MSR Cafe: Poached Eggs & Polenta

Originally Published June 5th, 2013

Poaching is one of the best methods for cooking eggs in the backcountry. There’s little chance of burning the eggs, you don’t need to carry oil or butter, and the pan is easy to clean at the end of the process.

Start with a large pot of clean water. While the stove heats the water, prepare the following:

  • One pour over filter with an ounce of coarsely ground coffee.
  • One bowl with about half cup of instant polenta or grits. Keep another bowl or plate nearby to cover the bowl.
  •  Four large eggs.
  •  Large spoon for poaching the eggs.

When the water reaches the “fish eyes” state just before boiling, pour it through the coffee filter. Continue until the mug is full and the coffee is steeping.

Put the pot back on the stove and turn up the heat. When the water reaches a rolling boil, add some to the polenta. It should take close to one cup to cook the polenta thoroughly. Cover the polenta and let it sit while you prepare the rest of the meal.

Let the stove rest while you clean and refill the coffee filter. When you’re ready, bring the water back to the “fish eyes” state and pour it over the filter. Let this cup steep for a couple minutes.

Ideally, you should have just enough water left to cover an egg. Add or remove water as necessary, then put the pot back on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Make sure the stove is at a steady simmer, temperature management is the key to poaching eggs successfully.

At this point some people add vinegar to keep the eggs together. If a small bottle of vinegar isn’t part of your backcountry packing plan don’t worry – you’ll do fine without it.

Crack an egg on the side of the pan, trapping it with the large spoon. Lower it carefully into the water, holding the whites together with the spoon. Add a second egg using the same technique. Spoon simmering water over the eggs until they reach the desired hardness. Depending on your preference, you can get anything from firm eggs that cut with a fork to liquid yolks that melt into the polenta.

Divide the polenta into two portions and serve two eggs over each. The second cup of coffee should be ready at this point.


  • One 2 liter pot
  • One pour over coffee filter
  • One large spoon
  • Two deep bowls
  • Two eating utensils