Do you love a soft-boiled egg with a delicate runny yolk? So do I! This foolproof technique from Cook’s Illustrated demonstrates how to make soft-boiled eggs perfectly every single time. As it turns out, the trick is in the steam.
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a bit obsessed with the geniuses behind Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen. Every recipe and technique I’ve tried from them has been fantastic.
Cook’s Illustrated is a valuable cooking magazine in so many ways. Each issue is an absolute treasure trove of knowledge. They share not only recipes but tips, product reviews and extensively tested techniques.
Recently I tried their technique from the January/February 2013 issue for making perfect oven-roasted shrimp, and they were perfection.
The same issue had several pages dedicated to the challenge of how to soft boil an egg. It’s a skill I struggled with for years when I was first learning to cook.
The science behind soft-boiled eggs
How do you achieve perfectly set whites while maintaining runny yolks? Is it possible to create a scalable recipe that has the exact same instructions regardless of whether 1, 4 or 6 eggs are used?
The reason this is complicated is because egg whites must reach 180 degrees F in order to set, while the yolks must stay below 158 degrees F in order to stay runny. This presents obvious challenges, as it’s very easy to either overcook the yolks or undercook the whites.
After soft-boiling more than 1000 eggs in their test kitchen, they discovered the perfect technique. The key is steam.
The problem with the traditional method is that cold eggs cool down the boiling water. So the more eggs you add, the longer it takes to cook them properly.
But steam will stay at 212 degrees F regardless of how many eggs are added to the pot! Kind of genius, right? It works every time; fully set tender whites and rich, runny yolks.
You can use a steamer if you have one but it’s also easy to apply this technique with a standard saucepan and cover.
I like to serve soft-boiled eggs sliced lengthwise on salads (such as this Arugula Salad with Soft Boiled Eggs, Bacon, and Shallot Dijon Vinaigrette), or in an egg cup with toast or steamed asparagus.
Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs
- 1-6 large or extra large eggs (use more or less as needed)
- salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Add 1/2 inch of water to a medium or large saucepan, and bring the water to a boil on medium-high heat.
- Take the eggs directly from the refrigerator. Use tongs to VERY gently lay the eggs in the bottom of the pan.
- Cover and allow the eggs to steam for 6 1/2 minutes. Do not adjust the heat level.
- Run cold water into the pan for 30 seconds to halt the cooking process. Peel and serve immediately.
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