The 64-degree poached egg

When my PolyScience Sous Vide Professional arrived on Friday, I had to decide what to cook in it first. It ended up being an easy decision. Eggs are such a primal food, and so delicious. Also, I had them on hand, which was useful since the immersion circulator arrived more than a week earlier than I was expecting it.

Eggs cooked with an immersion circulator are not, strictly speaking, cooked sous vide, since they aren’t vacuum sealed. But they are an excellent candidate for the long-time/low-temperature approach that a circulator makes possible. Eggs consist of more than a dozen different proteins, many of which denature at different temperatures, which means you can produce several distinctly different results depending on the temperature you set the circulator to. You can see a good overview of the effects of different temperatures at Martin Lersch’s Khymos blog, and in the Cooking Issues primer.

When doing the poached eggs for my Eggs Benedict project, I used the traditional method of cracking the shells and dropping them into simmering water. While there’s always something to be said for classic technique, I think the immersion circulator approach is much, much more useful in some ways. For one thing, it means I can poach as many eggs as I want to at once, and have them all be ready at the same time. Using the traditional method, I’ve never been able to successfully poach more than 4 eggs at a time.

More than that, though, eggs cooked at a low temperature – in this case 64°C for 1 hour – have yolks that are perfectly cooked to the thickened-but-runny texture that I like. In contrast, traditional poached egg yolks have a gradient, from slightly overcooked at the edge, to (ideally, but not always) runny in the middle.

Not that there are no downsides. For one thing, it requires some advance planning, because they do take an hour to cook at this temperature, though once they’re in the bath you can forget about them until they’re done. As well, the white is not a traditional texture, and my husband wasn’t fond of the texture it did have, which is why my next run with poached eggs will be at 65 degrees.

Still, a 64-degree egg served on toast is a delight all on its own. After taking the photo above, I seasoned it with a little butter, salt and pepper, and enjoyed. I’m looking forward to making Eggs Benedict with this new tool.

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17 Responses to “The 64-degree poached egg”

  1. If you want the yolk at the 64 degree consistency but the white a little more firm, first cook them in the circulator, then crack them into a traditional poaching bath for a few moments before they hit the plate. ;)

  2. Thanks, Chael! I saw that in the Cooking Issues Primer, but forgot to mention it in the post. I’ll give it a try.

  3. Matthew, I’m trying the 64.5º C egg for lunch today. This “perfect egg” temperature is from Douglas Baldwin’s sous vide book.

    He also has different cooking temperatures and times for those who want the firm white and runny yolk. The temperature is 167º but the time is based on the circumference of the egg. The times are anywhere from 3 to 35 minutes depending on the circumference.

    The only downside here is that you can’t keep the eggs in a holding pattern. There is an exact cooking time or the yolks will cook hard.

  4. I tried eggs quasi-sous vide in a ziploc bag, cooked in 167 F water for 45 minutes. The water was held constant in an amateurish way, using an induction hob. The results were similar to Skip’s, and not discouraging, except for the long waiting time, and a partially runny white.

    I prefer the old poached method for expedience. I learned this method from a Sri Lankan chef who left Toronto for a chance at his own place in Vancouver.

    I can do up to 20 poached eggs in a large chicken fryer type of pan:

    Bring 1.5″ water to a boil, reduce to simmer, and add the eggs. No swirling or vinegar is necessary.
    Leave the heat on to maintain the simmer. Cover. All 20, or 10, or 4, will come out perfectly cooked in 4 to 5 minutes.

    I like to have the water at a level to produce sunny side up poached eggs, but others like the egg immersed.

  5. Matthew Kayahara October 15, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    The traditional poaching method is certainly faster, but I’ve never been able to get such wonderful yolks that way as I did with the circulator!

    When poaching eggs in such shallow water, don’t you find that they end up with flat bottoms?

  6. Yes. But I like the plump, mammary look on toast.
    I’m going to try the induction controlled method again, to see if the yolks can be superior to poached.

  7. Can you shock, crack and reheat for a few moments in the traditional manner. I also have seen poached eggs cooked in a combi oven with 100% humidity in molds and this method is pretty cool. I have also taken a soft poached egg, shock it and bread with flour, egg and panko- then deep fry it. Unfortunately a degree off really changes the yolk

  8. Matthew Kayahara October 29, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    Keith, I don’t see any reason you couldn’t shock them and then reheat them in the traditional way, though I haven’t tried it. Your deep-friend eggs sound delicious! They’d be great bar food, I bet, sort of like Scotch eggs.

  9. I have tried doing this with quail eggs, the result is not the same at all. The yolk does not end up with the same texture as an “normal” egg. Do you know what the problem is? Do quail eggs have another protein structure?

  10. Matthew Kayahara April 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Magnus, that’s a good question. I’ve never done quail eggs sous vide, but my guess is that it’s not any difference in protein structure, but simply the difference in size that’s the problem. The way I understand it, the proteins undergo changes as a function of both temperature and time, so a quail egg would take much less time to cook than a hen’s egg. In this post, an eGulleter suggests doing quail eggs at 146F for 20 minutes. Maybe give that a try?

  11. Hey. I did something similar. Thought you might enjoy a parallel attempt!

    http://sosousvide.blogspot.com/2011/07/in-search-of-perfect-soft-boiled-egg.html

  12. Matthew Kayahara July 18, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Thanks for sharing, Mark!

  13. Andrew Carozza June 19, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    This is how we poach eggs in our restaurant. We put a piece of plastic wrap into a cup, a pint container, to be exact. We then put a couple drops of truffle oil (flavor and to prevent sticking)into the plastic and crack egg into the plastic. Try to remove as much air as possible and tie a knot. This should leave you with a centered yolk with the albumin being a even thickness (for even cooking) and perfectly round (with practice!!)

  14. That sounds like a great way to do it, though one that would take a little practice to get it just right. Certainly not a bad use for truffle oil!

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