Possibly the biggest difference between fried eggs and poached eggs is their accessibility. Most people know how to slap an egg on a griddle and fry it, but might feel intimidated at the thought of poaching an egg. Truthfully, though, poaching an egg is no harder than frying one, but the cooking methods yield different results. Whether to poach or fry an egg depends on your taste preferences, as well as the occasion.
Poaching an egg requires a gentle approach. Carefully crack and drop a fresh egg in a saucepan filled with simmering water. Push the egg white over the yolk with a wooden spoon and allow the egg to continue to simmer for about four minutes. Chefs sometimes bring the water to a boil and stir to create a whirlpool, into which they drop the egg before turning down the heat. Frying an egg requires almost no finesse. Simply drop an egg into a pan slathered with a bit of butter or oil and allow it to cook until it sets. If you like, you can turn it over or leave it "sunny side up."
Taste and Texture
The main difference between poached and fried eggs lies in their appearance, texture and flavor. A traditional poached egg is one with a liquid yolk surrounded by a delicately cooked white. The texture is soft and velvety and the taste is mild. A fried egg has a much more arresting flavor because of the fat you added. Fried eggs usually have a slightly crisp texture and the yolk may range from liquid to fully cooked, depending on your preference.
No matter how you cook eggs, use a light hand and keep the temperature set to medium low for best results. Eggs turn rubbery when cooked on high heat. Even when cooked over moderate heat, both poached eggs and fried eggs cook in under five minutes. If you like firm yolks, cook the eggs slightly longer. For softer yolks, turn off the heat sooner.
Because of the basic differences in characteristics between fried and poached eggs, they're used in different ways. Fried eggs have a rustic, down-home appearance and taste. Use them for a hearty, all-American breakfast with biscuits, bacon and pancakes. Poached eggs tend to be more gussied up. Serve them with asparagus spears and a mushroom sauce or use them as the basis for eggs Benedict.
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