1 Heat the water: Fill a saucepan with several inches of water. Heat the water on high until it reaches a boil and then lower the heat until the water is at a bare simmer (just a few bubbles coming up now and then).
2 Crack egg into a small bowl and gently slip it into the water: Working with the eggs one at a time, crack the egg into a small bowl or cup. Place the bowl close to the surface of the hot water and gently slip the egg into the water.
If you want, use a spoon to push some of the egg whites closer to their yolks, to help them hold together. Add all of the eggs you are poaching to the pan in the same way, keeping some distance between them.
3 Turn off heat, cover pan, set timer for 4 minutes: Turn off the heat and cover the pan. Set a timer for 4 minutes (or count out loud to 60, four times). At this point the egg whites should be completely cooked, while the egg yolks are still runny.
Note that the timing depends on the size of the eggs, the number of eggs in the pot, and if you are cooking at altitude, so adjust accordingly. If you are at altitude, want firmer egg yolks, or are poaching more than 4 eggs at once, you may need to cook them longer. If you try 4 minutes and the eggs are too cooked, reduce the time.
4 Remove eggs with slotted spoon: Gently lift the poached eggs out of the pan with a slotted spoon and place on a plate to serve.
Using a Fine Mesh Sieve
One way to help your poached egg whites stay together is to remove some of the thin wispy egg whites before you add your eggs to the hot water. An easy way to do this is with a fine mesh sieve.
1 Strain thin whites with a fine mesh sieve: Place the raw egg into a fine mesh sieve over a bowl. The very thin egg whites will drain out through the sieve.
2 Gently add to hot water: Then gently ease the raw egg into your pot of simmering hot water.
3 Turn off heat, cover pot, cook 4 minutes: Notice how there is much less stray egg whites with this method? Turn off the heat and cover the pot (or just lower the heat to low), and cook for 4 minutes until the whites are cooked through. (You may need to add more time if cooking at altitude or poaching more than 4 eggs at once.)
Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon.
Using an Egg Poacher
If you don't want to futz around with trying to keep the eggs from spreading or bumping into each other, the easiest way to make poached eggs is with an egg poacher.
The "poacher" is actually coddling the eggs, not truly poaching them, but if what you want is an egg with a cooked white and runny yolk, this is an easy way to do it.
To use an egg poaching pan, remove the cups from the pan that you intend to use.
Fill the pan with only 1/2-inch of water and bring it to a low boil. Put a drop or so of olive oil in each of the egg cups you are using and spread around. (The cups are stick-free, but the oil helps.)
Crack the eggs into the egg cups, one egg per cup. Place the egg filled cup back in the slot for it in the pan.
Cover the pan and cook for 4 minutes.
Remove from heat and carefully lift the egg cups out of the pan. Slide the cooked eggs out of the cups onto serving plates or bowls.