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Do not overcook the egg. This is typically where most people go wrong. If the shell is sticking to it and you lose most of the egg as you peel it, then you know you have committed this sin. Hard-boiled eggs should be boiled for 5 minutes, soft, runny eggs for 3 minutes.
Do not forget to place eggs in cold water. Wait until water has come to the boil and then time it with your watch, or better still an egg timer (3 or 5 minutes depending on whether you want soft or hard) to cook your perfect egg.
Do not buy non-organic eggs. Fresh, free-range, organic eggs are a must. I would never buy hormone-riddled, big eggs.
Do not cook eggs in too little water. Eggs need to be covered. To avoid cracking the egg, place it in the saucepan with a spoon.
Do not forget to run cooked eggs under a cold tap. It makes the peeling of the egg much easier and makes burnt fingertips a thing of the past.
Do not eat more than is recommended by nutritionists. Eggs are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals but if you have very high blood cholesterol, you should restrict egg consumption to no more than four a week.
Do not forget a pinch of salt and a dash of vinegar. And serve your eggs with crusty toast and butter.
The older the egg the larger the air sack in the bottom. With soft-boiled eggs it's not as important but when you peel a hard-boiled one you will find half the bottom missing.


For soft-boiled, take a 60g egg from the fridge and place it in a small saucepan, adding enough water to cover the egg by 2cm. Place the pan over a medium-high heat until the water boils. Then reduce the heat to a medium simmer and cook the egg for one minute and 45 seconds from the time the water originally boiled. Remove the egg from the pan, place in an egg cup and remove the top. This results in an egg with a runny yolk which is ideal for dipping toast fingers.
OR Fully immerse the eggs in a pot of cold water (again this provides extra insurance against cracking). Bring the pot slowly to simmering point (between 96C and 99C). Let it simmer for about 4 minutes for soft-boiled.
OR For a soft-boiled egg that is just set, put enough water in a small pan to cover an egg and heat on a middle setting. On my induction stove the settings are between 1 and 9 so I would heat the pan on a 5. You don't want the water to boil, only a very low simmer - you just want to see a few bubbles. Then leave the egg like this for between 12 and 15 minutes. Remove from the water and run under a cold tap until the outside of the egg is no longer hot.
For four 65g soft-boiled eggs, the eggs are also best cooked from room temperature. Bring 1 litre of lightly salted water in a small saucepan to 85C. You will need a thermometer to test this. Carefully lower the eggs into the water and maintain the temperature between 80C and 85C for 5 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water, place in egg cups and serve immediately. I have found that you can achieve a more consistent soft-boiled egg with a just-set white and a warm runny yolk if you cook your eggs in 85C water for exactly 5 minutes. The heat penetrates more slowly at this temperature and the egg proteins set more gently than they would if you boiled them rapidly.
For soft-boiled, I always favour the cold water start. Place your (fresh laid) eggs into a pot allowing at least 10 times the volume of the eggs. Place the pot on a high heat until just simmering. Time three minutes and remove.

How to boil an egg

1. How do you boil eggs? The answer to this is carefully. What we need to do first of all is memorise a few very important rules. Don't ever boil eggs that have come straight from the refrigerator, because very cold eggs plunged straight into hot water are likely to crack. Always use a kitchen timer trying to guess the timing or even remembering to look at your watch can be hazardous. Never over-boil eggs (you won't if you have a timer) this is the cardinal sin because the yolks will turn black and the texture will be like rubber. If the eggs are very fresh (less than four days old), allow an extra 30 seconds on each timing.



2. Always use a small saucepan eggs with too much space to career about and crash into one another while they cook are likely to crack. Never have the water fast boiling; a gentle simmer is all they need. Remember that eggs have a pocket at their wide end where air collects and, during the boiling, pressure can build up and cause cracking. A simple way to deal with this is to make a pinprick in the rounded end of the shell, which will allow the steam to escape.



3. Obviously, every single one of us has a personal preference as to precisely how we like our eggs cooked. Over the years I have found a method that is both simple and reliable, and the various timings set out here seem to accommodate all tastes. On the subject of eating soft-boiled eggs, I personally am willing to take the risk. As a general practice, though, it is not advisable to serve these to vulnerable groups, such as very young children, pregnant women, the elderly or anyone weakened by serious illness.



Soft-boiled eggs method 1


First of all, have a small saucepan filled with enough simmering water to cover the eggs by about 1/2 inch (1 cm). Then quickly, but gently, lower the eggs into the water, one at a time, using a tablespoon. Now switch a timer on and give the eggs exactly 1 minute's simmering time. Then remove the pan from the heat, put a lid on it and set the timer again, giving the following timings:

  • 6 minutes will produce a soft, fairly liquid yolk and a white that is just set but still quite wobbly
  • 7 minutes will produce a firmer, creamier yolk with a white that is completely set.



Soft-boiled eggs method 2

I have found this alternative method also works extremely well. This time you place the eggs in the saucepan, cover them with cold water by about 1/2 inch (1 cm), place them on a high heat and, as soon as they reach boiling point, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and give the following timings:

  • 3 minutes if you like a really soft boiled egg
  • 4 minutes for a white that is just set and a yolk that is creamy
  • 5 minutes for a white and yolk perfectly set, only a little bit squidgy in the centre.



Hard-boiled eggs


Place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover them by about 1/2 inch (1 cm). Bring the water up to simmering point, put a timer on for 6 minutes if you like a bit of squidgy in the centre, 7 minutes if you want them cooked through. Then, the most important part is to cool them rapidly under cold running water. Let the cold tap run over them for about 1 minute, then leave them in cold water till they're cool enough to handle about 2 minutes.



4. Peeling hard-boiled eggs can be extremely tricky if the eggs are too fresh. The number one rule, therefore, is to use eggs that are at least five days old from their packing date. The best way to do this is to first tap the eggs all over to crack the shells, then hold each egg under a slow trickle of running water as you peel the shell off, starting at the wide end. The water will flush off any bits of shell that cling on. Then back they go into cold water until completely cold. If you don't cool the eggs rapidly they will go on cooking and become overcooked, then you get the black-ring problem.


For hard-boiled, place enough water in a small saucepan to completely cover the egg and bring to a full boil. Lower a room-temperature egg into the water with a spoon, turn the heat down to a medium simmer and cook for 8 minutes. Remove the egg and place into a bowl of ice water and leave to cool for a couple of minutes. This should result in a golden yolk with a little moisture in the middle. Avoid cooking the egg too long as it results in a yolk of strange colour and texture.
 For hard-boiled, put enough water in a small pan to cover the egg. This time boil the water but as soon as it boils turn it down to a simmer. Leave the egg in the simmering water for 10 minutes.
For four 65g hard-boiled eggs, the eggs are best boiled from room temperature. Pour 1 litre of lightly salted water into a small saucepan. Heat the water to just before boiling point and carefully lower the eggs into the water. Bring the water to the boil but do not allow it to boil vigorously - maintain a gentle boil for one minute exactly. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow the eggs to cool slowly in the water (this can take up to an hour). When the water is cool, remove the eggs, peel and slice in half. The yolk should be set but not dry.
For hard boiled eggs, remove the pot from the heat and leave the eggs in the water for another 10 minutes. Refresh under cold running water and peel if required. Don't boil the eggs as they crack on the bottom of the pot and at such a high temperature, the yolk is in danger of getting that horrible grey-green ring around it - this is a simple chemical reaction and one that is easily avoided.

Toppings for soft-boiled eggs:

Serve soft-boiled eggs with a selection of delicate flavourings, leaving everyone to mix their preferred ingredients into their egg. Allow two eggs each - they are bound to be popular, especially if you serve them on a large platter for brunch. Why not push the boat out and serve them for breakfast in bed with a ramekin of caviar?
Cut a medium onion, a small chunk of red, yellow or green capsicum, a small zucchini, a dwarf eggplant and a skinned ripe tomato into 3-4mm dice. Gently heat 3 tbsp of olive oil in a small saucepan, sweat the onion for 2 minutes, then add the capsicum and cook for 5 minutes. Add the zucchini then, at intervals of 2 minutes, the eggplant and tomato. Season with salt and pepper, add a few thyme leaves and serve just warm.
Remove stones from green and black olives, chop and mix.
Mini croutons
Cut the crust from a slice of white bread and cut the bread into tiny cubes. Heat a little clarified butter and fry the croutons over medium heat until golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve warm.
Small ones are best. Rinse off the vinegar under cold running water and drain well.
Soft fresh herbs
Finely snip chervil, flat-leaf parsley and chives.
Grated cheese
There is nothing better than freshly grated parmesan.
Salt and pepper
Freshly milled sea salt and cracked pepper are essential.