The mission to create the perfect poached egg includes both suspense and deep satisfaction. There’s nothing like the moment when you poke through a gently cooked exterior to reveal the golden liquid yolk within. It’s a Saturday morning ritual, a late-night lifesaver, a sick day softie. Indeed, there are countless reasons to love the simple goodness of a poached egg.
But getting it right when you DIY can be tricky, so we went straight to the source to find out what you really need to do to create the best poached egg – and who better to ask than the egg farmers themselves at Papanui Open Range Eggs in the Upper Hunter Valley. [fold]
“I have two poached eggs every morning for breakfast,” says farmer Mark Killen. “We have a fool-proof method for getting it just right.”
According to the egg producer, all you really need to do is keep it simple and use fresh eggs.
At Papanui, the wellbeing of the chooks counts for a lot, with the flock shifted to fresh grazing in converted school bus houses, ensuring that the birds reap the benefits of the cattle also feeding on the property. It’s a symbiosis that keeps the birds happy and laying truly open-range eggs. There are no chemicals, no fences (thanks to the Maremma guard dogs) and plenty of wide-open space.
You can debate for hours the merits of deep-water versus shallow-water for the poaching process, but when it comes to the crunch Killen reckons that the less clutter the better.
“Swilling water around and doing a lot of tricks is just too hard,” chuckles Killen. “We aren’t chefs – we’re just farmers who like breakfast.”
For Killen there’s no vinegar, no fancy whirlpools of water and no exact timer.
“We use a frypan with a glass lid, a little water and low heat. Using a lid lets you steam the tops of the eggs. The way we do it, they look like fried eggs, but they’re poached.”
Proper handling of the eggs is also important.
“If the eggs run when you crack them then they haven’t been stored correctly,” the farmer says, pointing out that fresh, young eggs make a different cooking experience to older eggs.
“Cooking time varies on size of course, but it also depends on the age of the egg and chicken. Eggs from younger chickens cook more quickly than older ones. And you don’t want to boil the eggs. If you do that it separates the yolk and the white. So handle them gently,” advises Killen, but don’t be too precious.
“We go straight from the fridge with our eggs. It’s better if they’re room temperature, but eggs that aren’t refrigerated age far quicker. So we find eggs from the fridge work best.”
Of course, you can get your eggs out the night before if you know that’s what you’re having for breakfast.
“But we’re never that organised,” laughs Killen.
What you’ll need:
• A non-stick frypan with a tight fitting glass lid
• Water to fill the base of the pan 10–12ml deep
• A slotted spoon to removed the eggs
• As many eggs as you want to cook
• Toast for serving
How you do it:
Heat the water in the frypan until it just begins to boil. Turn the heat down to low and crack your eggs into it. If you’re using eggs from the fridge they will drop the temperature of the water more quickly. Add as many eggs as you’d like to cook, but don’t crowd them too much in the pan.
Place the tight fitting glass lid on the pan and keep an eye on how the eggs look. The steam in the pan will cook the eggs, use your eye to judge when they are ready to your liking.
“You have to watch them for the best result,” says Killen. “It only takes a couple of minutes, so don’t walk away and do something else. If you put your toast on just before you crack the eggs then they’re ready at about the same time.”
When the eggs are done, remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon to leave any excess water behind and place the eggs on your toast.
Any tips on how to serve them?
“If you want the best experience, then you have to use real, good butter, a thin spread of Vegemite, two poached eggs and dress it all with Tabasco.” It’s a combination that Killen swears by.
“The Vegemite gives it the salt, the Tabasco brings the heat and you don’t need salt or pepper.”
Elegant. Simple. Perfect, hassle-free poached eggs. We know what we’re trying out this long weekend.