Coddled Eggs vs Poached Eggs: Definitions, Differences & Cooking Instructions

Eggs are one of the most versatile foods used in cooking. Not only can they be used as an ingredient in many recipes, but they can also be cooked as they are in several different ways.

Most people have a favorite way to eat eggs, and some of these variations can be quite similar. For example, you might think that a coddled egg is the same as a poached egg, but there are differences in the way they are prepared.

Here are the differences between these two ways to cook an egg, along with the best techniques for both.

What is a Coddled Egg?

A coddled egg is an egg that is cooked in a small dish that is placed on a hot water bath, otherwise known as a bain-marie. The cooking process needs to be gentle so that the egg is cooked properly and the right result is obtained. If done properly, the yolk should be slightly runny and the white soft and fluffy.

A coddled egg with toast

How to Make Coddled Eggs

There are a few ways that you can prepare coddled eggs, each one depends on a slightly different technique, but should have the same end result.

In the Oven

The most effective way to cook coddled eggs is in the oven. This is because of the gentle heat that the oven produces is ideal for cooking eggs in this way. The water should be placed in an ovenproof dish, and the eggs placed inside this dish in a smaller ovenproof container. The steam produced by the water will gently cook the egg, and because the oven is enclosed, the steam will have a greater effect.

This technique is similar to the baked eggs, but they are not cooked in a water bath.

On the Stove

Coddled eggs can also be cooked on a stove though this involves a little more work to get the right results.

  • You will need a roasting tin that is large enough to sit across two of the stove burners.
  • Add water to the tin and bring it to a boil, then turn it down so it is only just bubbling gently.
  • Crack the eggs into ramekin dishes and place them in the water bath so that the water comes up halfway on the ramekin dishes.
  • Cover the tin with foil and cook until the eggs are set.

Molded Eggs

There is a relatively similar technique called molded eggs which are also cooked in a bain-marie. However, these are cooked in decorative molds and then turned out onto toast whereas coddled eggs are served in their ramekin dishes.

What Are Poached Eggs?

Poached eggs are a popular way to cook eggs and while there are variations, the basic principles are the same. A poached egg is cooked in a pan of simmering water just long enough for the outside to set, this leaves the center of the egg nice and runny.

Poached eggs with a fried breakfast

How to Make Poached Eggs

Although poached eggs are popular in many restaurants, they are not often made at home. One reason is that many people are concerned that they won’t make them properly. Here is the basic way to poach an egg, along with some helpful tips.

  • Add water to a pan so that there are about 4 inches of water. Any shallower and you will end up with a flatter shape.
  • Heat the water until it gets to a gentle simmer.
  • Crack a cold egg into a cup or saucer.
  • Gently lower the egg into the water and it should form a small ball in the middle.
  • Cook gently for 3-4 minutes until the outside has formed.

There are some variations and additions that can be tried, not all of them are effective.


Some people will tell you to add salt to the water to improve the flavor and help with cooking. However, salt makes the water denser and therefore forces more of the egg white to the top. This can cause the egg to break up in the pan.


Many poached egg recipes will tell you to add vinegar to the water. This is because the vinegar helps the white of the egg stay together during cooking. There won’t be any vinegar taste in the egg unless a lot is added, but you can still poach eggs without it.

Water Vortex

You may have heard of the water vortex technique that is designed to create a better shaped poached egg. This involves stirring the simmering water until it creates a vortex in the middle. You then drop the egg into this vortex and it helps keep the egg together. This method works well if you are only doing one egg at a time, however, it doesn’t work as well if you are cooking more than one.

Mesh Sieve

Ideally, you want to use eggs as fresh as possible for poaching. The older the eggs are, the more of the runnier white you will get. This runny part of the white is what causes the whispy parts when you poach the egg. You can use a fine-mesh sieve to get rid of this runnier white before cooking. This will make the poaching process better.

What Are The Differences?

Although both of these techniques to cook an egg use simmering water, there are unique differences that make the eggs look and feel different.

  • Coddled eggs are always served in the ramekin dishes that they are cooked in.
  • Unlike poached eggs, coddled eggs can have other ingredients added in the ramekin dish before cooking.
  • It can be harder to get the ‘perfect’ poached egg shape every time as they are placed directly in the water.

It is worth trying many different techniques to produce coddled and poached eggs. You can then decide which of them is better for you so that you can create the best results.

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