If you’re looking for the perfect soft boiled egg, look not further. This recipes is foolproof and incredibly easy. (Jump directly to the recipe.)
“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.
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.
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?
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.
Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs
By Irvin Lin
AJ has always loved his soft boiled eggs. Seriously loved them. The firm white and the runny yellow yolk. What’s not to love? Of course, there’s very little risk that he’ll become pregnant so I make them pretty frequently. The secret, funny enough, is NOT to boil the eggs but to steam them, as that keeps the temperature consistent (if you boil them, the cold eggs will shift the water temperature). I user a steamer basket because it’s easier, but if you don’t have one, just place the eggs in the water with tongs (they won’t be submerged, but the water will steam the eggs). Start to finish they’re done in ten minutes.
Recipe adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.
4-6 large eggs, refrigerator cold
1 tray of ice cubes
Large pot with lid
1. Fill a pot with 1/2-inch of water and cover it. Place on the stove and turn the heat to high until boiling.
2. Place the eggs in a steamer basket. Once the water is boiling (shouldn’t take too long), remove lid, place the steamer basket with the eggs in them, inside the pot (the water level should not be above the steamer basket). Replace lid, leaving the heat on high and steam the eggs for 6 minutes and 45 seconds to 7 minutes and 15 seconds (the time difference may vary, see editor’s note below).
3. While the eggs are steaming, empty a tray of ice cubes into a large bowl and fill with cold water. Once the time is up and the eggs are done steaming, remove them from the steamer basket, one at a time with the tongs, and place them in the ice bath to stop them from cooking. Let cool for 3-5 minutes before serving with salt and pepper.
Makes 4-6 eggs.
Editor’s Note #1: A few people have mentioned that they thought letting the eggs cool in the ice bath for 5 minutes was too long and resulted in cold eggs. I’ve changed the cool time in the recipe above to 3-5 minutes. Let the eggs cool for 3 minutes to stop the eggs from cooking but still have them warm. Let them cool for longer if you wish to serve the eggs a little cooler over a salad or store them in the fridge for later.
Editor’s Note #2: A few people mentioned the egg wasn’t completely cooked in the shorter time of 6 minutes and 45 seconds. I’ve added a bit of a time length variable that is dependent on your own circumstance. The time difference in how long you steam your eggs will depend on how cold they start out, how large they are and at what altitude you might be. If you keep your refrigerator very cold, go for a little bit longer time, 7 to 7 minutes 15 seconds. Same if the eggs are larger than average (even “large” eggs can vary in size). If you are at a higher altitude your water will boil at a lower temperature and thus might take longer as well to cook.
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
The Suzzzz says
*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.
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.
The ice bath is TOTALLY worth it. It’s another step, but luckily a pretty easy one.
Amy @Very Culinary says
I want all 6 eggs, please.
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…
Jennie @themessybakerblog says
Why do people have to make such a simple task such an ordeal. Yikes! This soft boiled egg looks lush.
This comment is so true it taste delicious,mouthwatering
Shikha @ Shikha la mode says
I love Huckleberry! I go there almost every time I visit LA. Their green eggs and ham is fantastic, much like your recipe here!
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…
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.
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.
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.
Elizabeth @ SugarHero.com says
My guess is Gjelina! Wink once for yes, twice for no.
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.
Amy Alkon says
Gjelina is a parasitic place that took advantage of antiquated zoning laws to open with ZERO parking spaces for the hundreds and hundreds of customers they bring in at lunch and dinner. They park in our residential neighborhood and have effectively ruined it. I can no longer leave home unless I have maybe a half an hour to drive around and search for parking. As the late economist Pigou said, a business should pay for its costs out of its profits, not pass them on to the neighbors around it. If you aren’t a parasite, perhaps you shouldn’t support Gjelina by patronizing them.
Amy Alkon says
Oh, and specifically about this post, thank you so much, Irvin, for the tips and the beautiful photos. I eat eggs every morning and I’m going to slow-cook them tomorrow, thanks to you.
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.)
Pat Fusco says
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!
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.
Miss Kim @ behgopa says
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.
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.
Belinda @zomppa says
That’s the most gorgeous yellow!
Thanks Belinda! We get some really good eggs from our local grocer.
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!
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.
Amy Andrews says
What an idea! Looks yummy – thanks! Will try it.
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?
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!
I wonder about freezing the eggs after they’ve been steamed for 2 minutes? Then wrapping the sausage around the frozen egg.
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!
Cool in icewater for 5 minutes? That sounds like you’d end up with cold eggs. Did I misunderstand the directions?
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.
I cooled my eggs in the ice bath for two mins and they were only a little warm. I think cooling them in the ice bath just until they are cool enough to handle would work best if you plan to serve them immediately.
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!!
I keep my eggs a room temperature. Any changes to this recipe to accommodate for that?
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!
Any trick to peeling them? I always seems to end up with a mess and never a pretty perfect egg like yours.
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!
Tess @ Tips on Healthy Living says
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!
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!
Karen Gaylin says
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.
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?
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.
I bet you were dinning at gjelina?
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.
Toni | Boulder Locavore says
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.
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!
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!
Mariah-Food, Booze, & Baggage says
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?
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!
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!
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.
I left themfor 3 minutes ….2 would even be ok….5 is too much if you want to eat them warm
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! 🙂
Love it! Love it! Love it! Perfect! Thanks! 🙂
Could you be more specific about what to do with the heat once the water boils and you put the eggs in? You said to put it on high till the water boiled but never mentioned it after that.
Hi Allie. Sorry about that! You want to keep the heat on high with the lid on. The water should continue to boil but the eggs are above the water so they are steaming at a constant temperature. I’ve gone ahead and clarified that in the recipe above. Thanks!
Thanks! I turned down the heat at some points because I was nervous to overcook them but they still turned out great!
The beauty of steaming them is that the temperature is constant. So you can’t overcook as long as you pull them out and put them in the ice bath. The only risk is boiling out all the water but as long as you cover the pot and have enough water, it’s not an issue.
But I’m glad it worked out for you!
I always end up over cooking my eggs when i try to soft boil them. I came across this method last night and they came out PERFECT!!! It was just me so i only cooked two eggs and steamed them for 5 min 30 secs and used the ice bath for about 2 min! I’ve never had a better soft boiled egg!
Christianne S Wirick says
Being over 6000 ft. I had to cook mine a bit longer but they were perfect. the only better are the ones Mom makes for me with love.
Found this on Pinterest. I’m on the fast metabolism diet and in phase 3 I can have whole eggs. Ohmygosh. I made 2 (left them in the ice water a bit too long as they weren’t nice and warm) and had them on a toasted kamut bread. Amazing. Can’t wait to have them again tomorrow!!
Pharaoh's daughter says
Thank you very much for this soft boiled method. I made two batches this morning an they were consistently and nicely (hard whites & runny, waxy yolks) soft boiled. Sincerely appreciated.
Though I’m a little (?) late to this party, I was happy to find this recipe just by putting “Perfect Soft Cooked Eggs” in the search line.
I don’t know exactly what I did wrong, but the very outer part of the yolk, with each of 4 eggs coming out slightly different than the others; about a 1/16 to an ⅛ to even a ¼ of an inch had started to harden. They were eminently edible, but not quite as “perfect” as I was hoping they would be. At least the whites were done perfectly and to me that’s very important. I’ll adjust the steaming time to a little bit less, perhaps 6:15 minutes or even 6:30 minutes and sooner or later I’ll find my mark. Thanks.
Hi there! Just wanted to say thank you for sharing this! I’m often intimidated by cooking eggs…something that can seem so simple can go wrong so quickly! But this method worked out great!! And on top of it all, these were – hands down – the easiest soft boiled eggs to peel that I’ve ever made! I did give them a thwack on bottom to open up the shell (without breaking the membrane) before setting them in water. Anyway, thanks a bunch! Will be checking out the rest of this here blog shortly. 🙂
I was just reading this cause I just made my very first batch of soft boiled eggs ever, and they turned out perfectly! Honestly, I was going for medium boiled, and I used a different suggestion on Google search than this one, but I had never had them before and wasn’t sure if I’d like them runny like that. But oh yeah I do!
And they were so easy to peel too as long as I kept them in cold water. And within a couple minutes of cooling, I cracked each one and put it back in the cold water so it would be easier to peel. And it worked!
I boiled them the usual way though, from room temperature, and put them in after the salt water came to a boil. Then I put the timer on 7.5 minutes and kept it at a gentle simmer.
But the main thing I wanted to mention is that I don’t feel that an ice bath is even necessary. The way my mom taught me to cook hard boiled eggs, long ago, and when they’re done, just take the pan with the boiling water to the sink and just start running cold water into it, and while you’re doing this, pour as much of the boiling water out without messing up the eggs, and very quickly, you have a bath of very cold water in the same pan.
It skips a huge step, and you don’t have to take each egg out separately, avoiding some cooking longer than others. This way they’re all the same.
Just stumbled across this recipe somehow while cruising for the perfect boiled egg. I’m supremely happy now!! Rushed straight home and made these! I could have eaten all 6!! I just had 2 but they were divine and gone too quickly. *sigh! I have 2 left for breakfast and I’m hoping they are just as good cold, although I doubt it. This shall now be a regular addition to many meals! Thank you!!
Found this to be a great story and decided to give the perfect soft boiled egg a try, since I had a hankering. Loved everything about the method except for a couple things. 1) cook time – I ended up going for 7 minutes and 10 seconds, which was absolutely not long enough. Maybe it was the thickness of my pot, not sure but I’m thinking 8-9 would have been just right. 2) it may have been a result of the underdone eggs but after about 3 minutes of an ice bath and running the eggs under cold water while peeling, the temperature was very cool. Runny cold eggs makes you feel as if you pulled some raw eggs from fridge.
This did not work. I followed it to the letter and ended up with raw eggs. Now I have to re cook then and I will be late for work
Just made these and they were perfect. Thanks for the recipe. I would not have known that a steamer basket could be used for this purpose.
simply stumbled throughout this recipe by some means at the same time as cruising for the right boiled egg. I’m supremely glad now!! Rushed straight domestic and made these! I ought to have eaten all 6!! I simply had 2 but they had been divine and long gone too speedy.
Natasha ALi says
thank you very a great deal for this soft boiled method. I made two batches this morning an they were always and well (tough whites & runny, waxy yolks) smooth boiled. in reality favored.
I made the best ever soft boiled “my fave” eggs finally! I have a stomach bug, the most awful kind,and haven’t been able to eat for 2 days. This was a welcomed first meal treat! It is -50°F in Cicago. Cooked for 7 min. Cooked 3 min and viola! Perfect! Thanks!?
Jonathan Stevens says
Ice cubes are unnecessary. Steamer basket is unnecessary. Place egg(s) in 1/2 inch of boiling water with tongs, cover and steam for 6.5 minutes; run cold water into the pot for 90 seconds. Perfect soft-boiled eggs every time.
I followed this exactly and my eggs came out RAW… the whites were watery. I had to throw them out! 0 stars, would not recommend. Also will never read this blog again.
Judith Gould says
I’m also interested in this. I would like to start my blog about a photo, what can you advise?
Interesting the whole exchange over soft egg yolks. 6 pregnancies later eating soft eggs (runny yolks!!) multiple times a week and I have some dang healthy kids 🙂 And I know plenty of momma’s that do the same.