Despite writing a food blog, I'm not ashamed to admit to you that I've struggled to cook a decent poached egg. Over the years, I've been bombarded with advice. Some insisted on adding salt to the water, others considered this a serious no-no. Cheffy television types required you to swirl the water with a whisk, and slide the egg into the water from a saucer. An attractive girl on the television demonstrated how to poach eggs using sheets of cling-film. Mrs Beeton recommended that you add vinegar to the water. And so on, and so on. Everyone agreed that it was essential to use a fresh egg.
The trouble was that I also ended up with one mess of an egg. The white would spread everywhere, and in the worst case separate from the yolk. I happen to like soft, runny yolks, but this meant suffering a slightly undercooked white, reminiscent of you said it- snot. And on bad days, the egg white would turn an unappetising grey colour, and even congeal.
In desperation, I ordered one of those 'poach pod' things from a well-known mail order company, advertised as 'a brilliant new invention'. And the result? Disaster. The result didn't look like any normal egg you and I know, the sort of elusive poached egg you might come across in a decent restaurant. The egg cooked well enough, but ended up with a rubbery white (is there some bizarre scientific connexion with plastic?) in a strange artificial looking shape, not disimilar to the miniature re-creation of a breast implant. Into the culinary dustbin of history went the brilliant invention.
I tried the clingfilm technique. But again, disaster. The egg white stuck to the plastic, and I managed to drop the soft egg all over the kitchen floor.
And then, Oh Praise The Lord!, I discovered (oh serendipity!) the brilliant Time Life 'Good Cook Series', edited by Richard Olney. And sure enough, there, in black and white and glorious technicolor, were simple instructions on how to 'poach an egg'. It works. This is how you do it:
Take a shallow sauté pan (in the past, I had used a small, deeper pan) and fill it with water (note, no salt, no vinegar). Bring it to the boil. Turn off the heat. Immediately crack your fresh egg into the water, making sure that you crack it as near to the hot water as you can bear (this helps to keep the shape compact).
Put the lid back onto the saucepan, and let it stand for just under three minutes. Slide the cooked egg onto a slotted spoon and transfer it to a bowl of cold water. This stops the cooking immediately. When you're ready, place the cooked egg onto a kitchen towel to drain off the water. Trim the edges of the egg white with a sharp knife. That's it.
When you're ready to eat them, dip them quickly into hot water to warm them up. You can play around with the timing according to taste. My idea of the perfect poached egg is a firm white (no snot in sight) and a firm-ish (but runny in the centre) yolk, which oozes when you cut into it. A cooking time of just under three minutes seems to do the trick.