How to Poach
Poaching is a gentle, quick-cooking method for delicate food items like eggs, fish and even chicken. Unlike boiling which cooks food in a high-temperature rolling liquid, poaching uses a soft simmer to preserve the composition of the food. Poaching also helps to preserve the moistness of the food because there is less chance of overcooking. Succulent fruits like peaches can also be poached, ideally in a wine-infused broth to help bring out the sweetness of the fruit.
Poaching is a much healthier way to cook compared to frying, yet still results in delicious food. The gentle poaching process helps to retain the food’s nutrients while reducing excess fat. Poaching also requires very little cleanup, which makes it a great cooking method for picnics and camping trips.
Steps for Poaching:
- Fill a saucepan 2/3 full with the liquid or broth.
- Bring water to just under a simmer over medium-high heat (bubbles in the water should form around the edges of the pot but not rise to the surface).
- Reduce heat to medium-low (between 170 – 180 degrees) and let the food cook.
A simple combination of water and vinegar is best for poaching eggs. The acidic component helps the food hold together while it cooks. To add extra flavour to poached meat, add lemon juice or wine to the broth as well as herbs (bay leaf, parsley, peppercorns, garlic and thyme), onions, celery and carrots. Poached fruit is cooked in sweet wine, water and spices (star anise, cloves and cinnamon).
Salmon and trout are great for poaching. Lean fish such as tilapia, cod, sole, haddock, snapper or halibut can also work well and are often served with a velouté, which is made by adding clarified butter and flour to your poaching liquid. A white wine sauce is also tasty with poached fish. Start by making the velouté, then add white wine, heavy cream, butter, salt, pepper and lemon juice.
Eggs can be trickier to poach, but a special pan makes it simpler. Serve a simple breakfast with poached eggs and toast or get creative with Eggs Benedict (poached eggs and ham on a toasted English muffin with warm, creamy Hollandaise sauce). The vegetarian version (Eggs Florentine) replaces the ham with spinach.
Most firm fruit can be poached, however most recipes call for pears, peaches or apples. They can be served any number of ways for an impressive, low-fat dessert, even with a sauce. It’s also a good way to cook fruit before it spoils. Try Bartlett pears, freestone peaches or gala apples poached in water, sugar and vanilla, with a rum-infused cream sauce.
- Use a thermometer to take temperatures of the food to ensure it is cooked properly
- If the recipe calls for citrus zest in the liquid, remove all the pith (the white part); all of the essential oils for flavour and fragrance are in the zest
- To prevent fish from curling, place them in the poaching liquid first, and then bring it to the proper temperature to cook
- For different flavours, try using infused teas as a poaching liquid
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