A poached egg is one of those very simple foods that makes other food taste a lot better. Those kinds of foods are useful for college cooking. Jason Bell spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to poach a brunch-worthy egg without a real kitchen, and comes up with a rather clever idea: use a thermos. Read on his for his Egg Saga and send us ideas for your own dorm kitchen sagas at

Poaching eggs proves difficult without a reliable heat source. A deceptively easy procedure, poaching an egg involves complex thermodynamics and keen intuition; simmering water is also helpful.
With a little instruction, however, even the most inept cook can coax an egg from raw to perfectly set. Bring water to a boil, decrease the temperature so the water stops bubbling, gently add an egg, and cook to the preferred level of doneness. Delicious on toasted bread, bagels, croissants, in salads, with ham, with mayo, or simply seasoned, poached eggs are a super cheap meal. Need poached eggs pronto? I investigated the best techniques for the kitchen-impaired Wien/John Jay/Carman/Furnald resident. Two issues emerge when poaching eggs in a a kitchen-less dorm: hot water and a cooking vessel.

You’ve got a sink; sinks hold water. Therefore, the sink seems like an appropriate spot—and the only spot—for egg cookery. My porcelain beauty lacks a garbage disposal, so I needed a way to contain the egg during cooking. I tried three methods of containment: egg left in the shell, egg in a Ziploc bag, and egg in plastic wrap. In order to prevent the bag and the cling wrap from melting, I bought products specifically designed for microwaving.

Overall, the egg in plastic wrap technique worked best. While some cooked egg whites stuck to the wrap, the egg rolled out easily. Spraying nonstick oil onto the wrap solves this issue. A tactic employed at high-end restaurants like Arzak in Spain, sealing an egg in plastic wrap allows a skilled chef to form egg spheres with exactly positioned yolks. Preventing leaks is more important than geometric accuracy. Lay out a rectangle of plastic wrap. Crack an egg, and lay it in the center of the film. Pull up each corner of the plastic wrap, allowing the egg to rest in the resulting sack. Form an airtight pocket with the egg inside, and then twist the plastic wrap to form a tail. Tie that tail into a knot. After a few attempts, I made non-Michelin-star-worthy egg-ball-things in just a few seconds.

What comes next is trickier; hot water straight from the tap doesn’t nearly get hot enough. The primary protein in eggs, ovalbumin, fully sets at around 80 degrees Celsius. Yet, the yolk thickens at much lower temperatures. When I filled my sink to the brim with hot tap water and dropped in the eggs, nothing happened. Even with some borrowed boiling water, my first 11 attempts failed to cook the egg. Too runny, too soft, too translucent: all inedible failures. Finally, on try number 12 I succeeded in taking the egg to a safe level of doneness. This required two doses of boiling water poured directly over the egg, along with a subsequent cooking time of 20 minutes. Upon cutting the egg open though, the yolk barely oozed. Sadly, I soft-boiled the only egg I managed to cook correctly.

Alas, alack! Poaching eggs in a dorm room sink is functionally impossible, but there is a simple way to poach eggs in an ordinary thermos. Simply prepare the egg in plastic wrap as described above and place inside of a standard size thermos. Just pour boiling water into the thermos and screw on the lid. Allow the egg to cook until the desired level of doneness is reached—depending on the starting temperature of the water and the actual size of the thermos, cooking time may vary from eight to 12 minutes. Some experimentation may be necessary in order to ensure that the egg ball cooks all the way through.

Alternatively, you can try our quicker microwave method. Simply half-fill a microwavable cup with water. Add salt (if you don’t, trust us — it WILL explode). Crack an egg in it. Microwave for 1 minute and 20 seconds.

Here are a few easy recipes that transform ordinary dorm foods into delicious poached egg dishes:

Poached Egg Wrap

Use 1/4th of the mayonnaise in a jar, then fill in the rest of the jar with sriracha sauce. Mix to thoroughly combine. Poach 2 eggs. Take one soft flour tortilla and dab two spoonfuls of sriracha mayo on the inside of the tortilla. Add lettuce, sliced tomato, and two slices of spiral ham. Roll the tortilla into a cone. Gently drop the 2 poached eggs into the tortilla cone. Fold down the open mouth of the wrap and enjoy.

Poached Egg Pita Pocket

Poach one egg. Take one piece of pita bread and open the pocket wide. Smear hummus all over the inside of the pocket. Add one or more of the following: bacon bits, chopped onions, chopped tomato. Gently insert the egg into the pita pocket and enjoy.

Poached Egg and Salami Salad

Chop hard salami into bite size chunks. Tear some good (or not so good) French bread into small pieces. Mix salami and bread with salad greens. Poach one egg and add to the salad. Drizzle with dressing—honey Dijon or French dressing would work well.

Ramen with Poached Egg

Make ramen noodle soup in a microwave. Poach one egg and add to the soup just before eating.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons