Culinary Arts

Chef Thomas Keller’s Perfect Poached Eggs

Written by MasterClass

Mar 15, 2019 • 2 min read

People are often apprehensive about poaching eggs, but if you ask Chef Thomas Keller, he’ll reassure you. “A beautifully poached egg is not only very elegant, but very satisfying,” he says. The payoff is absolutely worth the apprehension.

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What Is a Poached Egg?

A poached egg is an egg that has been cooked, outside of its shell, in gently simmering water. It is a delicate preparation that relies on a swirling motion to evenly disperse the heat of the water until the egg whites are just set, and the yolks remain runny. They are most commonly served as the main ingredient of Eggs Benedict, served on toast and draped in hollandaise sauce (find Chef Keller’s recipe here).

How to Poach Eggs

Poaching eggs is a simple enough technique: Start with a deep saucepot that will hold enough water to create a vortex. The swirling water will help the egg white envelop the yolk evenly as the egg white proteins set, creating a nice natural shape. Adding distilled vinegar to the boiling water is essential to help set the egg white.

3 Tips for Perfect Poached Eggs

  1. Practice poaching until you get your perfect shape and your preferred doneness.
  2. Fresh eggs are best, especially when poaching, since egg whites become more fluid as they age, which leads to those tricky white wisps in your water vortex.
  3. The temperature of the water is also important: boiling hot water will cook the eggs too fast. Small bubbles should be reaching the surface of the water for a rolling simmer.
  4. Adding vinegar helps the white keep its shape as it cooks.

Chef Thomas Keller’s Poached Egg Recipe

Watch Chef Keller demonstrate his technique for poaching eggs here.


  • 4-quart saucepot
  • 2 small bowls
  • Ice bath
  • Slotted spoon
  • Small kitchen scissors
  • Serving plate


  • 2 eggs
  • 100 grams (1/4 cup) distilled white vinegar
  • Brioche, sliced
  1. Bring water and vinegar to a gentle simmer. Taste the water for a slightly acidic taste.
  2. Crack each egg into separate small bowls. Begin to create a vortex in the water by vigorously swirling the water around the edge of the pot. One at a time, slip the eggs into the center of the vortex. As the egg drops into the water, the egg will set into a teardrop shape. Gently, reinvigorate the vortex and repeat with another egg. (It is best to poach only 2–3 eggs at a time.
  3. After 2 minutes, gently lift out an egg with a slotted spoon and check that the yolk is soft to the touch. If the yolk is too soft, return it to the simmering water.
  4. Once the egg has finished cooking, drain the egg on a paper towel. Use small kitchen scissors to trim off the stringy parts of the egg white. Serve the poached eggs on sliced brioche.

Make them ahead: If you’re making a larger volume of poached eggs, you can poach them ahead of time, leave them in an ice bath, and reheat them in simmering water for 30–45 seconds.