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How to Boil an Egg

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It is easy to take basic kitchen skills for granted but can rewarding to revisit them. I recently came across Heston Blumenthal’s method for soft boiled eggs and gave it a try this morning.

My standard approach has been to pierce a small hole in one end of the egg and place in a pan of boiling water, perhaps with a dash of vinegar, for about four minutes. To be honest though, I don’t boil eggs very much. Heston’s method is to place the eggs in a small pan of cold, plain water then cover and bring quickly to the boil. As soon as the water gets there, turn off the heat and leave for six minutes before removing. The theory is that the eggs cook in the residual heat of the water and, since it is cooling, there is less danger of them overcooking.

My first attempt yielded four eggs that were a bit on the well done side. I must admit that I had left them in a bit longer after the timer went off, on the reasoning that they were duck eggs and thus a bit larger. Jane likes her eggs soft though so I had a second go with another egg and this time made sure that I was ready to hoik it out without delay. This time it delivered what was promised — deliciously runny although perhaps a touch undercooked for some.

One of the variables is how long it takes to bring the water to the boil and that will be influenced by the size of the pan, volume of water, heating equipment and the starting temperature of the eggs and water: in other words, less trivial than it looks at first glance! Heston-style will do me for now but there are more detailed resources out there. I wonder if a practical approach would be to bring the water up to about 75°C (at which temperature the outer white will set well) and then take the lid off and leave until the temperature has dropped by at least ten degrees. By this point enough heat should have reached the centre of the egg but at a low enough temperature that it will still be quite runny. At least I know what I want for breakfast tomorrow!


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