Knowing how to poach an egg is the key to amazing, nutritious breakfasts that are ready in under five minutes (no exaggeration) and easy brunches for the whole family. All you need to serve poached eggs is fresh toast and toppings of your choice. If you're serving your poached egg with smoked salmon, then hollandaise sauce is a must – see below how to make it.
As for the poaching itself, it's super easy, and doesn't require any special technique, despite what the many advice pages online will tell you. All you need is a pan full of boiling water, an egg, and something to serve the egg with (we have some great poached egg serving suggestions after the recipe). The key is to use very fresh eggs, as they will hold together better. Of course, you can also use an egg poaching tool (see a selection below), but to be honest, you don't really need one, unless you just like using them.
We'll let you in on a secret: the RealHomes team are egg-crazy. We eat a lot of eggs, and we cook a lot of eggs, so trust us when we say that poaching eggs requires no special skill – just a stead hand when breaking them.
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. Find all our recipes and healthy eating suggestions on our dedicated page.
How to poach an egg
Cooking time: up to 5 minutes
- 1–2 fresh eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Boiling water
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. Don't add salt to the water – it can make the white more likely to break and you will season the egg afterwards anyway.
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.
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.
Crack the eggs through a tea strainer or small sieve. This will get rid of the loose white. Then 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 more time, 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.
Best poached egg serving suggestions
- 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.
Hollandaise sauce recipe
If your idea of the perfect Sunday morning is eggs Royale for breakfast (it is for many on our team), then mastering the hollandaise is a must. It adds a delicious tang to poached eggs that's hard to match. All you need for the perfect hollandaise is:
- Two egg yolks
- A tablespoon of white vinegar
- Melted butter, 100g
- A pinch of salt
- A squeeze of lemon juice
The trick to great hollandaise is not overheating it. For best results, make it in a mixing bowl held over a pan of simmering water.
1. Combine the yolks, vinegar and salt in a bowl; start whisking together.
2. Hold over a pan of boiling water and continue whisking until you get a homogenised sauce.
3. Gently fold in the melted butter. Do it gradually to create good consistency.
4. Season and add a squeeze of lemon. Voila – your hollandaise is ready to serve over your poached egg.