A well known cooking technique is poaching. Although it is a core cooking method that is indispensable in many cuisines and is used particularly heavily in French cooking, poaching is somewhat of a specialty technique for many UK cooks, who may approach the matter with only a vague understanding of the process.
What is Poaching?
Simply put, poaching refers to the process of using a gently simmering liquid to cook food. It is distinct from boiling because in poaching, the temperature of the liquid used should not reach a full boil, which tends to toughen many types of food. Poached foods, in contrast, are both tender and flavourful; they are often described as delicate. Because of this, poaching is generally considered to be a cooking technique that elevates cooked preparations into the “fine dining” category.
Although it is possible to poach foods in plain water, recipes for poaching often call for stock, wine, milk, or water flavoured with a variety of herbs and spices. Vinegar is a common ingredient in recipes for poached eggs because it helps the egg whites to coagulate, or gather together, rather than become dispersed in the cooking liquid. The resulting poached eggs, however, will not taste of vinegar, as the concentration is very slight.
Choice of Cooking Equipment
Poaching can technically be done in any pan, but to simplify the process and make it more foolproof, many cooks prefer to use a specialty poaching pan. These cooking vessels come in two basic varieties: egg poachers and fish poachers. It is important to understand, however, that other foods such as chicken breasts and fruit can be poached in poaching pans.
Egg Poaching Pans
Shoppers will find that egg-poaching pans come in several basic configurations. It is a good idea to use a specialty egg-poaching pan instead of a regular saucepan when poaching eggs; particularly if the dish will be prepared on a fairly frequent basis. This is because the traditional French method of poaching eggs with nothing but a regular pan and a large spoon is difficult to master. Even when vinegar is added to the water to aid coagulation, it is extremely easy to end up with egg bits scattered all through the water when attempting to poach eggs in open water. Egg poaching pans solve this problem by isolating the eggs being cooked in a small amount of water. This not only keeps the egg together, but it also greatly aids with scooping the eggs from the poaching liquid once cooking has been completed.
Egg Poaching Skillets
Many egg poaching pans resemble a traditional frying pan or skillet, but with an additional egg poaching accessory. This tends to take the form of an insert that can be placed in the pan. Such inserts typically have two, four, or even six individual compartments into which an egg can be cracked into a small amount of simmering liquid. Egg poaching skillets are easy to use and provide for fast and simple cleaning, especially when a non-stick variety has been chosen. Some cookery books advise cooks to butter or grease each individual poaching pan compartment before adding liquid, but this step is not necessary when a non-stick poaching pan is in use. Some smaller varieties of egg poaching skillets are also available. These feature one compartment so that only a single egg will be poached at a time.
Egg Poaching Cups
An alternate form of an egg-poaching pan is the poaching cup, which consists of little but a hook, attached to which is a single compartment for poaching an egg. These cups are designed to be hung from the sides of a regular skillet, which essentially turns any skillet into an egg-poaching pan. Cups can be quite useful for a number of reasons. They are generally sold as single units, which means that any number desired can be purchased. A family of five may prefer using five egg-poaching cups in a standard skillet instead of using a poacher designed for six. In addition, very large skillets can accommodate more eggs poached this way than is the case in most specialty egg poaching pans. On the other hand, individual cups must be sized correctly; it is relatively easy to purchase cups, which are too large or small for the skillet intended for use with them. The way terminology is used can also complicate matters. Many poaching pans have separable cups that fit into holes in the pan insert. These are available singly as replacement units should a cup become damaged. Shoppers who inadvertently purchase these types of cups will find that they do not have a hook and, hence, cannot be used with a standard skillet.
Microwave Egg Poaching Pans
Poaching pans have been available for many generations. A more recent innovation in the poaching arena has been the development of the microwave egg poacher. These types of pans tend to be much smaller than their stovetop cousins, and because they are intended for microwave use, they will be made of plastic, glass, or some other microwave-safe material.
Two of the most common arrangements for microwave poaching pans are the single and double egg cooker. These have either one or two compartments and are often quite utilitarian in design, consisting only of a top section that snaps securely down over a bottom section to create a vapour-proof seal.
Eggs that are poached in the microwave are generally cooked with a very small amount of liquid – as little as one or two tablespoons. One important caveat is that eggs must have their yolks pierced beforehand to release steam. Otherwise, the yolk may spatter and make a mess.
Microwave egg poaching pans feature easy clean properties. One of their main advantages is that they tend to be smaller than stovetop egg poachers, which means they can be stored in less space. Another is that many cooks find the poaching process simpler and faster when done in the microwave.
Fish Poaching Pans
Fish poaching pans usually have an oval shape because they are designed for efficiency. By matching the general shape of a fish, they minimise the amount of extra water that will have to simmer during the poaching process. In addition, because it is impractical to try to remove an entire fish using a slotted spoon, fish poaching pans generally feature a fitted rack with handles that permit the fish to be lifted free of the poaching liquid in one smooth motion.
Types of Fish Poaching Pans
Two of the most common metals for fish poaching pans are stainless steel and metal, both of which are durable and beautiful. Cast iron and aluminium fish poachers are also available, but these varieties are generally harder to find. Microwave fish poaching pans are also an option, but these are much less common then microwave poachers intended for eggs.
Because they are fitted with a rack that closely matches the dimensions and contours of the poacher itself, fish poachers can also double as steamers. Fish poaching pans generally do not come with non-stick interiors. This is due to the fact that the rack will elevate the fish above the pan’s bottom surface, preventing direct contact. Sticking is therefore not much of an issue. Fish also tend not to stick to the rack because poaching is a wet cooking method and the fish is surrounded by water on all sides during the process.
Find Poaching Pans on eBay
Many eBay shoppers use the site’s convenient search bar to the exclusion of other navigation methods. While this will certainly produce relevant results, other shoppers prefer to examine an entire category in detail. To find the category reserved for poaching pans, eBay shoppers should begin at the home page and click on the drop down arrow just to the left of the search box. From the list that appears, choose Home & Garden. This will load a new page with a list of choices in the left-hand pane. Choose Furniture & Living followed by Cookware, Dining, & Bar, and when that page loads, click on Pots & Pans and then Steamers & Poaching Pans. Finally, choose either Egg Poaching Pan or Fish Kettle/Poacher to narrow the listings down to the type of poaching pan desired.
Although poaching can be accomplished using a standard saucepan or skillet, it can be difficult to produce a quality result without specialised equipment. A proper egg poaching pan or fish poacher can make cooking more enjoyable by simplifying the steps needed to create beautiful meals featuring poached foods. Egg poachers are widely available in both stovetop and microwave varieties. Because of their much larger size, however, most fish poachers are designed for stovetop use. The online shopping site eBay is a good place to look for poaching pans since at any one time, dozens or even hundreds of different sellers may be offering them for sale.