Mess and bliss – the art of poaching eggs

White and yielding on the outside, deep yellow and runny on the inside. A poached egg is a thing of beauty. Unfortunately, most of my egg  poaching experiments have ended badly so I get most of my poached eggs from  cafes or restaurants.

The very first time I tried to poach an egg, I broke the yolk and dropped my precious egg into vigorously boiling water. The result looked something like boiled scrambled eggs. Not appetising and not what I had hoped for on top of my waiting toast. Many years later, I can achieve what my Swedish cookbook refers to as a “half poached” egg. This is an egg where most of the white sits under the yolk but apart from that, it is just like a normal poached egg. I need to learn how to wrap the white equally around the yoke.

For a perfect poached egg, you need:

  • A very fresh egg.
  • Water, hot to boiling point but not roiling.

And that’s should be it. It isn’t. You also need technique. Some people
suggest vinegar or salt in the water to help the white coagulate, others tell
me that all you need is a good whirlpool to gather the white around the yolk. The whirlpool does help.

After my most recent attempt I went online to see what I was doing wrong. I found this lovely little video which suggested that actually, I was doing it all right. It was very cheering. Maybe all I need is more practice.

The one thing I do know is that an  egg poacher certainly isn’t the answer. They just give you a hard boiled egg. I  will continue practicing until I crack the technique and not just the eggs. In  the meanwhile, for the perfect poached egg for brunch or breakfast, this is where I go:

The West Room

Eggs Benedict with smoked haddock at the West Room. Bliss!

Eggs Benedict with smoked haddock at the West Room. Bliss!

The West Room is a charming little place in the West End,  where you can pop in for breakfast, lunch or drinks. The breakfast menu features eggs Benedict where you can swap the ham for smoked haddock. It is the perfect  combination. The silky softness of the yoke and the salty tang of smoked fish  set each other off.

The West Room is great for other dishes too – you’ll often find me here on a Saturday morning having brunch. Service is cheerful and the ambiance is relaxed.

Project Coffee

Eggs Florentine at Project Coffee. A little on the vinegary side, but perfectly soft.

Eggs Florentine at Project Coffee. A little on the vinegary side, but perfectly soft.

Project Coffee, a busy place in Bruntsfield, Edinburgh with a student feel  but a very mixed audience, is very popular. Lovely egg on a good handful of  crisp spinach leaves. I quite enjoy the fresh spinach that covers the eggs  Florentine at Project Coffee. Their hollandaise sauce packs a surprisingly  vinegary punch which isn’t very hollandaise but can be quite pleasing. They use a goood ham for their eggs Benedict but I prefer the Florentine.

Danielle: I must say I swear by my egg poacher, it’s a little aluminium saucepan with 3 cups – it creates the perfect egg each time!

The West Room
3 Melville Pl
Edinburgh, Scotland EH3 7PR
Telephone: 0131 629 9868

Project Coffee
196 Bruntsfield Pl
Edinburgh EH10 4DF
Telephone: 0131 229 6758

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About Caroline von Schmalensee

Cooking, eating and drinking is fun as well as necessary. I do food for fun and I write for a living. Good food makes the world a more delicious and satisfying place. Good writing, meanwhile, can make the world a less confusing place.


  1. Pingback: The Gardener's Cottage pop-up restaurant Edinburgh | Edinburgh Foody

  2. Cooking in cling film is potentially a health hazard, and all you get is an egg cooked in plastic, not really poached.

    Lakeland Poachets poach the egg in contact with the water, without any mess. I get perfect results with them.

  3. Easiest way for a flawless poached egg… Microwavable cling film! Microwavable means it’s not steam-proof. Put it over a ramekin, crack the egg into it, gently pull up the opposite corners into a bag (making sure it is sealed) and cook a large egg for 4 mins, almost 5 for a duck egg. No need to touch it during the process, at the end gently unwrap the cling film and you have a perfect poached egg! Let me know if it works for you… 🙂

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