Into a mesh strainer, crack each egg one at a time to strain some of the excess egg white, about 20 to 30 seconds. Pour each egg into individual small bowls.
Fill a Dutch oven or large pot halfway with water, about 6 cups, and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer so the water is steaming and small bubbles barely break the surface.
Gently drop one egg into the water at a time, leaving space between them. Cover pot, remove from heat, and let stand until whites closest to the yolk are just set and opaque, about 3 minutes (or 4 minutes for medium-cooked yolks or 6 minutes for hard-cooked yolks).
If the whites are not set after 3 minutes, continue checking every 30 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, carefully lift each egg out and drain over the water. Pat dry with paper towels if desired season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve.
Eggs: The fresher the eggs are, the better they hold together during poaching.
Vinegar: The acid helps hold the poached egg white together. Lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar, but may change the taste of the eggs slightly. If you have it, opt for white distilled vinegar for poaching eggs.
Yield: This method for how to poach eggs creates 4 eggs. Scale up or down as needed, cooking no more than 4 eggs at once in the same pot.
Make ahead: Undercook the eggs by about 1 minute, then place the poached eggs in an ice water bath to cool. Store eggs in cold water in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Heat them up in a little hot water, for 20 to 30 seconds or until warm.
Holding: If you're making multiple eggs to feed a group all at once (for something like my Pulled Pork Eggs Benedict), keep them in a covered pot of 150-degree water.
Separate ramekins: It seems like a lot of unnecessary prep and clean up, but cracking the eggs in their own little cup before poaching the eggs makes the process smoother.
Deep water: Don't skimp on hot water; make sure the eggs have enough room to cook. Fill a large pot at least halfway full of water before bringing it to a boil.