When is it a 3 Minute Egg?

I have recently been made more aware of eating “heart healthy” food.  Not that we haven’t been eating healthy.  We eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lots of fish, smaller portions of lean meat.  We read labels, and minimize salt and fats.  My wife makes most things from scratch and we have very little processed food.  But recent events encourage us to be more meticulous with our eating.

I enjoy having an egg for breakfast most every day.  Usually fried, with butter to keep from sticking.  But I’ve changed to boiling the egg (avoid the butter!), which I also enjoy.  And what I really enjoy is a soft boiled egg.  The question arises, how do you prepare a consistent soft boiled egg?

I can remember my mother preparing eggs for breakfast.  Apparently the measure of excellence is a 3 minute egg.  Mom had one of those hourglass timers that you turn over, and the white sand spills from top to bottom.  Simple right?

But my first efforts at preparing the 3 minute egg were not consistent.  Sometimes I did get the perfect amount of softness:  the yolk was still soft, but most of the white had changed from watery to the solid white. But other times I would get the white and the yolk to be past soft (although never “hard”).  Other times too soft with too much of the watery white.  What made the difference? Obviously the issue was how long the egg spent cooking.

I tried changing the variables.  Take the egg out of the fridge.  This usually resulted in a cracked egg.  So I tried to always use an egg held at room temperature. (If I remembered to remove one from the fridge).  Then I tried putting the egg in the water before applying heat.  Although I timed this from when the water started boiling, the results were really variable. Which one never knows without breaking the shell. Then I tried putting the room temperature egg into the water just after it started to boil.  This proved more consistent. Then I paid attention to how long the egg was in the water.  Note here that “boiling water” means not a fast rolling boil, but a slow boil, with consistent bubbles coming up. (The fast boil seemed to be a factor leading to inconsistent results.)  I found that 3 minutes was just not long enough.  So much for the 3 minute egg! Four minutes was better.  But, watching the time on the digital clock on the stove, I found that the right space of time was after the clock had changed to show 5 minutes. For those watching a more precise timepiece, this period was actually just over 4 minutes.

So there you have it, for a consistent “3 minute soft boiled egg”, bring water in your saucepan (enough to cover the egg) to a rolling boil then turn down the heat to a slow boil.  Put your room temperature egg into the water and remove after 5 minutes (or just over 4 minutes).

But you knew that, didn’t you?

PS. Have you ever noticed how a standard teaspoon is just perfectly shaped for extracting the boiled egg from the shell?  Was this a purpose-built design?

Posted in A View from the Outside, March 2015

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