Home > Cooking Methods > Poaching


By: Cara Frost-Sharratt - Updated: 11 Dec 2012 | comments*Discuss

Poaching isn't a cooking method that a lot of people are familiar with. In fact if asked, it probably conjures up images of well-endowed, ruddy cooks, wielding rabbits and game birds in huge Victorian kitchens.

What is it?

Poaching is actually a pretty healthy way to cook, as you don't use any oil or other fat to cook the food. Basically, it just means cooking food in a liquid and allowing it to simmer away until it's ready. Historically, all manner of meat and other meals would be poached but with modern technology and very reliable cooking temperatures on ovens, it's not necessary to use this approach as the norm. It is still a useful technique to learn though, as there are many dishes that benefit from poaching.


This is undoubtedly the ingredient that would first spring to mind when poaching is mentioned. Poached eggs are the 'healthy' option for a cooked breakfast. Many people have disastrous results when trying to poach eggs, but it's not especially difficult. It might take a couple of attempts to perfect the technique but poached eggs are great for a filling brekkie or a quick lunch, so it's worth trying again, even if you failed miserably the first time.

Top Tips:

  • The most important thing is to make sure your eggs are as fresh as possible. The fresher the egg, the better the results. So, it's no good expecting perfect poached eggs if the carton has been sitting around for a few days.

  • Bring the water to a light, rolling boil. If you let it boil too vigorously, the egg will break up.

  • Stir the water in one direction before dropping the egg in. The slight movement helps to keep the egg in one piece.

  • If you're not very confident about cracking an egg directly into the pan, then crack it onto a ladle or serving spoon and lower this into the pan.

  • Use a slotted spoon to remove the egg from the pan, once it's cooked. If you don't let all the water drain away you'll have soggy toast!


Fish can dry out very quickly if it's allowed to overcook in an oven or under a grill so poaching is a good way to ensure it stays nice and moist. If you like salmon, or pretty much any white fish then you can try poaching the fillets or steaks.

Top Tips:

  • Place the fish in a shallow pan and just cover with milk, or a combination of milk and water.

  • You can add a few other flavourings, such as whole black peppercorns or a bay leaf.

  • Bring the liquid to a simmer - don't let it boil too vigorously as fish is delicate and it might break up.

  • Always check the fish to ensure it's fully cooked through before serving.

  • Use a fish slice to remove the fish from the pan and allow the liquid to drain away fully.

You can also poach chicken and it's a good way to make a casserole. As with fish, the poaching liquid helps to keep the meat moist. Poaching is a great technique to have in your cooking repertoire so give it a go and add to your skills!

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