How To Poach an Egg and Make Perfect Eggs Benedict

Nicole McLaughlin, aka NicoleMcmom, shares her best tips for poaching eggs and making Hollandaise sauce so you can enjoy restaurant-quality eggs Benedict at home.

Having eggs Benedict for brunch feels like a special occasion not only because it's a luxurious dish, but also because it's one of those things you might be too intimidated to make at home. I mean, you can handle toasting an English muffin and sautéing Canadian bacon. But poaching an egg? Whipping up silky smooth Hollandaise sauce? That's where many of us bail out. But master those two major building blocks of eggs Benedict, and you're golden.

Lucky for us Nicole is here with her easy-to-follow tips and advice to teach you (and me, quite honestly) how to poach an egg and how to make sumptuous Hollandaise sauce so you can make eggs Benedict at home that will rival anything you can get in a restaurant.

How to Poach an Egg

lifting a poached egg out of a pan of simmering water with a slotted spoon

This is the first step in making eggs Benedict. Once you know how to poach an egg, you can add it to all kinds of dishes.

What is a poached egg?

A poached egg is one that is cooked outside the shell by gently simmering in water until the white is set but the yolk can still flow when you cut it with a fork.

How do you poach an egg?

There are many different methods for poaching eggs, from making a swirling "tornado" of boiling water to microwaving in a mug. But Nicole prefers a simple, straightforward old-school method of poaching eggs in simmering water.

Nicole's tips for poaching an egg:

  • The egg needs to be fresh so the yolk stands up tall and the whites don't spread in the water. Unlike scrambled eggs or eggs used for quiche or baking where the shape doesn't matter, poached eggs do best when fresh.
  • The water needs to be one step less than simmering, where bubbles break the surface. When very tiny bubbles are attached to the surface of the pan, and some light simmering is happening at the bottom, your water is ready. (See Nicole's video up top to see what she means.) That being said, the water temp. will decrease once the cold egg hits it, so you need to get it to that simmering stage so that once the egg hits the water it's right where it needs to be. What you DON'T want is boiling water. This will cause the egg to break apart.
  • Nicole likes to flavor the water with a little salt and vinegar. You can add more salt later, but a small amount helps give the egg some subtle flavor. The vinegar helps with coagulation of the white and won't affect the flavor really — this step isn't mandatory, but may offer a little extra insurance.
  • You can poach eggs ahead of time and keep them in the fridge until you're ready to serve. Heat them up again by placing them in simmering water for a second or two, remove, drain on paper towels, and serve.

Nicole's method for poaching an egg:

  1. Crack one egg into a heat-proof bowl or ramekin.
  2. Bring water to a simmer.
  3. Add vinegar and optional salt.
  4. Slide the egg into the water and let it sit undisturbed for at least three minutes.
  5. When whites are set, remove the egg with a slotted spoon and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

How to Make Hollandaise Sauce

Blender Hollandaise Sauce

Hollandaise sauce is the finishing touch that makes eggs Benedict the luxurious dish of your brunching dreams. It can be a little tricky to make, but Nicole breaks it all down for you in her video.

What is Hollandaise sauce?

Hollandaise sauce is an emulsion of egg yolks and butter brightened with a splash of lemon juice. It's considered one of the five "mother sauces" in French cuisine.

How do you make Hollandaise sauce?

Egg yolks and lemon juice are whisked together in a bowl and cooked gently over simmering water while whisking constantly until the mixture is smooth and light. Melted butter is slowly whisked into the emulsion until fully incorporated.

Nicole's method for making Hollandaise sauce:

  1. Separate four egg yolks from the whites (you can save the whites to make meringues). Place the egg yolks in a heat-proof bowl that can fit over a saucepan of simmering water.
  2. Melt 10 tablespoons unsalted butter. (Nicole uses a heat-proof measuring cup and her microwave.)
  3. Using a wire whisk, beat a teaspoon of lemon juice into the egg yolks. Place the bowl on the saucepan of simmering water and continue to whisk constantly so the egg yolks cook but do not scramble.
  4. Whisk until the egg yolks are a pale, creamy yellow and form a ribbon on the surface of the emulsion when you lift the whisk and let the mixture drip back into the bowl. (Nicole's video shows you exactly how it should look.)
  5. Remove the bowl from the heat and beat in the melted butter, adding a little at a time and whisking constantly. Add slowly and whisk quickly so your sauce doesn't break. If your sauce starts to get too thick before you've added all the butter, you can thin it with a little lemon juice or water.
  6. Season with salt and cayenne pepper. Add chopped herbs like chives or dill, if you wish.

How to Make Eggs Benedict

Now comes the fun: Putting it all together. Try out your new skills with this top-rated recipe for Eggs Benedict.

  1. Split and toast English muffins. Spread with softened butter.
  2. Top each half with a slice of lightly sautéed Canadian bacon.
  3. Reheat two poached eggs by placing them in simmering water for a couple of seconds. Place one on each muffin half.
  4. Top each half with Hollandaise sauce. (If the sauce has cooled, you can reheat it by placing it over a saucepan of simmering water and whisking until it warms up.)
  5. Garnish with dill, chives, or any minced herb of your choice.

More: Get more tips for making eggs Benedict.

Eggs Benedict Variations

  • Use smoked salmon, sliced ham, or bacon instead of Canadian bacon.
  • Go ultra-indulgent and use crab cakes as your base.
  • Make it vegetarian by using sauteed spinach, tomato slices, or grilled portobello mushrooms.

More: Get more recipes and ideas for eggs Benedict.

You can connect with Nicole as NicoleMcmom on Allrecipes and on Instagram @nicolemcmom.

More tips and tricks from Nicole:

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