Enjoying soft boiled eggs

Remains of the breakfast dayEver since I ate my first soft-boiled egg about a month ago (I know, I know, I must have been living in an eggless cave for the past 34 years…), I've been smitten by these warm gooey eggs. But I'm having a problem now. I love making soft-boiled eggs from the eggs I get at the Greenmarket because they're so fresh and tasty. But they're a pain to peel, even after running under cold water. It takes me about four minutes to peel the top off of one and one minute to eat the whole thing! I did some research online and apparently fresh eggs are much harder to peel than older ones. Quite the dliemma: I don't want to eat older eggs soft-boiled. It's the freshness that's the key to the yumminess of the soft-boiled egg, at least in my novice opinion.

Then I read about an egg topper (see a Zyliss® Egg Topper for sale at Sur La Table) but I'm not quite sure how it works. One description I saw said it takes off the egg top, including the shell. Does that mean you need two little egg cups for just one egg? Or do you just eat that little cap first, then discard it on the plate before you dig into the yolk in the cup? Soft-boiled egg-eating readers, I ask for you help!

Comments are open. If you eat soft-boiled eggs, or know someone who does, please share your secrets with me. How do you open them? Peel or top? How long in the water? What else?

28 thoughts on “Enjoying soft boiled eggs

  1. Knock twice on the top of the head and then decapitate… scoop helmet out of the decapitated region and then proceed with digging in………..
    has worked for me for years ;o)

  2. 4 minutes and 45 seconds in boiling water – and then topped.
    Your egg topper looks and works like a slightly larger cigar cutter.
    When I was a kid my mom, on Sunday mornings, would use a sharp knife to top our eggs. With the blunt side of the knife she first wacked the egg a spoonful down from the top to break the shell. Then she used the sharp edge to slice the top completely off.
    Was just a little spoonful of egg white and a chance to get the amount of salt on each moutful right.
    When we finished we turned the eggs over in the cups and hoped our dad at some point would look over the top of his newspaper and say: Eat your eggs!

  3. I always loved soft-boiled eggs as a kid – my mom would boil a few up for us kids , use her egg topper to get us started (I’m not sure what happened to the egg tops, perhaps that was her cook’s treat!) and cut a raft of buttered toast soldiers that somehow always fit perfectly into the egg, making soft-boiled-egg-eating more of a chips-n-salsa sort of experience.
    Enjoy your newfound treat, Meg!

  4. I’ve eaten soft boiled eggs my whole life, but never used an egg cup or a topper. My mother taught me to split it down the middle with a sharp crack of a butter knife, then I scoop it out with the knife all over freshly buttered toast. Salt and pepper to taste, and yum!

  5. The egg topper you link to probably wouldn’t work — the design would cut the shell in halves but I’d expect the membrane would still be sticking onto the egg, so yeah you got rid of the hard shell but that un-chewable membrane is still mixed with the egg white. Doesn’t sound like good eating experience ahead.
    I have no recommendation on eating soft-boiled; I’m a hard-boiled w/ salt&butter fan. 🙂

  6. I like runny eggs, too. You need to have a sharp knife to cut the top off cleanly. A serated type steak knife is what I use. Tap it first, while it’s sitting in the egg cup holder, then a quick sure whack with the knife should take the top off cleanly. Then, with luck, your yoke will be in the middle of the egg, not on the top end.
    You must also use a very small spoon prefereably with a pointed end on it to eat the egg. A rounded spoon will just make a mess of the whole damn thing.

  7. An ordinary teaspoon and a serrated knife will do, but a grapefruit spoon is especially useful. Tap-tap, slice off the top, dunk in your soldiers. You do eat soldiers, don’t you? They’re the whole point of boiled eggs. Especially if spread with Marmite.

  8. What is a soldier?
    And this is so interesting, I hadn’t been removing the top, just trying to peel it and then stick in the spoon. Often this resulted in the yolk squirting up and spilling out. Thanks for all the good suggestions so far.

  9. I am no expert but I can tell from my experience that the cutter doesn’t work. You have to use one single strong snip to cut it, or you will ruin the egg and it is totally not worth the stress…You also have to judge the perfect spot, not too high or not too low..
    Growing up we didn’t have the fancy cutters back in Turkey and we would just crack the top with the back of the spoon and dig in it…No need to peel the shell but just crack open it. I now remember that our teaspoons are a little more pointier than the perfectly rounded American teaspoons, but I am sure you can find something pointy…or let me know and I will get some from the amazing all you need kitchen supply store Cookin‰Ûª from San Francisco.
    Hope this helps!

  10. All the talk of soft boiled eggs made me hungry, so I boiled up some eggs, and documented the slice through the center method that my family has employed for years. After some thought, I imagine we ate them this way because we never had an egg cup, so I’ll call this the cheap and dirty soft boiled egg method.

  11. We also used pointed spoons to eat “huevos a la copa” (as we called them). My mother, who loves her eggs this way, taps around the cap and then peels it off. With the pointed end of the spoon she digs into the egg and uses the rest of the shell as a cup. Slicing the top also works but in my experience you still need to tap around the cap to achieve a clean slice. If you cook the egg too long the membrane sticks to the shell, which makes it harder to peel.

  12. The easiest way to get soft-boiled eggs consistently runny (not over- or under-cooked, but just right) is to start them off in *cold* water, bring it to the boil, and then boil for three minutes. Starting them in cold water also means that the eggs are less likely to crack due to sudden temperature changes.
    If you’re cooking yourself more than one egg, you should open them both straight away, rather than opening the second after eating the first. This decreases the risk of the second egg continuing to cook inside the shell.
    Never had a soft-boiled egg until a month ago, eh? What is the world coming too?

  13. I am another hard-boiled with salt and butter-fan. In my family we cut the top off (with a normal butter knife), but my boyfriend always cracks the shell (on the top) with his spoon and then peels it off. I’m Norwegian, he’s Danish. My Dutch friend does the same thing, and she told me about the freshness relating to peeling difficulties that you were talking about. I think maybe she said that “scaring” the egg, ie running cold water over it, helps with the peeling – give it a go, I’m not sure whether I remember it correctly…

  14. I’m shocked no one’s added Jamie Oliver’s method. True, you need to use it with a very light touch for soft-boiled, it’s better for hard. But I’ve found it still works well enough.
    Out of the hot water into cold for just a few seconds, then hold the egg sideways about 2″ over a smooth, hard surface. Release. This short drop should cause a little smashed area of shell. Then, palm down, press lightly on the egg using your fingertips and roll the egg across the hard surface across your palm. The idea is that the pressure and the rolling will pick up one major crack and extend that crack all the way around the egg’s equator.
    Return to the smashed area from the original impact zone and pick away one or two of the little shell bits. Hook a fingernail under one hemisphere of shell and apply a slight pressure on the exposed egg surface…the idea here is to give air a channel to get in between the eggshell and the white. Make sure you’re taking off the thin film around the egg with the shell–that film will hold any fragments of shell together so it comes off in two or three big chunks. It helps to practice on hard-boiled and work your way softer from there. Incidentally, it can help to dribble a few drops of the cold water on your rolling path–if the crack sucks in a few drops of cold water as you roll the egg, it seeps in and makes it easier to separate shell from white.
    Voila! A completely shelled egg in under 15 seconds (with a little practice).

  15. I’m from the knife-tapping then quick-slicing school myself. Just the cap comes off, giving you exactly enough space to get your spoon in there. Then I squirt in a healthy dose of Kalles caviar and a few turns of fresh pepper. With crusty buttered toast. Delish!

  16. Oops, some comments have disappeared, but I’m working on getting them back. So don’t be concerned if yours is gone, it will return soon.

  17. People who’ve mentioned toast soldiers are completely right – toast soldiers are by far the best toast-to-soft-boiled-egg delivery mechanism.
    Toast soldiers are what you get when you toast a slice of bread, butter it lightly on one side, then cut width-wise into 4 or 5 fingers.
    They have invented a toast soldiers maker, which is totally unnecessary but dorkily fun.
    I find Marmite really delicious on my toast soldiers, but Marmite may be something you have to grow up with to love.
    In addition, I’ve heard great things about this nifty egg topper that apparently does a spectacularly clean job of removing the tops from eggs. I haven’t yet been able to convince myself to spend $45 on it, though.

  18. A toast soldier is when you cut a piece of toast into strips and dip the strips into the soft boiled egg. Nick is right, it’s the best way to eat ’em!

  19. I was always a huge fan of soft boiled eggs on toast as a kid, and eventually learned that poached eggs taste remarkably like soft boiled ones. Except preparing poached eggs is way easier, dodging all the challenges you’re describing with the soft-boiled thing.
    Try this:
    First, grab one of those large spoon/ladle things with the draining holes in it.
    1. Bring pot of water to a boil.
    2. Put bread in toaster.
    3. Crack a couple raw eggs into the boiling water, and immediately turn the flame off. Throw the shells out. You’re done with those.
    3. Wait about 60-120 seconds, depending on how you like your eggs.
    4. Toast should be about done by now. Pop it out and put it on a plate.
    5. Take that ladle I was telling you about and carefully scoop the eggs out of the water, being careful not to accidentally lance the yolk in the move. Allow a few seconds for the water to drain from the spoon’s chamber.
    6. Place poached eggs on toast.
    Hit those things with some black pepper and take it all down with ice cold milk.
    I actually haven’t made those in years, but I think I’m gonna get back into it. Thanks for the inspiration!

  20. Hi Meg,
    This is the way I do a soft-boiled egg. I put the egg in just enough cold water to cover. Better in a small sauce pan. Bring it to a boil.Turn down the heat and let just simmer for only 5 minutes. This way the white is firm and the yolk soft, but not runny. If you like runny, then stop at about 4 minutes. Take it out. Run it under cold water. Tap the side on the sink. Roll the egg gently in your hands to loosen the shell. You can tell when it it loose enough. Then gently peel from the top. I like to put mine on a piece of toast more like a poached egg, but it’s so much better. It is very true that new eggs, i.e., fresh, will not peel easily. There is a chemical the thin covering around a fresh egg that needs to deteriorate a bit before it will peel easily. I hope you got to taste some of the eggs in Mexico that have deep orange, almost red, yolks. Yum.

  21. In Singapore, we just crack the eggs into a small bowl and use a teaspoon to scoop out the remainding morsels. Add some dark soy sauce, pepper and stir. Who says you need to eat it right out of the shell?

  22. Wow, what a great thread! Just yesterday, we were trying to remember if there is some trick to making hard-boiled eggs easier to peel.
    Now I want poached eggs on buttered toast. Yum.

  23. Don’t find any mention of PRICKING WITH A PIN the large end of the refrigerated egg (where the air cavity is located) just prior to dropping into the boiling water. A map tack kept conveniently near the stove works well. So pricked, cold eggs set directly into boiling water never crack. Eliminates the “watched pot” syndrome. Begin timing (preferrably with a digital timer) at the moment of immersion: Large: 5 min., XLarge: 5min45sec, Gumbo: 6min15sec….for a cooked white and creamy yolk. PS…a wedding band makes a good egg cup, btw.

  24. The trick is that the eggs can’t be too fresh, they need to be about 2 weeks old or more in order for them to peel properly. Try it and they should peel with alot more ease.
    Good Luck and Happy Peeling!

  25. My sole advice is about how to open them. Using a knife, tap and then saw off the tip enough to get your small spoon in. Add salt and pepper as needed as you eat.
    That’s it!

  26. I’m so glad that so many people are enjoying soft-boiled eggs.I love them and love them poached as well.whenI was growing up we just took a knife and hit the top almost off with the sharp edge. it did not always come off clean but in my adult years I have found two different types of egg toppers that fit over the top of the egg and you squeeze the ends and it perforates the shell and you can lift off the top. One takes a larger top off and the other with smaller teeth takes off a smaller top.The latter one works like a scissors.To cook I usually put the eggs in cold water and bring to a boil and as soon as it begins boiling take it off the heat and cover for 4 minutes.You can buy egg spoons on line that fit perfectly into an egg. They are rounded and smoothly scoop the bottom of the shell when you get down to the bottom. The spoon is a perfect size for the egg. The price for the stainless spoons is great however the shipping cnarges cost more than the spoons.(4 spoons about $5.Shipping about $6-$7). All this writing about eggs has made me hungry for one . I think I have to make one (or two) right now.Of course with toast.)

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