Why do we add vinegar to poached eggs?

Last night I was poaching some eggs (after all, breakfast is the best dinner), and I was reminded to add vinegar before releasing the eggs into the water.

Why vinegar? How does it help?

At room temperature, egg whites are made up of bunches of long amino acids, all folded up on themselves. As the temperature starts rising, these amino acids start to unravel and eventually they bond with one another, creating a solid mesh of protein.

Adding vinegar makes the water more acidic. Acid helps the proteins unravel faster, reducing the time needed for the mesh to form. This ensures that the yolk has less of a chance to start cooking, keeping it runny.

Opinions vary, though, on whether adding vinegar is good or bad. Some say that it doesn’t do all that much to help the protein coagulate and that it creates unwanted shreds and an irregular film around the white.

It seems that whether or not vinegar helps, its missing out on the most important factor in excellent poached eggs. Which we will get to next time…