. We find the pan method more reliable, but this takes only a minute to cook!

1. Find a large mug or a small bowl and fill with enough water to submerge the egg (a third to half a mug should do). 

2. Crack the egg into a separate mug and pierce the yolk to avoid explosions. Slide the egg into the mug of water and cover with a microwavable cover in the microwave.

3. Cook for one minute on high. Check the white is firm before serving. If there is still runny white, cook for a further 10 seconds, and 10 more until done. 

How to poach an egg like Jamie Oliver does

Jamie Oliver's poached egg recipe doesn't differ wildly from ours, but he does have a couple of tricks up his sleeve, as you'd expect.

His first invaluable tips are that you can tell whether the eggs you're using are fresh by cracking them on to a saucer first to see if the yolk stands up and if the white isn’t watery – we like to crack our eggs into a shallow bowl, too, before poaching because it's less likely you'll end up with bits of shell or broken yolk in the pan. 

Jamie Oliver also advises that the water is at a gentle simmer rather than boiling – which is a mistake beginners often make. And, he suggests a pinch of salt. 

For soft poached eggs, Jamie suggests two minutes in the pan, which matches our recipe, plus another couple of minutes if you prefer the yokes firmer. The biggest pieces of advice we took away? Don't worry too much if the edges of the whites look a little scruffy – and to lift your cooked egg out of the pan with a slotted spoon and to pop it briefly on to kitchen roll. No one likes soggy toast. Ta, Jamie.

Do you need vinegar to poach an egg?

The answer to this is 'no'. Vinegar is helpful for making the egg white coagulate, but simply carefully slipping the egg into barely simmering water will work just as well.

Best poached egg serving suggestions

(Image credit: Getty)
  • Avocado and poached egg on toast: a favourite in hip brunch joints – sourdough is preferred as the toast, but not essential. 
  • Feta and chilli flakes: add a crumble of feta and a few chilli flakes to the above – bliss.
  • Bacon and mushrooms: this is like a mini fry up but with less fat. Grill your bacon and mushrooms to cut even more fat.
  • Eggs royale: serve on an English muffin with smoked salmon and hollandaise. Swap the salmon for ham for an eggs benedict or trade in spinach for eggs florentine.

More egg recipes: