John Torode shares his ‘cheat’ technique for ‘perfect poached eggs’

John Torode's cooking tip for poached eggs

He said: “Poached eggs are lovely, but they are an interesting little beast.” Presenter Dermot O’Leary tucked into his poached egg on avocado toast and said: “Oh well done John, mine’s perfect.” 

As for how the Australian chef cooked the eggs, he had two ways; cooking to order and cooking in advance and reheating. 

1. Cooking to order 

“The deal with a poached egg is it has friends and it has enemies – the friend of a poached egg is vinegar,” John revealed. 

“You take boiling water – or just a rolling boil – it’s not boiling frantically. You take two tablespoons of vinegar and put it in the water. Never ever put salt in it – if you put salt in with a poached egg, the egg will actually disintegrate and blow apart. 

“So here’s the next trick, a lot of people worry about putting an egg into boiling water. Take a tiny bit of vinegar and put it into a bowl, break the egg into the bowl with the vinegar. 

“Now, if you understand cooking, cooking has three processes – heat, salt (something that is cured) and vinegar (something that is pickled). What we’re doing, is cooking the outside of the egg a tiny bit by using the vinegar first before putting it in the water. 

“The water is not frantically boiling, it’s a light bubble,” he reiterated. “When we put the egg in, rather than worrying about breaking the egg across boiling water and burning our fingers, take the bowl and drop the egg into the water very gently. 

“You can do the same for another egg on the other side of the pan, just watch your heat, make sure it doesn’t get too hot, and then don’t touch them.” 

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Alison Hammond wondered: “You don’t need to stir them?” John replied: “Never stir them, don’t touch them, let them go. The yolk goes to the bottom, and the white needs to fold up to the top. If you swirl it, all that’s happening is the white is getting lost.” 

A couple of minutes later, the eggs should have “floated to the top” of the water, and “you let them cook for another minute, and you’ll see the egg is soft”. When it’s “too soft, that’s when you [remove it and] keep it in cold water overnight”. 

In terms of timing, John just “watches them” and when they “come to the top, if you use a big egg it takes longer”. He added: “If you pull it out too early, it will fall apart, if it’s slightly over – I like a waxy egg, you can spread the yolk.” 

When the egg is ready, remove it from the water and place it on a bit of paper. John suggests “rolling it back on your spoon” to remove the water, but not get the paper stuck. 

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2. Cooking in advance 

John explained: “In restaurants if you’re doing eggs, for a brunch with 300 people, you can’t poach eggs to order. So what you do, is you poach your eggs almost until completely cooked, drop them into ice cold water, and you leave them in water overnight.” 

He told Alison and Dermot: “The ones [eggs] you’re eating now – weren’t cooked to order, I just put them into warm water. They were only in there [warm water] for two minutes to reheat them.” 

Alison remarked: “I feel a little bit cheated!” John said: “Don’t feel cheated it’s just a chef’s trick.” 

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