Perfect Soft Boiled Egg

by Irvin on February 3, 2014 · 50 comments

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If you’re looking for the perfect soft boiled egg, look not further. This recipes is foolproof and incredibly easy.

Perfect Soft Boiled Egg. Recipe and Photo by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love. www.eatthelove.com

“I didn’t really care for our visit there so much…” said AJ as we left the restaurant. We visit Los Angeles pretty often but we tend to stick to our try and true favorites, Thai food, Korean food, a trip to Huckleberry’s for their Croque Madame (yes, we put an egg on it) and Japanese ramen. But this time we decide to go wandering around Venice and we ended up in a restaurant that was nice, but a bit snooty. In truth, AJ’s opinion really resulted because of a perfect soft boiled egg. (Jump directly to the recipe.)

The street seemed typical Los Angeles I guess. Nice but relatively expensive shops filled with items that none of us could afford, you know the usual look but don’t touch. I was even reprimanded by a shopkeeper when I went to take a photo of a dish that I liked. Of course, when I asked if she had any that were smaller in size and different in color, she said she was sending them all back and they rest were already packed away. Why would it matter if I took a photo if she wasn’t going to sell them anymore? Down the street a bit, a film crew seemed to be shooting a pilot for a show. I nonchalantly looked to see if I could recognize anyone famous but no one popped up on my radar. Not a surprise since I’m fairly ignorant of the current crop of actors; my subscription to US Weekly had lapsed quite a few years ago. But we were getting a bit hungry so we decided to dash into a cute little restaurant on the street.

The perfect soft boiled egg recipe. Recipe and Photo by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love. www.eatthelove.com

Now we’re all familiar with restaurants that explicitly state that you can’t have any substitutions on the menu. I get that the chef has designed a meal to work as a whole and not to piece together how you want it. But here’s the thing, our friend was pregnant and there were certain things that she was trying to avoid eating. One of them was undercooked eggs. So when she spotted a salad on the menu with an egg on it, she asked the waiter how it was prepared. He stated all eggs were freshly soft boiled for the salad. My friend then asked if there was anyway to get it hard cooked. Much discussion ensued.

In the end, it took the waiter, the host, the manager and then finally the owner to get the change made. Each one tried to explain to my friend that the salad was built with the soft cooked egg in mind and perhaps she could just remove the soft cooked egg from the plate after it was served. And each time my friend explained how normally she would LOVE to have a soft cooked egg with the salad, but as she was currently with child, in a family way, preggers, knocked up (how many times did she has to say it as clearly she was showing at six months) she was trying to avoid that sort of thing and couldn’t they just cook the egg slightly longer – especially since they cook the egg to order?

Perfect soft boiled egg. Photo and recipe by Irvin Lin of Eat the Love. www.eatthelove.com

In the end the owner the restaurant came around and OK-ed the change, though he was very specifically clear that it was ONLY because she was pregnant. My friend didn’t really seem phased by the exchange, but I could tell AJ was getting more and more annoyed the situation. We enjoyed our meal as much as we could, and haven’t been back since. Though we go down to L.A. fairly often I have a feeling we probably won’t be making another trip to Venice again soon. Oh well, I can’t really afford anything on the street anyway.

Now that you know how to make a perfect soft boiled egg, you probably want a few recipes on what to serve it with (if you’re not eating the eggs by themselves). Check out a few of these recipes from around the web:

Aida Mollenkamp’s Avocado Toast with Soft Boiled Eggs
Orangette’s Egg Gribiche
Cannelle et Vanille’s Pea, Pickled Onion, Avocado and Egg Tartine
Naturally Ella’s Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad with Soft Boiled Eggs
No Recipes’ Oden, a Japanese comfort food stew

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{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

The Suzzzz February 3, 2014 at 7:00 am

*sigh* Oh L.A., *shaking head*, only there could so much drama follow in the wake of such a simple request. I love a good runny yolk, I’ll have to try this the next time I’m making eggs.

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Caroline February 3, 2014 at 8:57 am

I love that story! I do love, love, love a soft boiled egg. Every single time I eat one I’m taken back to being a kid. My Mom would make them often for breakfast. She’d stand it in an egg cup, just crack off the top and expose the yolk then drop a teeny tiny cube of butter into it. Ahhh. I love that you use some ice to stop the cooking…I’ll have to try that. Last time I made some, they were JUST beginning to set.

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm

The ice bath is TOTALLY worth it. It’s another step, but luckily a pretty easy one.

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Amy @Very Culinary February 3, 2014 at 10:45 am

I want all 6 eggs, please.

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Sorry. They’re all gone. AJ ate them. But come over and I’ll make you some more! It’ll only take me ten minutes…

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Jennie @themessybakerblog February 3, 2014 at 11:11 am

Why do people have to make such a simple task such an ordeal. Yikes! This soft boiled egg looks lush.

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Shikha @ Shikha la mode February 3, 2014 at 11:42 am

I love Huckleberry! I go there almost every time I visit LA. Their green eggs and ham is fantastic, much like your recipe here!

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:09 pm

I’ve never had their green eggs and ham! I’ll have to check that out next time I’m there. Of course I go so infrequently I almost always end up getting their croque madame sandwich…

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Chelsea February 3, 2014 at 3:51 pm

I live pretty near Venice, so now I’m trying to guess which snooty restaurant this was! I’ve never tried making soft boiled eggs, but I love the steaming idea – makes a lot of sense. Do you use a steamer for hard boiled eggs as well? It seems like the principle would be much the same.

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Irvin February 3, 2014 at 5:02 pm

Ha! I’m not going to tell which one it was. And, in truth, if my friend wasn’t pregnant and we had just ordered food from the menu without substitutions, I’m sure we would have had a lovely time there. Everyone else I know who has been likes the place a lot and it came highly recommended.

And yes you can definitely make hard boiled eggs by steaming them. I steam for about 10 minutes, but I like my yolks a little more underdone and moist. You can steam them a minute or two longer (11-12 minutes) if you want the yolks firmer and more dry, or a minute or two less (8-9 minute) if you want the eggs medium cooked. I find steaming to be the most consistent way to cook the eggs, because the temperature doesn’t really change or shift as much as they do when you just dunk the eggs in the boiling water. Just make sure to have the ice water bath there, so there isn’t carryover cooking when you remove the eggs from the steamer.

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Chelsea February 7, 2014 at 8:32 am

Oh fair enough; probably better not to say.
Thanks for the hard boiled egg tip. I’m always over-boiling them, even when I do get my act together and prep an ice bath. Easier extraction with this method too, I bet, especially if your steamer has handles.

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Elizabeth @ SugarHero.com February 11, 2014 at 1:43 am

My guess is Gjelina! Wink once for yes, twice for no.

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Bettina February 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm

That’s exactly what I was thinking! And I really don’t think that place is representative of Venice or L.A., it’s just really really snooty bordering on mean.

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Felisa February 3, 2014 at 4:48 pm

I love love love me some soft-boiled eggs. It’s my favorite way to eat eggs. I didn’t even stop when I was pregnant! (But the owner and staff at that restaurant are ridiculous.)

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Pat Fusco February 3, 2014 at 5:39 pm

I love your photos and I love the story. The only thing I don’t love is soft-boiled eggs. (And no, I don’t know why….it’s almost a visceral thing with me.) This has made my life difficult during the last year or so when almost everything in the Bay Area has been served with an egg atop it. Keep up the good work, though, in teaching others how to be perfect!

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:07 pm

You’re not the only one. I know a number of people who have a visceral reaction to soft yolks. I actually used to not like them at all – always ordering my eggs fried over hard. But I slowly have come around (mostly because of AJ). Now I love them.

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Miss Kim @ behgopa February 4, 2014 at 2:02 am

I love a runny yolk, I actually don’t ever eat the yolk when it’s fully cooked, boiled. I can totally relate from the restaurant’s perspective though. I hate it most of the time when someone wants to sub something that alters the entire dish in whole, messing with the vision. But in certain cases, it’s understandable, like in this case with your pregnant friend. Personally, I think I would have just obliged in this type of situation since there is a health factor involved.

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm

No, I totally agree. I’m usually on the same page as subbing does alter the dish and vision. But what got me was they waiter and host both said that my friend could just REMOVE the egg. Wouldn’t taking away a MAIN ingredient like an egg change the dish even more?

Mostly it was just because my friend was pregnant that it seemed ridiculous. Anyone else, sure say they don’t do subs. But someone who is pregnant and has to avoid it…there should be some consideration about that.

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Belinda @zomppa February 4, 2014 at 2:39 am

That’s the most gorgeous yellow!

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:06 pm

Thanks Belinda! We get some really good eggs from our local grocer.

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Vanessa February 4, 2014 at 3:24 am

Hi Irvin,

My husband and I eat eggs for breakfast everyday. I absolutely LOVE soft boiled eggs but can never get them consistently right (we have good and bad days!). For your recipe, does the time needed differ depending on how many eggs we make (i.e do we still need 6 minutes 45 seconds for 2 eggs, or will it be considerably less)? I have an egg steamer from China and depending on how many eggs we make, it needs different amount of water and it takes less or longer time to make it perfectly right. Sorry for being so technical, but I am a bit obsessed with my eggs. Thank you and I think you rock!

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Irvin February 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

Any egg, up to 6 should be the exact same amount of time. So 2 eggs or 6 eggs shouldn’t make a difference. That said, I think the original recipe called for 6 minutes and 30 seconds but I moved it to 6 minutes and 45 seconds because the egg whites were still a touch soft and runny around the yolk every time I made them.

However if you are doing two eggs you can try using the original 6 minutes and 30 seconds and then adjusting from there.

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Amy Andrews February 4, 2014 at 8:11 am

What an idea! Looks yummy – thanks! Will try it.

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Cody February 4, 2014 at 10:50 pm

You are one part evil genius and one part mad scientist.

There is no step too far for the perfect egg.

And this recipe is one that will easily see weekly rotation around here.

Any ideas on a scotch egg with a runny yolk?

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Irvin February 5, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Oooh. Tough one. The problem with scotch eggs is that you double cook the egg, once to make them solid enough to peel and once to Scotch them (can I turn Scotch into a verb? Too late! Just did).

Anyway, you can certainly try by under cooking the egg, but it becomes even harder to peel as the egg white is more delicate. Pierce the bottom (wide part) of the egg with a thumbtack first before steaming. This will help water get in between the egg white and shell to facilitate peeling. Also use older eggs, which peel easier. Try steaming them for 4 1/2 minutes to see if you can get the egg white to firm up but also not cook completely. Keep in mind the longer they cook, the easier they are to peel and not break, but harder they will be when you fry or bake them with the sausage coating. I’ve been working on a runny yolk baked good project for awhile and it’s been hard!

Finally be REALLY gentle with the egg when you roll the sausage around them and bread it. Try as thin a sausage coating as possible so it cooks faster. And once you’re done it, come back and let me know the results!

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Cody February 6, 2014 at 5:26 am

I wonder about freezing the eggs after they’ve been steamed for 2 minutes? Then wrapping the sausage around the frozen egg.

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Irvin February 7, 2014 at 1:05 am

You can try that method, and I’ve read about people doing it that way. But when you freeze eggs, the white gets really rubbery and starts to ooze out water. Maybe if you just put the egg in the freezer for a couple of hours so it gets really cold and starts to firm up but doesn’t really freeze completely. You would have to experiment with it. Let me know your results if you do!

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KC February 5, 2014 at 5:38 am

Cool in icewater for 5 minutes? That sounds like you’d end up with cold eggs. Did I misunderstand the directions?

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Irvin February 5, 2014 at 12:24 pm

You’d be surprised at the heat capacity of a cooked egg. The cold water bath is to stop them hot eggs from cooking further. After about 5 minutes I find the eggs to still be lukewarm (but not hot) which is how I prefer them. That said, if you want your eggs warmer, pull them out after 2 to 3 minutes. It’s pretty easy to feel the temperature of the egg through the shell, so experiment and remove them from the icewater at the temperature you prefer.

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Lindsay February 5, 2014 at 5:39 am

Thank you for sharing! Made three this morning, hoping at least one would be perfect – they were all perfect!!! Of course I ate all three :-/ oops! I’ll have a light lunch :) Thank you, again!!

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Ken February 5, 2014 at 7:31 am

I keep my eggs a room temperature. Any changes to this recipe to accommodate for that?

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Irvin February 5, 2014 at 12:34 pm

To be honest, I’m not sure as I refrigerate my eggs. One thing to keep in mind as well is the older the egg the faster it will cook. Keeping eggs at room temperature ages the egg faster. I think one day at room temperature equals one week in the fridge. There’s a whole crazy science behind it (pH shifting as the egg white age and all that) which is one of the reasons there’s always wiggle room when you make soft boiled/soft cooked eggs.

All that said, I would try reducing the time to 6 minutes to see how that effects the egg then adjust from there. Try one egg first as a test subject to see then adjust. Let me know how it turns out!

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Jennifer February 5, 2014 at 8:53 am

Any trick to peeling them? I always seems to end up with a mess and never a pretty perfect egg like yours.

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Irvin February 5, 2014 at 5:21 pm

I find soft boiled eggs like these are actually easier to peel because they are a little more “pliable” than regular hard boiled eggs. I tap the bottom (wide end) of the egg first on a table or counter or plate. That’s where the egg usually has an air pocket, then I tap the rest of the egg all over to crack the shell. I start peeling from the bottom where the air pocket is and just peel around the egg in a spiral pattern, trying to remove as much as possible.

When you make your eggs though, if you can, use older eggs. They peel much better than fresh eggs. Also if you are going to eat the eggs right away, pierce the bottom (wide end) of the egg with a thumbtack before steaming them. The water will get in between the shell and the white and help with the peeling. Hope these help!

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Tess @ Tips on Healthy Living February 5, 2014 at 2:07 pm

Wow, that restaurant is beyond snooty– it’s just plain rude! But at least you got a nice recipe out of it. I can’t wait to try this!

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Anne February 6, 2014 at 4:34 am

Wow. Never knew there could be so much to the perfect soft-boiled egg, and I learned a lot about eggs in the comments section here too. Found you on Feastie, bookmarking your site, lovely!

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Karen Gaylin February 6, 2014 at 12:19 pm

I’m with you…I hate it when a restaurant takes itself so seriously that the staff argues with the customer over a perfectly reasonable request.
On the other hand, thank you for the tip on steaming/shocking the eggs. I think of soft boiled eggs as the original comfort food complete with toast soldiers for dipping.

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Mandy February 7, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Yum! I love soft boiled eggs (I like mine at 5 1/2 minues and cooled for about a minute) but I have never tried steaming them though.
Do you still have to poke a little hole in them to keep them from cracking?

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Irvin February 7, 2014 at 5:56 pm

I’ve never had a problem with cracking with this method, but I do think when you poke a hole in it, it makes the egg easier to peel. That said, if you plan on keeping the eggs for a few days in the fridge, I would recommend against it as the eggs will spoil faster.

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Krystle February 7, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Yum!

I bet you were dinning at gjelina?

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Marjorie February 8, 2014 at 10:43 am

I can’t believe it…absolute perfection! My lunch looks exactly like your picture :)
I’d given up on mastering the perfect soft-boiled, but your technique and exact timing did the trick! I’ve just discovered your site. Looking forward to more great info.

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Toni | Boulder Locavore February 8, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I love this post. I sometimes feel recipes these days strive for bigger, bolder and better leaving more basics, like a little soft boiled egg, sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to care. I’m glad you do. I grew up with Grandparents for whom a daily soft boiled egg in an egg cup was the norm. We need to celebrate these foods and techniques that really have an art about them.

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Claire February 16, 2014 at 1:12 am

Why are eggs such an issue?! I sent 3 poached eggs back in one restaurant and had 4 members of staff telling me that they were ‘perfect’ – uncooked whites! I eventually left the place and went somewhere else, I can cook- I know a poached egg!

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Liren February 16, 2014 at 2:05 pm

While in general I wholeheartedly support chefs who insist upon no substitutions (and admire when they can stand by their feelings on the matter), I do feel for women who are expecting! I remember well how difficult it is to resist undercooked foods and delicious cheeses and, sigh, sushi! I’m glad an exception was made. I do love a soft-boiled egg – it always reminds me of a proper European breakfast, but it always seems intimidating. Love your tips!

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Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage February 20, 2014 at 11:33 am

These look so amazing…I love a soft boiled egg but have never figured out how to quite master one. I’ll have to give it a try. I think they were being a bit crazy over the request…I totally get having no substitutions on the menu but then there is also customer service. If someone said they were allergic would they make a fuss to take one ingredient out?

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Tzevai March 14, 2014 at 5:40 am

I’ve never been able to master soft-boiled eggs, it’s always trial and error for me! Definitely going to give this a go now though!

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Kristan March 26, 2014 at 5:45 am

Irvin, thank you so much for sharing this technique. I have been trying to recreate “eggs in a cup” from my childhood, which was basically what my Gramma (now gone many years) called soft boiled eggs after she peeled them and served them to me in a coffee mug. Warm fuzzies. Anyways, the boiling method has never worked for me, but this was spot on. I found your technique after Michelle from Nom Nom Paleo shared a link to this post on Facebook. Grateful for both of you!

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Julie March 26, 2014 at 9:12 am

The eggs came out perfect! EXCEPT for the fact that they were cold after sitting in the ice bath for a timed 5 minutes. Maybe I put too much ice? I’ll prob take them out of the ice bath in 3 minutes next time.

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kmcm March 29, 2014 at 5:59 pm

Julie
I left themfor 3 minutes ….2 would even be ok….5 is too much if you want to eat them warm

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KMcM March 29, 2014 at 12:05 pm

PERFECTION! I tried this today exactly & they are perfect! Thank you! The key to a perfect soft boiled egg is getting the whites done while getting that soft center & it’s tricky. This gives you the firm white and the runny middle of total YUM! :)

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