The Eggs That Probably Aren't Made-To-Order At Restaurants

Eggs in all their many forms are a classic example of a food most home cooks can make but most professional chefs can truly elevate. Those who order one popular egg preparation at restaurants might be surprised to learn they're often not getting it cooked to order.

We're talking about poached eggs: the delicate method in which raw eggs are dropped into boiling water and cooked until the whites solidify while preserving the liquid yolk inside. This process is as tricky as it is delicious. Without care, eggs can separate in the water before properly cooking or split if removed from the water with too much force. Unfortunately, this means it's nearly impossible to cook them in large quantities in a timely manner — like for dozens of hungry customers at a restaurant.

With this predicament in mind, many may wonder how commercial kitchens manage to churn out order after order of eggs Benedict and similar dishes when breakfast and brunch roll around. The answer relies on another valuable property of poached eggs. Many restaurants pre-poach their eggs, cooking them as normal until almost completely done before removing and immediately placing them in ice water.

A better alternative for busy kitchens

The ice water bath stops the cooking process in an instant, preserving the partially poached eggs for up to three days. When the eggs are needed for an order, they're removed and reheated in hot water for a minute or two to complete the cooking process and bring them to the right temperature for eating. There's no notable difference in quality between this method and fresh poached eggs.

In reality, this is just another of the many steps of preparation utilized in most restaurant kitchens, including for a seemingly simple meal like breakfast. Some restaurants sous-vide or bake their bacon or sausage, so the meat just needs a quick crisping and heating in a pan or on a griddle before serving. Frittatas and quiches can also be made ahead of time and served chilled, at room temperature, or lightly heated. 

So while your next restaurant breakfast of poached eggs may not be fresh in the same way your dining companion's fried eggs are, you can rest assured knowing the quality is just as good and the taste just as delicious.