As simple as a poached egg may look, getting there can be quite a battle for many cooks. Vinegar is a common addition to the poaching water to encourage the whites to coagulate, but this can leave you with vinegar-scented eggs. There is more than one way to poach an egg, though, and the right technique will leave you with a well-formed, delicious result.
You need not add anything to your water to poach an egg, especially if you have the right technique. First, be sure the water is just at a simmer -- not boiling -- to keep the egg intact. Second, crack the egg into a small cup, such as a ramekin, to make transferring to the water smoother. Finally, use a spoon to circulate the water and gently slide the egg into the center of the vortex to help the whites wrap around the yolk.
Lemon juice serves the same purpose as vinegar in poaching eggs, which is to encourage the whites to firm up around the yolk; simply add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice per cup of water. Just as adding vinegar to the poaching water may result in a vinegar-flavored egg, lemon juice may give you a slightly lemony egg -- which may be a flavor boost for your finished dish.
Cut a 4-by-4-inch square of plastic wrap and use it to line a small cup or the empty spot in an egg carton; lightly oil or spray the plastic with cooking spray and crack in your egg. When the water is ready, carefully pull up the sides of the plastic, twist and tie to create a sealed packet of egg. Gently place the whole packet into the water and poach until cooked to your liking; remove and allow to cool slightly before unwrapping.
Perhaps the easiest way to get a perfectly poached egg is via your microwave. Crack the egg into a teacup and add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of water -- enough to cover the egg -- and cover the cup with a saucer. Place the cup on another microwaveable plate and microwave on high for one minute or until the egg reaches your desired level of doneness, and remove the egg with a slotted spoon.
Kelly McCoy has been writing for lifestyle blogs and online publications since 2010, specializing in recipes and techniques for the home cook. She holds a B.A. from Boston University and J.D. from the University of Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco.