Nobody wants a rubbery white – this is how to prevent it
Dipping a buttery soldier into the golden liquid of a soft-boiled egg is one of the most satisfying things you can do of a morning.
There, in a novelty egg cup, is a yolk rich and oozing, having a bath in a tender white treasure chest. Everything is soft and velvety. Your toast can't wait to join in.
Let's not forget the glory of hard-boiled eggs. They too are bright and golden, even if they work better with a bit of salty ham rather than a stick of toast.
But how do you achieve perfect boiled eggs, hard or soft? How do you stop the white becoming rubbery? What can we do to stop the black rim forming around the yolk?
Eggs are scientific. And a matter of taste – just like scrambling or poaching. Chefs have varying methods.
Here are some standout tricks to help you...
Boiling an egg
I think we'll all agree that the worst thing about a hard-boiled egg is a rubbery white, created by obliging the egg a long enough time in the pot for the yolk to solidify.
This can be avoided simply: begin the cooking process in cold water. If you bring the water to the boil from cool water, the egg comes together as one.
"The method greatly reduces the temperature differential between the interior and exterior of the egg," writes Food Lab on Serious Eats.
Guys, you can keep your egg white silky.
On the contrary, soft-boiled eggs, while providing a gentler, refined result, should be plunged into boiling water. You want a white shell enveloping a pool of yolk.
But what about peeling? Temperature? There's so much more...
Chef and writer Gizzi Erskine chef told me that salting the water is vital.
"Remember, eggs are porous, and you need to boil in salty water," she said. "Four minutes 30 seconds is perfect for a soft boiled egg.
"I think they need to be immersed in a solid, but not rolling boil, so they get a classic cook.
"Let it rest for one minute – and bingo. It's then that the yolk goes from liquid to goo."
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Gizzi also pointed out that she never cooks eggs that have come straight from the fridge. Chef proprietor Hayley Bellanie of Bellenie's Osteria in Kent agrees.
She explained: "Eggs that come straight from the fridge tend to crack when placed in boiling water, so I keep my eggs out of the fridge to room temperature when boiling."
Don't forget the water
Like Gizzi and Hayley, food stylist Ryan Riley mentioned to me an important point to remember when cooking soft boiled eggs – the water should not be fully boiling, but just under.
The water should be quivering and hot, but not frothing madly like a rabid dog.
"Soft boiled eggs, or as it should be called, soft simmered eggs, should be cooked in barely bubbling water for up to five minutes," Ryan said.
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"Increase this incrementally the more you want your egg cooked. Six for a firmer yolk, seven for almost set, and eight for a classic hard boiled."
Ryan also underscored something to remember for both soft and hard boiled eggs: using the smallest pan possible.
"It helps with the heat distribution," he said.
Talking of hard-boiled eggs, we should cover those in some more detail, shouldn't we?
Half boiled egg
You don't want a dodgy rim
Every chef I spoke to reminded me that with hard-boiled eggs, plunging them immediately into cold water after cooking prevents a cracked shell, and means an easier peel.
It also helps prevent the unsightly black rim from forming around the egg yolk.
But what if you overcook a hard-boiled egg? You know, when the yolk is so overdone that it resembles a piece of Donald Trump's face crumbling into the sea.
Do you prefer hard of soft-boiled eggs?
Hugo Harrison, who works for Jamie Oliver, has a neat trick for saving the dreaded eventuality.
"I picked this up from a Greek mate," he told me.
"An over-boiled egg can always be saved. Even if it's as dry as a cracker, cut it open, season with salt, and pepper and liberally hydrate the yolk with fresh lemon juice.
"Not only does it bring your egg back to life, it's one of the finest simple pleasures you could wish to enjoy, especially following the shame of over-boiling your egg."
Fancy that. I'll leave you with a nifty idea for dying eggs from The Savoy's head chef, Kim Woodward.
"Dying eggs is a cool thing for great looking plates of food - presentation is key," she told me.
"Just leave your boiled eggs in beetroot juice for 2 hours - they go pink on the outside, a short way in, and stay white in the centre, leaving a golden yolk in the middle.
"It's a nice thing to do for parties and picnics!"
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