According to my parents, I was such an egg fan when I was a baby that I would laugh and point whenever I saw anyone even cooking an egg. But somehow over the years, I started to dislike eggs--well mostly, I despised the egg whites. I would always pick out the chalky yellow sphere from any hard-boiled egg I was given, or spoon out the runny innards of the over-easy egg, much to the outrage of my parents. What happened? Did my taste just change over the years? I still love egg yolks (but only runny ones, except for in egg salad), but my taste for egg whites diminished after years of rubbery and/or netty whites, improperly cooked.
Those unnatural textures made me lose my appetite, not the "flavor" of the white. For instance, I love a poached egg where the white is slightly fluffy and soft. So when I read and saw about how one can slow-poach an egg, I thought I would give it a try.
The science behind the slow-poached egg (as written by chemist and molecular gastronomist Herve This) is that the proteins in white and yolk begin to denature, or lose their structure, at different temperatures (white at 63° C and yolk at 65° C). When you place an egg in boiling water (100° C), it is an easy and thermometer-free way to take the temperature of the egg up enough to denature the proteins and thus have your cooked egg. But the timing (usually "4 to 6 minutes" for soft-boiled) is inexact because it will vary from egg to egg depending on its size. So theoretically, to get your perfect egg (runny yolk, set but not rubbery white), you must keep your egg somewhere between 63° C and 65° C until all white proteins have fully denatured.
Experimentally, it takes some practice. For instance, how long do you keep the egg at the given temperature? Various sources state times ranging from 20 to 60 minutes. It all depends on how you like your eggs (and how accurate your thermometer is). Wylie Dufresne, who popularized the slow-poached egg on his menu and on Top Chef Masters, prefers his yolk with a fudge-like texture and says to heat to 64° C for 55-60 minutes.
Because I do not own a circulator, I used a plain oven thermometer and a pot of water over very low heat. I tried to maintain temperature at about 150° F for 40 minutes.
When you crack the egg open, make sure to do so over a bowl because basically a poached egg comes tumbling out! Very weird. It worked out fairly well, probably more in a Wylie-style than my own--I would have liked a more runny yellow, but it was more fudgey. Next time I might try a longer period of time at a lower temperature, because I want the white slightly more set and the yolk more liquid. Still delicious though, and no rubbery or netty white part! I'm thinking of many accompaniments to decorate this new kind of egg!
Next up: Some food photos!