When it comes to poaching, a watched pot shouldn't be left to boil. Instead, you want to keep liquids just below the boiling point, about 180°F. The water should be hot enough to cook foods gently without exposing them to harsh heat. The best sign that you've found the perfect poaching temperature is the formation of little bubbles on the bottom and around the edge of the pot (instead of the big bubbles that rise up from the bottom when a pot is boiling). The payoff for paying close attention to those bubbles? Fork-tender fruits and veggies, eggs with firm (not rubbery) whites, and delicate dumplings that won't fall apart as they cook.
3 Steps to Success
For perfect results every time, take it step by step.
1. Bring 2 to 3 inches water or other cooking liquid to a boil in a wide (at least 9 inches in diameter) pot. Use enough liquid to give food room to float so it cooks evenly and is easy to remove with a slotted spoon once done.
2. Add food to the pot. The addition of food will lower the liquid temperature to below boiling. (Small bubbles should break the surface of water around edges, not bubble up from bottom of pot.) Give a quick stir to keep food from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
3. Adjust the temperature as needed to keep the cooking liquid just below the boiling point. (You may have to remove the pot from the burner for a few seconds from time to time to achieve the right temperature.)