How to boil an egg – and other culinary egg fibs.

The egg - a fickle mistress indeed...

I thought I knew the egg, I though I knew how to boil it. All my life I’ve been doing it one way – bring to the boil then simmer for 2-3 mins. Never any complaints always the same result, runny yoke, firm white. But it seems there are alternative ways of doing it. Recently the egg has been cavorting with a few Michelin star types and has allowed itself to be cooked in different ways. There’s the latent heat method from the pseudo-science egg schmoozer Heston Blumenthal and the (vicious) drop into boiling water method from Catalan egg lothario, Ferran Adria (taken from the wonderful Family Meal). Considering I’m so out of touch I should try them, if only to show the egg that I am willing to try new things…

OK, Firstly Ferran Adria’s method, no bringing the egg up to the boil, just drop it straight into the boiling water. Ouch! Results: runny white. Secondly Heston Blumenthal, as soon as it boils take the pan off the hob and let the latent heat to do it’s magic (6 minutes). Result: hard boiled. Although I think with some time adjustments this could achieve life changing results (well he does have a few Michelin stars so he might know what he’s talking about). He was at it again the other night telling the WI that they couldn’t cook scrambled eggs when in fact all he was doing was cooking scrambled eggs French style in a double boiler. Nothing wrong with how the WI did it as The Cook’s Book (my favorite and much thumbed cookery book, more of which in later posts) says, ‘There’s more than one way to make great scrambled eggs. The method you choose depends on how you like your scrambled egg curds – large (as Jo and I do), small, or, in the French manner, totally blended to make a luscious cream.’

But it seems they are all doing it when it comes to eggs. The latest egg fibbers are the Fabulous Baker Brothers. In one episode they dropped an egg into water for poaching that clearly dispersed all over the pan. I’ve cooked enough poached eggs to know that once this has happened it’s beyond salvation. However, a cut shot later and, low and behold, one of them spoons out a poached egg so perfect it looks like it’s been coddled. More fibulous than fabulous Tom & Henry.

OK, so poaching eggs is tricky and they are fickle, but it really is important that they’re as fresh as possible. If an egg is fresh it doesn’t need much assistance, merely drop it into plenty of simmering water (the key is to get it to start forming before it crashes against the bottom of the pan and dissipates all over) and then gently turn over a few times with a spoon so that the yoke is enclosed. If it isn’t fresh there’s a couple of options. You can do the vortex method which works but isn’t that practical if cooking two or more eggs at a time, unless you want to have three or four pans on the go like some demented vortex maker. The other method is one Jamie Oliver advocates – lining a ramekin with a little oil and clingfilm then dropping the egg in making a little egg bag to hang over the side of the pan. Added advantage of this is the ability to add herbs or other seasoning to the bag. It’s OK but it can be a faff to get the egg out of the clingfilm. Or there’s the method I’ve come to use, and that’s the two pan method. One pan with a tablespoon of vinegar (preferably white wine) in and one with salted water. Use the first pan as you would for a fresh egg and then transfer the egg to the salted simmering water pan to finish the cooking. Make sure you drain the egg of water as it will collect in the nooks and crannies and seep out later to make soggy your chosen poached egg vehicle of choice. This method works almost every time, I say almost because the egg can be a fickle mistress indeed.

Other egg/cooking related articles

Read the man who uncooked an egg if you want to know where Heston gets some of his inspiration from.

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One thought on “How to boil an egg – and other culinary egg fibs.

  1. Liked the egg article. We used to have a metal poacher with buttered hemispheres to drop the eggs in. Pretty simple to get a decent poached egg, though not the purist’s way.
    This week’s acronym: Blumenthal, Oliver, I Like Eggs Done Easily – Good Genial Sustenance.

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