How do you boil eggs? The answer to this is “carefully”. What we need to do first of all is memorise a few very important rules. Don’t ever boil eggs that have come straight from the refrigerator, because very cold eggs plunged straight into hot water are likely to crack. Always use a kitchen timer – trying to guess the timing or even remembering to look at your watch can be hazardous. Never over-boil eggs (you won’t if you have a timer) – this is the cardinal sin because the yolks will turn black and the texture will be like rubber. If the eggs are very fresh (less than four days old), allow an extra 30 seconds on each timing.

Always use a small saucepan – eggs with too much space to career about and crash into one another while they cook are likely to crack. Never have the water fast boiling; a gentle simmer is all they need. Remember that eggs have a pocket at their wide end where air collects and, during the boiling, pressure can build up and cause cracking. A simple way to deal with this is to make a pinprick in the rounded end of the shell, which will allow the steam to escape.

Soft-boiled eggs

Obviously, every single one of us has a personal preference as to precisely how we like our eggs cooked. Over the years I have found a method that is both simple and reliable, and the various timings set out here seem to accommodate all tastes. First of all, have a small saucepan filled with enough simmering water to cover the eggs by about 1/2 inch (1 cm). Then quickly but gently lower the eggs into the water, one at a time, using a tablespoon. Now switch the timer on and give the eggs exactly 1 minute’s simmering time. Then remove the pan from the heat, put a lid on it and set the timer again, giving the following timings:

6 minutes will produce a soft, fairly liquid yolk and a white that is just set but still quite wobbly.
7 minutes will produce a firmer, more creamy yolk with a white that is competely set.

On the subject of eating soft-boiled eggs, I personally am willing to take the risk. As a general practice, though, it is not advisable to serve these to vulnerable groups, such as very young children, pregnant women, the elderly or anyone weakened by serious illness.

TIP – If you prefer to have the yolk sit more central within the white, gently stir the eggs for a minute or two once in the pan. This gentle spinning will help center the yolk.

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