Making perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs at home everytime (Part 1)

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Are you crazy over soft-boiled eggs?

If not, you may find this post puzzling and will be wondering what the fuss is all about.

But for the rest of us, wouldn't it be great if we could this at home to look and taste better then those at our fave coffee-shops? Consistently, everytime?

When my daughters were kids, I remember bringing them out for kaya toast and soft-boiled eggs breakfast. My daughter quipped, "Why come all the way here when you can make this at home?" Hmm, why indeed. I found it difficult then to try and explain that places like these get them right - everytime. "What do you mean, dad? Eggs are eggs."

Oh well. They are too young to understand.

I have already  mentioned the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang in this post. I was intrigued by a write up on slow poached eggs. This is a time tested "Onsen Tamago" (which means "hot spring eggs") way of cooking which the Japanese folks have mastered by lowering a basket of eggs in hot springs and keeping them there at a constant temperature of 62 C or 141 F. This technique produces creamier yolks and firm translucent whites.

(This scientific post on eggs has a great photo of the eggs in hot springs. Check it out. Sounds nerdy but some crunched scientific data given there.)

Can you tell which egg is fresher?
And recently, I chanced upon a video post by (who else?) by ieat featuring Chef Tim giving a lesson on slow-poaching egg this way. Keep the eggs in a water bath with a constant temperature of 62 C for 45 mins.

62C 45m eggs. That's it. This is the kind of eggs I want on my breakfast table.

And it has been that way since. It looks and tastes spectacular, great texture - everytime. You don't get the unevenness in the egg white - hardened in some parts, watery elsewhere - which you normally get when you make them the conventional way.  

Recently, I had 7 guests for breakfast. It gave them an amazing slurpy start to the day.

Why 62-45? At 62°C, the egg white (denaturing of the protein ovotransferrin) starts to coagulate. You need a long enough time so that the egg is cooked right through. There is a good write up here describing how the eggs changes with the temperature when placed in a water bath for 45 mins.

So, what do you need? You may devise another way according to the tools you have. For me, I use this:
  • Thermometer 
  • A pot
  • Induction cooker (Easier to control temp, no fire to mess around with)
  • A basin (to collect water from tap which keeps the temp constant) 
 The photo below should be self-explanatory.
  1. Put a plate or steam rack at the bottom of the pot so that the eggs stay at the center of the pot, where the temp is most constant. Insert the thermometer
  2. Heat up your pot of water. When nearing 60c, Set your induction cooker at the lowest "keep warm" setting.
  3. Using drips from the tap (hope yours can swivel) adjust the water drip to keep the temp constant at range 62-65 C
  4. ...45 minutes. Set the timer on the Induction Cooker. 
As long as you understand the principle, there are many ways to do this..rice cooker, hand-held heated water coil, slow cooker etc. I use drips from tap so that I don't need to monitor it too much. If you use a deeper pot, you don't even need a basin. Just find a way to have water dripping slowly into the pot. There are many ways to keep the temp constant. Figure it out. If your pot can keep to 62-65 C thereabout without any water drips, that is fine as well. Some induction cookers can go as low as 60+ C at the lowest keep warm temp. Just experiment. (For other methods, read here)
This is my "Manual Sous Vide" set-up
Whether u r making 2 or 20 eggs, the effort is the same
You may have been expecting me to mention this word: sous vide (in French it means "under vacuum"). It is basically about vacuum sealing the food-to-be in its marinade, put it in a water bath which is kept at a constant temperature for a duration of time. It is all science and maths to get the right formula (time and temp), and the food will come out the same way - everytime.    

It is a cooking technique which I am quite sure will be regularly used in households not too far into the future. There are many advantages to this way of cooking but I will leave it to some future post.

In a sense, these eggs are being sous vide. They do not need to be vacuum sealed as the egg yolk and white are naturally sealed by the shells.  (Note: I have since gone for a more convenient but affordable Sous Vide set up. Read here for the details.)

Anyway don't worry too much about the science of this. Just remember the basics. 

Egged to Perfection using CP's fresh chilled eggs: With some dashes of black pepper, soy sauce and dashes of truffle flavored olive oil. Yum.
Great results from Seng Choon's farm fresh eggs too

CP's chilled fresh eggs. Fresh!
As the white is firm, these eggs taste great if served chilled. Great as an appetiser served in a small glass bowl or wine glass. Try it with some Jap soy sauce, black pepper and truffle flavored olive oil, with some soft leafy green. Or some aged balsamic vinegar. It is up to you. 

Some may find this a bother. I will say, only a bother if you or some in your family adore these eggs. The 45 mins extra is worth it if you can think of a workable contraption with minimal fuss or attention.

I prefer to use CP Fresh Chilled Eggs (sold at NTUC Fairprice, fridge section), which are washed and chilled within the hour. They are fresh, taste and look better (yolk creamier, white is firm). Twice the price at 38cts per egg, but unless you are that broke, it will not hurt your wallet to get better eggs. Do the sums, you likely to spend a whole lot more on other food you eat throughout the day. (By the way, this is not a sponsored post! I am simply promoting a good product.)

For my family (which includes me!), I cook a batch, chill it in some ice (for safer food hygiene) and fridge it immediately. For the next 2-3 days, we will take them out, warmed it up in hot for about 5 minutes in an opened container and enjoy a glorious breakfast. 

Easy and yum. If you are making a batch for the week, spending more time to get it perfected makes sense. 

Try it. Your breakfast at home will not be the same again.

Note: I have since then experimented with other methods. Read here

Steamer rack to hold the eggs
The freshest of the lot

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  1. Amazing results! I love soft boiled eggs too. But 45 min.... don't think I have the patience to wait. haha. But it sure looks great :)

  2. Hi Nel- just cook it occasionally in this way, esp when u r feeding a few. :)

  3. Hi all, how about induction cookers with a digital temperature setting? Will that be easier?

  4. now u are making me want to have some of the eggs!

    those chilled fresh eggs are very expensive though. :-)

  5. All you really need is an immersion circulator or sous vide supreme. Like seriously, going to all that trouble?

  6. It seems interesting to try! ^ ^

    May I ask if the eggs that are being cook should be of room temperature before they are being cooked in the 62-65C water?
    (I believe some people store their eggs in the refrigerator.)

    Thanks! :D

  7. Glenn - I don't want to pay 800+ for Sous Vide Supreme but I did order a cheaper immersion circulator. Will work out a "Ghetto Sous Vide."

    But that said, doing it the way I am doing now, is not a lot of trouble...depends as always on how much a person appreciate these type of eggs. If u don't, not worth the trouble.

  8. Anon - You can also take it out of the fridge and put it in the water before u switch on the heat, by the time the temp reaches 62C, your eggs should be fairly warmed already. Go for 50 mins. Best to keep the eggs chilled in the fridge as that help to maintain freshness.

  9. Keropok Man - 6 of those CP chilled eggs cost 2.50 (or 2.40 sometimes when on sale). That works out to 40 cts per egg. Twice the price of normal eggs (my alternative is Seng Choon - about $3 for 12), but worth paying the extra if you enjoy these or serving guests

  10. Anon - though yr induction cooker has temp setting, you still need to measure the water temp. But if you are confident that the indicator is accurate, you could do without a thermometer. Experiment...

  11. Wow! I was just experimenting with "half boiled" eggs few weeks ago, wasted 4 good organic eggs. And I still could not get it right like how the coffeeshops in Msia do. Some people suggested getting the "egg maker" (drip of hot water) from Msia which I just may when I go back.

    45mins for this, is really a little too long though.

  12. Tsu Lin: You can use the plastic egg maker (which I have been using for years) though you will not be able to get the same results like what you see in the post.

    It is about 30 mins more then the conventional way. Give it a try. Once u get the hang of it, it is smooth sailing. Just do it first thing in the morning. What I like about it is...whether the egg is fridge-cold or at room temp, large or small, 2 or 20, the end result is the same and consistently good.

  13. Cool blog! Was wondering, when the eggs are heated up again, your blog mentions hot water in an open container. Is it boiling hot water?

  14. Thanks. Hot water will do. Not boiling water.

  15. Hello FC!
    I really enjoy reading your blog, especially on SV cooking & looking at all the mouth-watering photos. I am really fired up on SV & looking forward to trying out all your SV recipe during the winter months when I visit my son in the US. Can the SV method be used to produce Hainanese Chicken, with that wonderful layer of jelly under the skin? If can, what would be the settings? I suppose it will have to be done in portions as it would not be possible to vacume sealed a whole chicken.

    1. Sous vide Hainanese Chicken is one "project" which I will be working on soon. Will let u know the temps and duration. Easier to cook in portions,

  16. hi, do you take eggs straight out of the fridge, or are they placed in the bath at room temperature?

    1. I normally take them straight out from the fridge. In the bath, they warm up very fast.

  17. You can get the above result in 4 simple steps:
    1) put fresh eggs (room temperature)into container or steel tin (eg. milo tin)
    2) pour in freshly boil water till eggs cover with boiling water and stir the eggs few times with a chopstick and cover the tin for 2 minutes.
    3) after 2 minutes, open the tin and stir again and cover for another 2 minutes and open the cover and let it rest for another 2 minutes.
    4) pour away the hot water and serve. total time is 6 minutes.


    1. Important: eggs must be fresh to get the wanted result.
      Water must be in boiling temperature.
      The stirring process is to make sure the eggs boiled up evenly.

  18. This is my favourite way to have eggs too, but this is how I have been doing it for ages:

    In a small pot, submerge (with 1cm extra) two eggs with boiling hot water. Cover the pot. It will be ready in 11 minutes.