How long to poach an egg

Cooking poached egg

Knowing how long you should poach an egg for can be a bit of a mystery. Fear not, we talk you through all the factors you need to consider in order to cook the perfect poached egg.

Soft or Hard?

This really is a personal choice; some people prefer their eggs to be runny (soft), others prefer cooked all the way through (hard) and some like something in between. There is no wrong or right way, although some people will argue to the bitter end with you on that point! The longer we poach  an egg the more it will start to cook the yolk, so make sure to get your timings right if you don’t want to be disappointed!

Containing the variables

It’s all well and good using an egg timer but there are other variables to consider that could affect the outcome of your poached egg. If we don’t keep these variables the same then the timings for your egg will always be off and it will make it extremely difficult to obtain that perfect poached egg.

For example you need to maintain a consistent heat: it’s always recommended to have ‘simmering’ water when poaching an egg, for more information on this take a look at our  ‘How to poach an egg in a saucepan’ page.

Depending on which method of poaching you use, a saucepan lid may be required. If this is the case then make sure to maintain the temperature of the water within the pan. The initial temperature of the egg will also affect how long it will take to cook so remember that if you use your egg straight from the fridge it will take longer to cook.

It’s also important to bear in mind that the different methods of poaching an egg will most likely have an effect on the time it takes to cook, therefore just because it takes 4 minutes in an electronic egg poacher doesn’t mean it will take 4 minutes in a saucepan.


Generally speaking you’re going to be looking at 3 minutes for a soft egg and anywhere up to 5 minutes for a firm or hard egg. Although if you’re going for soft eggs remember to not be too hasty in removing them from the pan otherwise you’ll just end up with uncooked eggs!

The best thing to do is to try experimenting with timings, altering the time depending on the outcome. If it’s going to be a while till you poach another egg then make note the time and how it came out so you can remember what results you previously had and be prepared. Finally if you are going to experiment with the times, keep those variables the same to make it easier to work out those timings!