An egg poacher is a piece of cookware meant to facilitate cooking an egg in a particular way. Using an egg poacher will yield evenly shaped, crisp poached eggs every time, and for people who make a lot of poached eggs, the device can be very handy. Many kitchen supply stores sell electric poachers, or poaching inserts for saucepans.
When an egg is poached, it is not illegally stolen in the depths of night, as the name might suggest. Poached eggs are in fact simply cooked in gently boiling water until they solidify. Some cooks prefer to leave the yolks of their poached eggs slightly runny, while others cook the eggs all the way through, due to food safety concerns. Poached eggs are a popular breakfast food, especially on toast with freshly cracked salt and pepper.
Since eggs are high in protein, they are a good choice in the morning, and since poached eggs are not fried in oil, they don't have any additional fat. They also have a light, clear flavor which some consumers enjoy. Although it is certainly possible to poach eggs in an open pan, and many people do, an egg poacher makes the process much more tidy.
An electric poacher is a plug-in device which has slots for eggs above a reservoir for water. A poaching insert for stove top cooking is often sold bundled with a matching saucepan. The egg poacher itself is a metal insert which fits inside of a saucepan, much like a double boiler. The surface of the poacher is dimpled with egg-sized depressions, and it may include a handle for easy lifting. An egg poacher should ideally be used in a saucepan which has a matching lid. A variant on the design is an egg cup designed for poaching. Poached egg cups can be floated in a saucepan for poaching, but they are somewhat more unwieldy than the insert design.
To poach eggs in an egg poacher, the cook fills the saucepan with water, inserts the poacher, and butters the dimples in the poacher. When the water boils, the cook cracks an egg into each dimple, and covers the saucepan so that the eggs cook. When the eggs turn solid, they can be turned out and served. Electric egg poachers operate along a similar principle.
Cooks without access to an egg poacher can also poach eggs, although it requires more skill. A saucepan of water with a dash of vinegar in it should be brought to a simmer, before eggs are gently cracked into the water. Some cooks find it easier to crack the eggs into small dishes and then slip the eggs into the water from the dishes. When the eggs have cooked to satisfaction, they can be lifted out of the water in a slotted spoon and drained.