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How to poach an egg in the microwave?

Posted in best practices, cooking, howto, kitchen by commorancy on December 5, 2021

poached egg and salmon

There are a number of YouTube videos claiming to poach an egg in a microwave. Almost every one of them is wrong and, worse, exceedingly dangerous. So, how do you poach an egg in a microwave? Let’s explore.

The Art of Egg Poaching

Poaching an egg is a cooking style which “poaches” an egg in hot water. Let’s understand that like oil and water, microwaves and water don’t always mix well, specifically when the water is heated. Microwaves tend to heat water excessively hot, to the point that the water becomes superheated. Superheated water is water that has reached a temperature beyond the boiling point.

Whoa! Wait a minute! Hold on. “Beyond the boiling point”, you say? You ask, “So why doesn’t it boil?” Good question. Microwaves are exceedingly efficient at heating water molecules rapidly. In fact, this is exactly how microwaves work. Microwaves target water molecules and energize them into moving rapidly. Molecules moving rapidly release heat. However, because the speed at which the microwave can heat water, it can get the molecules moving beyond the boiling point, but the water remains entirely still (i.e., no movement).

This is a dangerous and very deceptive condition. It means that the first thing placed into the water will cause the water to instantly explode into a boiling frenzy and spray boiling hot water everywhere, including potentially all over you causing burns. The point is, you never want to submerge an egg (whole or cracked) into water, then attempt to cook / poach it using a microwave. This is not at all a recommended cooking method. It’s also exceedingly dangerous.

Proper Egg Poacher Cookware

As with anything cooked in the microwave, appropriate cookware is required. Not only is each microwave cookware designed for a specific purpose, it ensures the safety of the person using the cookware for that purpose.

nordic-poacherFor the microwave, there are a number of different egg poachers that you can find. The most common is a clam shell style cooker with two compartments, into which you can crack two eggs. For example, here’s one type of clamshell style egg poacher at Amazon. If you prefer to buy name brands, here’s a Nordic poacher at Amazon (see inset image). You can sometimes find these style poachers at dollar stores and clearance home shops, like Home Goods.

How to Poach an Egg in a Microwave?

This method assumes you have acquired one of the above microwave cookers. DO NOT use an uncovered bowl instead.

Before I get into the how to portion, let me say that eggs, particularly the yolk, cook exceedingly fast in a microwave regardless of wattage. What this means is that even the best microwave poached egg won’t have a texture like an egg poached in a pan of water over open heat. This further means that if you are set on the texture and style of an actual poached egg, you’ll want to prepare it using a pan of heated water on a stove top, not by a microwave… especially if you like your yolk runny. On the flip side, poaching an egg in a microwave is easy and fast. If speed is important, then this method is the preferred choice.

With that said, to poach in a microwave egg poacher, the instructions are as follows:

  1. Crack one or two eggs into the compartment(s)
  2. Place one teaspoon of water on top of each egg
  3. Close and lock the lid over the egg(s)
  4. Place the cooker into the microwave, being careful to keep the unit level to avoid spilling
  5. Cook the eggs in the microwave for 1 minute
  6. Open the lid and check for doneness (careful, as steam may release which will be hot)
  7. If the egg is still not done, close and heat again in 20-30 second increments until done, checking after each 20-30 seconds.

Note that when poaching, the yolk will likely cook completely. It’s almost impossible to prevent this in the microwave. Once done, the egg whites will have a similar texture to poached. Unfortunately, the yolk is likely to be fully cooked and have that crumbly fully cooked texture.

This is a super fast way to cook an egg, but it may not provide the exact “poached” texture you’re looking for in the stove top method. However, this method, when used in the recommended microwave cookware, has very little chance of causing scalding hot water burns.

Also, be cautious when piercing the yolk with a fork immediately after coming out of the microwave. The yolk has a tendency to build up steam pressure inside and explode upon being pierced. You’ll want to wait for the egg(s) to cool for a few minutes before piercing. Alternatively, cover the egg with a paper towel and gently pierce it with a fork underneath, keeping your hands clear or covered with an oven mitt. If it explodes, the paper towel will catch it.

Be Safe and Happy Cooking!

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