Is there anything better than a plump poached egg on a Saturday morning? I love to pierce the yolk and let it drip over a buttered piece of sprouted toast. It’s a decadent way to start the weekend, but poaching is also a healthful cooking technique that creates light, delicate dishes.
The object of poaching is to submerge a food in liquid and cook it at a low temperature. The ideal cooking temperature range is 160 to 180°F. As a point of reference, simmering occurs between 185 and 205°F, and boiling begins at 212°F.
Poaching’s gentle cooking method is best for “fragile” foods like salmon, eggs, pears, and chicken breasts. These foods are easily overcooked or quick to fall apart if the heat is too high or the application too intense.
The best way to optimize the flavor in poaching is to use a seasoned liquid such as vegetable stock, apple cider, or white wine. You can also infuse any liquid with some spices and herbs. Consider, for one, how delicious it would be to poach pears in apple cider with cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. If you use water to poach an egg or salmon, for example, make sure to add a splash of lemon, lime, vinegar, wine, or any type of acid. This lowers the temperature at which the egg and salmon will coagulate, better retaining its shape as it cooks—and it also enlivens the palate!
The poaching technique is fairly similar for all foods, but what you choose to poach may call for slight alterations. Therefore, this challenge is more of a guideline than a recipe. Modify it to your needs, and enjoy your poached treat!
- Pick your liquid. Pour the liquid of choice into a high-sided pan. Add herbs or seasonings, if desired. If using water to cook an egg, add a splash of acid.
- Slowly heat. Bring just below a simmer. There should be minimal water movement. If it starts bubbling, the heat is too high.
- Build flavor. If you’re cooking a protein, like chicken breasts or salmon fillets, season the meat with salt and pepper.
- Go under. Gently place the main ingredients into the barely simmering water. There should be enough water for the food to move around freely. Be sure not to overcrowd the pan!
- Cook lightly. Cover and cook until done. Cooking times will vary, but are generally between 5 and 15 minutes.
- Prep an awesome sauce. Remove the food with a slotted spoon and let cool. You can continue to cook down the liquid if you wish to intensify the flavors, make syrup, or thicken sauce. This can be poured over the poached item before serving, if desired.