In this series of posts I will be putting Heston Blumenthal’s methods of cookery up against the traditional methods to see how they fare up. I will be testing to see whether Heston’s methods really are better, and giving you tips and lessons I’ve learnt throughout the process.
Today I tested Heston Blumenthal’s Poached Eggs against the traditional methods of cookery taught at trade school. The traditional method tells you to bring water and vinegar to the simmer and then gently drop in the eggs. Some people swear by making a whirlpool in the water but this does nothing for the cooking, it can improve presentation but limits the number of eggs you can poach at once. Heston’s method is a little more precise, it calls for water to be brought up to 82 degrees celsius and requires you to place a plate or similar on the bottom of the pot to keep the eggs off the direct heat. You then strain the eggs through a slotted spoon to remove the watery part of the egg whites (it is essential that your eggs are fresh or this won’t work properly). The majority of the egg white and all the yolk will hold together. This is then placed into the hot water.
RESULTS: The egg cooked in the traditional method had a hard rubbery egg white caused by the higher heat and the vinegar. The end result is also less consistent in appearance. Whereas with Heston’s method the egg white was soft and wonderful and the yolk had thickened slightly but was completely runny. The end product is consistently the same but looks more like the shape of a fried egg rather then a traditional round poached egg. Heston’s method does however take a lot more effort but in my opinion is by far the best, for me there is no comparison.
What I learnt: I found that putting a cake rack at the bottom of the pot and then placing a metal pizza tray on top worked really well, instead of using a plate. This way you have a completely flat surface to poach your eggs on. Using a thermometer with a clip on it like the ones used by barista’s are excellent as you can leave it clipped onto the side of the pot, and therefore you can monitor the temperature continuously.
If you don’t have the time or patience to use Heston’s method then here’s my tips for the tradition method of poaching an egg. Buy yourself a deep pot at least 40-45 cm deep, the deeper the better, and bring the water and vinegar to a rapid boil. The reason for the deep pot is to give the outer layer of the egg white enough time to cook before it reaches the base. By doing so you will end up with a beautiful tear shape that looks great when you serve it. As per Heston’s method, strain the runny egg white through a slotted spoon and place the eggs into small individual containers and drop the eggs into the pot where the water is breaking on the surface. By doing so, there will be a shorter time between the first and last egg entering the water and thus a more consistent poached egg. If you’re cooking for a big group make sure you cook your eggs in batches.
When cooking for a big group and you want to serve everyone at the same time cook each batch of eggs for three minutes and put them straight into an ice bath, once cooled put them on a tray and refrigerate till needed. When you are ready to serve put the eggs back into the boiling water for approximately 1.5 to 2 minutes.
Try out both methods and tell me what you think?
For Heston Blumenthal’s Poached Eggs recipe see www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/heston-blumenthals-poached-eggs
For the How To Cook Like Heston – Eggs episode check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gbgSCV9hbM