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Eggs Enough and Time

Daily Gullet Staff

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  • 1 year later...

This was certainly an entertaining post, but hardly the last word on how to cook an egg. For that, you need to understand some recent research that discusses the effect that both temperature and time have on an egg, and turns conventional thinking upside down. See http://blog.khymos.org/2011/04/23/perfect-egg-yolks-part-2/.

Now, at last, we have a means of controlling the consistency of the egg yolk through a very simple means. Simply cook the eggs in a temperature-controlled water bath for the desired time and temperature, using something like the Sous Vide Magic controlling a rice cooker filled with water, or a high-end immersion circulator, or even a Styrofoam cooler and tea pot of hot water, and then either serve the egg immediately or chill it for future use. For example, picking 63°C for a reasonable trade-off between the precision of the graph and the cooking time, we can see that 50 minutes would yield a consistency of sweetened condensed milk, 80 minutes that of honey, 125 minutes that of cookie icing, and approximately 160 minutes that of Marmite. If those times are too long for your taste, pick a slightly higher temperature and adjust accordingly.

OK, that gives us whatever consistency we want in terms of the yolk. But what about those snotty whites?

Well, here we can go back to a much more basic cooking technique, simply boiling the eggs for a short period of time in order to set the white to the desired consistency, but not so long as to heat up the yolk; then chilling them back to room temperature before cooking the egg yolks to the desired consistency. The outer egg white (the thin albumin) that is in contact with the shell will set, while the inner white (the thicker albumin) that surrounds the yolk will not, and neither will the yolk itself. But when using this technique, it is important to cool the egg quickly after boiling it, so that the hot temperature does not diffuse to the center of the egg.

According to several reports, the boiling step to set the egg white can be done either before or after cooking the egg yolk with equivalent results, so long as the egg is chilled back down to room temperature before cooking the yolk. But it should be noted that it is the interior of the yolk that needs to be chilled, and not just the whites, so the water should be cold, and the egg left in it for perhaps 30 minutes before cooking the yolk.

In my experiments, pre-boiling the egg for two minutes left the white a little runnier than I would like for most applications, but three minutes was about right. (I should note that I live in Taos, NM at an altitude of 7000 ft or 2133 meters, where the boiling point of water is 99.9°C /199.3°F, neglecting barometric pressure fluctuations. If you are at sea level, a little less than three minutes might be required for the same results.)

The eggs were pre-boiled for two and three minutes, respectively, directly from the fridge, then allowed to cool down to room temperature in a water bath. Then they were cooked in a precision water bath at 63°C/145°F for 60 minutes, 75 minutes, and 125 minutes, using two sous vide machines. Of the three different times, 63C for 125 minutes following a 3-minute pre-boil was clearly the best, at least from the standpoint of standing alone and looking “sexy.” A thin lining (1 or 2 mm) of egg white was left inside the shell, but the yolk with some white set around it separated cleanly. When the yolk was broken with a fork, the contents were somewhere between the consistency of honey and cookie icing — just like I wanted for my purposes, e.g., for serving the yolk on grilled asparagus, but maybe too thick for a poached egg on toast.

Finally, a word of caution if you are using an immersion circulator, or a Fresh Meals Magic with a bubbler, or any other sous vide appliance with a built-in circulator. There is a non-trivial risk that an egg could crack during the cooking process, and especially so if they are bouncing around in the tank. If that happens, you are going to have a messy cleanup to deal with — particularly if any egg white coagulates inside the circulator. For that reason, I would recommend cooking the eggs in a Ziploc bag that is filled with hot water from the thermal bath to surround the eggs. You may want to suspend the bag from a skewer to facilitate filling it, as well as providing a means of fast and easy retrieval. The water in the bag will quickly equilibrate with the water in the sous vide container, but if an egg cracks or breaks it will be confined to the bag.

Asparagus with perfect egg-0097.jpg

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Robert:Very enlightening! Thanks. (Of course, had I known all this I'd never have had the courage to write the piece.)

Parhermo: Perfection! I now know what I'm making for lunch.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel


A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites


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I used this article for inspiration when testing cooking time for medium eggs (a size I've never used before) with perfect set-whites, soft-yolk to completely-runny yolk, to be peeled and marinated in a water/mirin/soy mix (3:1:1). Its freaking impossible to peel an intact egg if the whites are not fully set. It deforms and destroys itself. I will stand by that statement until and unless someone provides hard documentary evidence and a demonstration to the contrary.

I eventually ended at 3:50 minutes, for a product like Parmhero's. I love that picture!

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The Ramen issue of David Chang's Lucky Peach is positively obsessed with egg cookery - I'm having a really great time playing with the different lengths of time and methods. I'm charmed and amazed by the variety of textures and effects that can be achieved by small variations in technique.

"Life itself is the proper binge" Julia Child

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Of course, for a perfectly runny yolk, where no white is desired, one could simply separate a raw egg and use the yolk (much as its used in the asparagus pic a couple posts up.).

Guaranteed not to be overcooked.

"You dont know everything in the world! You just know how to read!" -an ah-hah! moment for 6-yr old Miss O.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Dear Maggie,

One small step for soft boiled eggs is definitely one giant step for egg boilers. But of course, like all cooking, it's an endless journey this quest for the holy grail of the perfect soft-boiled egg. FRESHNESS effects the cooking time required..and SIZE MATTERS so you'll need to add a minute for each upgrade from medium to large to extra large...and then there's there's the WHITE TEXTURE, salting the cooking water makes it toughen to rubber instead of setting softly luscious...then the YOLK CENTERING, turning your carton of eggs sideways the day before cooking will centre your cooked yolk perfectly.....oh...and now how to avoid that GREY-GREEN HALO when the iron in the yolk meets the sulphur in the white...

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My quest for the perfect soft-boiled eggs ended when I discovered how to make 45min 65°C Onsen Tamago eggs, initially with some simple home kitchen equipment (blogged here), and then later, using Sous Vide.

The problem with eating perfect eggs this way everytime is it takes away the art and make the process too predictable.

The destination is great but I have lost the joy of the journey.


Edited by Food Canon (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I recall some discussion about egg toppers a few months ago but can't find a specific topic so am posting here.

Perhaps there might be interest in the Rosle Egg Topper

that is now on Amazon's 4-for-3 promotion.

Also on the promotion re the OXO good grips 3-qt and 5-qt colanders

and another 4-for-3 item is a set of Bodum Pavina double wall glasses (I ordered the 12 ounce size)

And I have placed an order for enough things that I am getting one egg topper and one set of glasses free and am passing along the info in case anyone else is contemplating purchase of things that will certainly make great holiday gifts - and free!. :wub:

Edited by andiesenji (log)

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett


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