[thechat] Perfect soft-boiled eggs

Ian Anderson ian at zstudio.co.uk
Thu Mar 9 07:42:54 CST 2006

I think this is the way to make perfect soft-boiled eggs.

1. Buy some hens eggs - it's important to get big ones; size "Large" in 
UK terms. What measurements of eggs do folk in other countries have? If 
the eggs are too small, the cooking time will be wrong and your eggs 
will be too hard.

2. Keep your eggs in the fridge, and use them well before the 
best-before date. This stops them hatching into chickens, emus, 
dinosaurs or whatever before you need them.

3. Boil a pan of water - you can use the kettle if you are really in a 
hurry to have your eggs, as it's a little faster than the hob on most 
cookers. The water should be deep enough to cover the eggs easily plus a 
bit more. It should be bubbling gently before you put the eggs in, and 
kept on a strong heat throughout the cooking time.

4. Get your toast soldiers, tea, orange juice and egg cups ready first, 
until you're confident in getting it all done by the time the eggs are 
ready. The key to all this is getting the eggs to table as soon as they 
are ready.

5. Gently lower two eggs into the pan, one at a time, using a teaspoon. 
GENTLY swirl each egg around the pan once, trying to get it to roll over 
on the way. This helps the air to expand evenly around the egg, and 
reduces the chance of cracking. If one of the eggs cracks, dump the 
water and start again with new eggs. The cracked egg will not cook 
properly, and all the overcooked albumen will clump on the other eggs 
and ruin the experience.

6. Once the second egg is in the pan and swirled once, start your timer 
- five minutes should be perfect. One of the reasons for refining the 
technique to this extent is that my timer doesn't do seconds, so finding 
a reliable technique that worked in whole minutes was essential.

7. AS SOON AS THE FIVE MINUTES ARE UP, remove both eggs from the water 
to the egg cups. If you like a runny yolk (and let's face it, this is 
the point of the whole exercise), you need to REMOVE THE TOPS of the two 
eggs now. Don't worry - the white will not be fully cooked, and it is 
normal for some uncooked white to run down the side of the egg when you 
lever the top off.

The very top of the white should be clear, but over the next minute or 
two the residual heat of the egg will finish the cooking to a suitable 
standard. Slightly runny white should not harm you, as long as you are 
using UK eggs with Lion markings. YMMV. It is possible to get 
pasteurised eggs, for the very old or the very young, or for people who 
are intent on minimising any risks for other reasons. These directions 
are not tested with pasteurised eggs, however. If you really don't like 
the runny white, simply spoon it out of the way and discard it. In my 
experience, it doesn't harm the enjoyment to have a little runny white 
mixed in.

8. Find a secluded spot away from any children or other loud noises, and 
enjoy your eggs. You should find that the egg yolk is runny most of the 
way to the bottom, though it is inevitable that some hardening will take 

Other techniques often rely on having eggs that are room temperature, or 
subjective things like starting timing from when the water has come back 
to the boil, and so on. None of them worked for me. Hope this works for you.

Any other favourite recipes?

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