Soft-Boiled Eggs 101

by Daisy

I know,  know. You’re thinking next I’ll be posting a tutorial on how to blow your nose.

But, talking to Ivory the other day about how hard it is to shell fresh, hardboiled eggs, (yes, we are exciting people, I believe it is our fourth conversation on the subject) I mentioned how I just crack ’em and spoon ’em like soft-boiled eggs and she wanted more info on my technique.

“Everybody knows how to do this, right?”

Apparently not so much.  Thinking about it, I realized I hadn’t even taught my oldest how to do it, since he’s strictly a scrambled guy.

So, since it may be becoming a lost art in some circles, here’s how to spoon out an egg, plus a refesher on how to get the eggs boiled in the first place.

Apologies to those who are saying, “duh!”

How to Make Soft-Boiled Eggs

Put however many eggs you want in one layer in a pan deep enough so you can add water to cover at the least one inch above the top of the eggs.

Cover and bring to the boil, just.

Take off the heat and let sit, still covered, from one to four minutes until desired degree of doneness.  Generally speaking, one minute for very runny, to 4 minutes for almost firm.

Here’s how to get at all that eggy goodness:

With confidence, but without malice, crack the egg on a rounded edge like the edge of a bull-nosed countertop or a well-loved wooden kitchen table.

Put both thumbs (only one shown here because I’m taking a picture with the other hand) at the point of the crack and firmly pull the egg into two.

Taking a spoon, preferably one with a tapered edge, gently insert the spoon between the shell and the egg.

Slowly ease the spoon all around the egg insides, trying to stay as close to the inside of the shell as possible without picking up any egg shell fragments, and remove the egg from the shell.

Repeat with the other side. Serve on hot, buttered toast.

Stick a fork in it. It’s done.

P.S. As alluded to earlier, this spooning method is how I get fresh eggs out of the shell after hard-boiling unless I need the eggs whole.  I shell them this way for egg salad, chopped boiled eggs, etc. because it’s just too frustrating to peel very fresh eggs.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

MichelleB March 26, 2010 at 8:50 am

*sigh* That is always the way my grandmother’s eggs looked. I love a soft yolk because of her. I never realized that she probably made them that way because her eggs were always so fresh. Thank you for that lovely memory.

Jeanine March 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

Ok the question I have is….is this from a FRESH egg? I HATE to boil fresh eggs! I can’t peel them! I did talk to a chef about boiling fresh eggs and he said to use a lot of salt and he repeated A LOT OF SALT! Still hate to boil!

Tomato Lady March 26, 2010 at 11:48 am

Jeanine–It’s fresh. Because you’re scooping it out with a spoon it doesn’t matter how clingy the shell still is. I’ve heard of other methods for peeling fresh eggs but most of them involve planning and timing and I’m usually not up for that.

Tanya March 26, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Thanks T lady I hadn’t known this method either and I really miss hard boiled eggs because ours are always fresh too. I almost go to the shop sometimes to buy them just so I can have bolied eggs and then can’t bring myself to do it when I imagine how old they are in the shops.

Angie March 26, 2010 at 3:16 pm

UGH I have been craving hard boiled eggs and/or egg salad for a while now. Now I’m going to have to cave and buy some eggs. My grandmother always put her eggs “point” down and broke the “bowl” of the egg. She would peel off that portion of the shell, then spoon from there. She was pretty feisty about doing it “the right way”, I wonder what she would make of your “sideways” version? 🙂

Joan March 26, 2010 at 5:51 pm

I didn’t know that fresh eggs are hard to peel. I’m getting my first chickens in the next few days and hard boiled eggs was one of the thing I was going to do with all the eggs!!

peggy March 26, 2010 at 6:54 pm

we have egg cups so we just knock off top of soft boiled egg and spoon out rest while they are sitting in the egg cup we all do it different

Justine March 26, 2010 at 8:14 pm

It’s so funny you should write about this today! I had not thought of soft boiled eggs for years and just today I was thinking that my grandson might enjoy one as I so often did when my own grandmother prepared one for me. I didn’t know how she did it. Now, I’ll have to give your method a go!

Hannah March 26, 2010 at 10:51 pm

Haha, I eat my eggs in a similar way to peggy and Angie. I’ve never seen anyone eat it from the middle like that before. It looks so appetising like that – for your photos did you boil it for 4min? I can’t imagine a 1min egg’s yolk staying together like that… or maybe it’s because you use fresher eggs?

Tomato Lady March 27, 2010 at 8:18 am

Hannah–It was about 4 minutes. It’s the way we’ve always done it although I have seen the tap the top method, too. Any way that gets at that egg is the right way, I guess!

Jenn March 27, 2010 at 8:08 pm

Huh! I’ve also never seen that way of getting at an egg. I spent a year in rural Germany, and my host-mother always used to run the eggs under tap water for 20-30 seconds after they were done boiling. That always seemed to help get a clean peel without loosing too much of the heat.

Brenda March 28, 2010 at 5:30 pm

Hi all,
I stumbled on your site and read of your plight of peeling fresh hard boiled eggs. The easiest way to peel a hard boiled egg is to use an “old” egg, NOT a fresh one. Do you know that the eggs you buy from the store are not fresh, that’s why hardboiled store-bought eggs peel nicely. Unfortunately, I cannot tell you how old is “old,” but I’d try week-old eggs first. If that doesn’t work try 1 1/2 week-old eggs.
Also, do you know how to tell if an egg has gone bad? A bad egg will float in water, a good egg will sink.

Clisby March 29, 2010 at 11:42 am

Why not just get some egg cups? Your way seems unnecessarily difficult.

Tomato Lady March 29, 2010 at 1:30 pm

Clisby–I guess I’ve just always done it that way. It’s not hard to do.

Darlene April 1, 2010 at 7:47 pm

We’ve always opened soft-boiled eggs the way you do, but I never thought to do the hard boiled ones the same way. What a GREAT idea!
For boiled eggs, I put the eggs I want in a pan, cover them with water, bring the water to a boil, put a lid on and then turn the heat off. For hard boiled eggs I do 7 to 8 minutes, for soft boiled I let them sit for 3 minutes (I like a slightly runny yolk). When the timer goes off, I pour out the hot water and run cold water over them. I would drain and run more cold water over the ones I was going to peel, but not the soft boiled one because I still want them hot. I would then peel the hard boiled eggs or do what you did soft boiled eggs.

Turtles To Start April 4, 2010 at 8:07 pm

How DO you peel a fresh hard boiled egg that you need whole?? SO frustrating…
Someone said to add vinegar (but don’t let them sit in the water long!), but this hasn’t worked for us.

Tomato Lady April 5, 2010 at 7:54 am

TTS–You could try this method:

This almost looks too good to be true (may not be for very fresh eggs?):
Update: I tried this today and it actually worked!

I’ve seen others which say to boil for a longer period of time and then peel them immediately.

Chelsea April 12, 2012 at 10:43 am

If you add a teaspoon of baking soda to the water it makes the shells easier to peel. I don’t plan far enough in advance to have ‘old eggs’ on hand.

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