I made my first few poached eggs this winter. OK, truthfully I’ve been making poached eggs for years, but I’ve always had help. I’ve used a poached egg pan to make six eerily perfect poached eggs at a time and I’ve held eggs perched on a large spoon under boiling water. I’ve even tied eggs into plastic wrap bundles and tossed them into a pot, completely flippant about melted plastic chemicals leaching into my poached eggs. I’d made a few unaided poached eggs by swirling the water in the pan, but the whirlpool method really only works for one egg at a time. It wasn’t until egg day at my culinary program—and yes, that was actually six straight hours of cooking every egg dish one could possibly imagine—that I made completely perfect poached eggs without utensils, fancy cookware, or whirlpools. The secret lies in the water temperature, and a little bit on the egg-poacher’s confidence to succeed.

To make these stop, drop, and cook poached eggs, fIll a 3-quart saucepan very full with water and place it on the stove over high heat. Bring the water to a rolling boil. While the water is boiling, crack an egg into a small bowl and line a clean plate with paper towels. When the water comes to a boil, pour 2 tablespoons of white vinegar into the pot. If you’re about to shout “But I despise when I get my poached eggs and they taste like vinegar! What kind of monster are you?” let me finish. Adding vinegar to the water helps egg whites set, which in turn makes successful poached eggs. The brunch spot where you get your poached eggs probably uses a lot more than 2 tablespoons of vinegar. That’s not what this is, so you can rest easy.

Slowly pour the egg from the small bowl into the boiling water. This is either when the egg will begin to poach (go ‘head, pat yourself on the back) or when you realize that the water isn’t hot enough or is too hot, as the pan fills with feathery bits of egg white and a sad, naked yolk. If the latter happens, fish out the bits of egg and let the water come back to a rolling boil, then try again. If the former, wait 5 seconds, then immediately lower the heat to keep the water at a simmer. 

Cook the egg until the whites have set and yolk is set but not hard, about 2 minutes. A good way to test this is to use a slotted spoon to gently lift egg from water. If the yolk seems very wiggly, lower the egg back into the pot. When the egg is cooked to your liking—no more than 6 minutes please, you’re not an animal—pull it from the water with the slotted spoon and place the egg on the paper towel-lined plate to soak up vinegar-water runoff. Transfer the egg to a serving plate, preferably topping an English muffin, then add a heavy pour of hollandaise sauce

This method may seem risky, but if you’re willing to wait for the water to get hot enough you can do it. If you’re feeling super confident, this method also works for cooking several eggs at a time, though perhaps using a larger stockpot if you’re planning to make more than 3 or 4 eggs. This comes in extremely handy when say, your parents come over for brunch—but make sure to practice a few times, first.