Alton Brown talks into a tape recorder as he explains that poaching generally means cooking by submersion in a liquid held at just under a simmer. He believes it is French for "pouch," referring to the shape an egg takes on when it has been perfectly poached. To perfectly poach one to four eggs, begin with a nonstick saucepan or skillet filled with about 1 inch of water. Nonstick is very important as eggs are not. Bring the water to a simmer and add a teaspoon of salt and a couple of shots of vinegar (about a teaspoon). The acid in the vinegar will speed the setting of the egg whites and prevent the eggs from feathering, resulting in a neater shape or poach. Although various vinegars can be used to add flavor, white distilled vinegar will render the most neutral results. Do not crack eggs directly into the cooking water. Instead crack each egg into an individual custard cup so they can then slide into the water. Starting at the 12 o'clock position, bring the custard cup down to the water and ease the egg in. The next egg goes in at the 4 o'clock position, with the last egg following at the 8 o'clock position. Using the clock method ensures that you'll always pull the eggs in the position in which they were put down; that means even cooking. Putting a lid on the pan is crucial. The vapor that forms inside the pan ensures that the tops of the eggs that float to the surface will set. Turn off the heat and wait; Alton prefers to wait seven minutes. The heat stored in the water sets the egg white to a soft custard consistency and the yolk to a nice, soft golden lava flow, perfect for adding to a vinegary dinner salad.
Michael Chiarello teaches his sausage-poaching method to keep them from overcooking and drying out on the grill. He adds raw sweet and hot sausages to a pan filled with cool water, brings them to a simmer, then turns off the heat and lets the sausages cool in the same water. The sausages are then ready to grill. After four minutes per side, the sausages are cooked through and ready to eat.