Cling-wrap poached eggs

they look they belong in a lab, like some kind of biological experiment

Recipe #57: Cling wrap poached eggs. From the time I breakfasted on them at Yellow Food Store & Bistro, I filed cling-wrapped and poached eggs in my mind under “future foodly challenges”. This challenge was realised about two weeks ago, when I decided to give them a go – mind you, in spite of my affable dining partner’s claim to being a champion egg-poacher [translation: I was under some pressure to perform].

I vaguely recalled seeing something about eggs being poached this way on a MasterChef episode but I wasn’t really paying attention, as I was cooking dinner at the time. So I set to work with a small teacup and a long roll of plastic wrap.

The method. I started by tearing off a square of cling wrap (~30cm x 30cm) and placing it over the cup so that it had only a shallow bow over the cup and the plastic was sealed to the cup edges. I then broke an egg into this meniscus and quickly gathered up the sides of the cling wrap, trapping as little air as possible; as I did this, I started to twist the cling wrap where the egg stopped. Once I had twisted the cling wrap until I could twist no more, I tied it.

the process unfolds...or folds...whatever

[I tried to trap as little air as possible because I had a theory: my theory was that, even considering the fact that cling wrap is not air-tight and hot water would soften the wrap (thus enabling it to expand), trapped air could expand in the boiling water and potentially cause the cling wrap to pop, thereby releasing the egg prematurely and causing culinary catastrophe. After the event, I did what I should have done and I read up about what I should do – and I found sites that told me to trap a little air, while others warned against it. I am of the opinion that it’s totally up to you; I am just letting you know what worked for me and why I did it that way. In a very long-winded way. Sorry about that.]

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… I placed the wrapped eggs in near-boiling water.

the eggs in action

Yes, I could have poached all four eggs at once, but I was nervous. Rightly so, as it turned out. I realised as soon as I began to cut the first plastic package open that the eggs would have to be in for longer than the usual 3 minutes. I found that leaving the eggs in for around 4 minutes in sub-boiling water provided for ideal settage [and, yes, that is a real word; English is a living language].

It seems like a lot of work. Why would you do this? Following The Reveal, I noticed why you would choose to cook eggs this way as opposed to traditionally poaching: no mess. You don’t have to trim wispy bits of eggwhite or mop up water before serving; there is no added salt, vinegar. It is a very pure way to enjoy an egg.

To serve. I sawed a mostly defrosted Turkish bread roll into soldiers and buttered each side (with Lurpak spreadable), then I fried them.

At the same time, I took the leaves from a bunch of beetroot, washed and roughly cut them; once the bread was golden on both sides, I laid the cut leaves in the hot pan, sprinkled over some sea salt, and turned them quickly. I positioned the wilted leaves over the toasted bread.

I felt that the ensemble was in need of tomato-ey goodness and, as I had leftover bolognese sauce from the night before, I blended the bolognese with about 200mL tomato sugo (puree). This resulted in a beautifully rich but non-vegan tomato sauce, which I painted across the plate with a dessert spoon.

After poising the eggs atop the wilted leaves, I drizzled over a little olive oil, cracked some pepper and added a square of Persian feta to the side.

Phew-fully, breakfast was delicious, balanced and aesthetically pleasing. How could I have ever doubted myself?

mmm...yolky delicious

And a good breakfast was had by all.

showing the ending before the story begins

H 🙂


Addendum of 24 July 2012: Although these eggs look impressive, I have filed this recipe under ‘do not try this at home’ since unearthing some of the perils of heating/storing food in plastics. Because this post is still popular after more than 2½ years, I felt compelled to share a safety warning.

Cling wrap can be made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC; catering/commercial rolls) or low density polyethylene (LDPE; most supermarket brands). PVC is known to leach endocrine-disrupting phthalates and BPA when heated, deteriorating or in contact with particular types of food; while LDPE is currently considered to be safer, it is suspected to leach dangerous chemicals into food with heat and degradation. This tells me that cling film is not safe to use for eggs, wrapping hot food or microwaving – in spite of the ‘food safe’ and ‘microwave safe’ claims these products make.

So how do you make many perfect poached eggs at one time without resorting to cling film? Buy large, very fresh, organic, free range eggs from a supplier you trust, crack them into a saucepan of just-boiling water, scoop them out of the water after precisely 3 minutes, and you will have perfect eggs every time – without having to resort to vinegar, swirling water or cling wrap. These are happy eggs indeed.

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11 Comments Add yours

  1. Janelle says:

    wow yours worked out so well. I tried this a while ago and it took me forever to take off the cling wrap and then I gave up.
    After seeing this I’ll try it once again.

  2. Hannah says:

    Thanks for taking up my challenge, Janelle – and please let me know how your eggs turn out!

    H 🙂

  3. peasepudding says:

    Very creative way to poach eggs and they have a lovely shape to them for serving, perfectly cooked too.

    1. Hannah says:

      Thanks so much, peasepudding! I was so please with myself when they worked.

      H 🙂

  4. Sian Gard says:

    Hi Hannah,

    I just tried your cling wrapped eggs and they worked a treat! really yummy, but think next time I will leave them in for less time as they were verging on boiled, but love the no salt, no vinegar.

    Thank you! you made my breakfast look appetising for once!

    🙂 sian

    1. Hannah says:

      Yay! I am so glad to hear they worked out for you, Sian.

      Less time or lower temperature are both good ways to ensure a really googy centre.

      H 🙂

  5. Erika says:

    doesnt the plastic wrap leach toxins into the egg?

    1. Hannah says:

      Thanks for your astute comment, Erika.

      My growing concern re the wrap leaking nasty substances into the eggs, in spite of safety guarantees from manufacturers, led to my addendum of 24 July 2012 [see bottom of post for more].

      The upshot of all this? I don’t cook my eggs in cling film anymore.

      H 🙂

  6. Jack S says:

    Firstly, you spray the cling wrap with a thin film of PAM spray so the poachiness isn’t stuck to the film…then you reduce the heat in the boiling water after adding your eggs to just a simmer and time your eggs for around four minutes.

    1. Hannah says:

      Thanks for sharing your hot tip, Jack! Great to know how this method can be improved.

      H 🙂

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