Poaching eggs isn't all that difficult, if you practice for a while. And by a while, I mean you're going to eat a lot of misshapen and broken poached eggs. There's also all that wispy white stuff that comes off the eggs in the water and makes a mess.
The secret to getting rid of that wispy stuff is to, well, get rid of it. Kenji demonstrated his method using a fine-mesh strainer. Michael Ruhlman sells a special egg-draining spoon for the same purpose.
But here's the deal. If you don't have super-fresh eggs, you'll lose a lot of the white. Or, as my husband said when I served him poached eggs made that way, "Why are these eggs so small?"
If you don't have super-fresh eggs and you don't want to lose half the whites, egg poaching cups might be the answer. I tested a pair of silicone egg-poaching cups ($7.99 for two) from Mastrad and I have to say they worked pretty well. Technically, you're not poaching the eggs since they're not cooking directly in the water, but for many people the point of a poached egg is that it's not fried in fat.
The silicone cups I tested stood upright, which made it easy to load the eggs and have them ready to go, and they have detachable handles so you can gently place the cups in the hot water and retrieve them when the eggs are done. Since the cups float, you need enough overhead clearance in the pot to cover it with a lid so the eggs get a nice steam bath. In about six minutes, they're done. Unlike with making poached eggs, you can add seasoning to these cups before cooking, which is a bit of a bonus.
A few times when I used these, a bit of egg white stuck to the silicone, but it wasn't tragic. If I needed absolutely perfect eggs, I might be tempted to cheat with a drop of cooking oil or melted butter. Shhh, don't tell anyone.
Overall, I like these things. Is it a cheat? Heck yeah. But unlike someone who works in a restaurant, I'm never going to poach enough eggs to be 100 percent confident that I'll get decent-looking poached eggs. A minor quibble is that these are sold in 2-packs and I'm betting most folks would want four or more.
These aren't total uni-taskers. When you're not poaching eggs, use 'em for mise en place or little baskets for small items in your kitchen.
Disclaimer: Testing samples were provided to Serious Eats.
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