INTRO & INSPIRATION
I was inspired a few years ago when I went to a longstanding eatery in the Bay Area (California, USA) to have ramen. Its signature ramen dishes are still top notch and hard to beat. What had floored me more at the time was their beautifully cooked soft-boiled egg, laying on top of my piping hot soup noodles. How did they do that? Why wasn't it hard-boiled, with a stiff, crumbly pale-yellow center? It was such an eye-opening and mouth-watering discovery. The egg was well-flavored and pristinely peeled! Which meant that the egg's outer layer was fully cooked while leaving its awesome eggy-goo center slightly less cooked. The possible ways I knew how to make this combo were either over-easy eggs (not my favorite) or poached eggs (my least favorite way to consume eggs). I've also seen folks eat soft-boiled eggs straight from their shell. Because whites of soft-boiled eggs are still runny and slightly raw, the only way to contain the egg and eat it by itself was from the shell. Frankly kind of messy and too cumbersome to enjoy good eggs!
Nothing on the internet helped as most folks used baking soda (which I almost never have with me when I need it) or some complicated process that I would never be able to remember on-the-fly. So I started testing a lot of different ways of making soft-boiled eggs, regardless of whose kitchen I was using or what tools I had available.
Though foolproof is pretty ballsy claim to make for my first instructable, I can at least attest to this method working over the past four years. Since I've first come up with this method, I've pass through many different kitchens and stovetops of all shapes and sizes and so far have been able to produce the same results. Anyone I've told my method to hasn't failed at it either. I'm open-sourcing this method to a wider audience to test how fail-safe this approach is. I welcome any questions and comments that would improve how I make soft-boiled eggs.
Step 1: TOOLS & INGREDIENTS
For Soft-Boiled Eggs Only:
- Pot with Lid
- Long-arm Soup Ladle
- Set Aside: Water Bath* (deep bowl of cold water to submerge cooked eggs in)
Ramen-Style Sauce for Eggs:
- Soy Sauce
- Mirin: a type of sweet rice wine used for cooking
Step 2: A Few Tips and Notes to Read Before Proceeding...
- Pot should be deep enough to submerge all your eggs. (See picture for reference.) Having about an inch or so above the water level, in pot depth, will also minimize any stovetop spills. Spills tend to happen if eggs accidentally crack when you transfer them into the boiling water. The egg whites added to the boiling water make the water in the pot bubble more rapidly, increasing the chances of water boiling over.
- Some egg-consuming aficionados would advise not to waste good fresh organic eggs with this method. It's definitely a personal choice. I've tried both types of eggs. Definitely nothing can quite beat consuming fresh organic eggs that have been cooked soft-eggs style. I have a pretty sensitive palette, so I definitely taste the egg's freshness even if it's soft-boiled.
- Before cooking, leave eggs out for 20 to 30 minutes so they are at room temperature. This tip will minimize the likelihood of them cracking when you transfer them to boiling water. If your eggs do crack anyway, the eggs taste-wise will be fine. Depending on how fresh the eggs are (non-commercial eggs I locally buy are not refrigerated and can be stored at room temperature), I sometimes skip this step. (I also skip it since it doesn't affect the taste of my eggs. It's presentation-wise nicer to have pristinely cooked and peeled eggs! So this step increasing the chances of that happening.)
- *For the Water Bath, prepare a big enough bowl of cold water. (See picture for reference.) The water bath is used to completely submerge your eggs after they are done cooking. I'll explain why this step is important later, in the 'Step-by-Step Instructions'. It's not necessary for your water to be ice-cold, so water at maximum coldness from your kitchen sink will do.
Step 3: STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS (8 Steps to Soft-Boiled Eggs)
- Fill your pot with enough water to submerge all your eggs. (Note: Don't skimp on the water. You can always use the water in the pot for other things, such as boiling eggs the next day, steaming veggies, etc.)
- On high heat, bring your water to a rolling boil.
- When water comes to a boil, set the stove to a medium-heat setting.
- Transfer your eggs to the pot of boiling water with a long-arm ladle. This minimizes accidents when transferring eggs to the pot, both to your fingers and to your eggs. The eggs will likely crack if you drop them into the pot at the level of boiling water. If your eggs crack anyway, that's okay. It will add egg whites to your water, making it murky, but your eggs will turn out fine. (Note: If this happens, hopefully you used a deep enough pot so that the water doesn't bubble and spill over, per my tips. Otherwise, keep an eye on the pot so you can remove the lid if the water begins to boil over.)
- Once all the eggs have been transferred, set your timer for 6 to 7 minutes. At 6 minutes, the eggs will have a gooey yolk center. At 7 minutes, the eggs will have very little to no runny yolk, but the yolk will appear a bright orange. I set my timer to 6 minutes. (Note: If you like them not so soft-boiled, you can test this method in 1-minute increments to get your eggs to the right level of boiledness.)
- Once done, turn off the stove. Use the long-arm soup ladle to remove the eggs to the bath of cold water. Try your best to transfer only the eggs, without the cooking water from the pot. Otherwise, you would have inadvertently warmed up the cold-water bath, which is not what you want. (Note: Once done with the transfer, you can test the coldness of your water bath. If warm to the touch, empty most of the water from the bath while keeping the eggs in the bowl (recall they are still really hot so don't touch them), and refill the bath with cold water from your kitchen sink.) The cold water stops the eggs from cooking by immediately transferring the heat in the eggs to the water. Aside from stopping the eggs from cooking, it will also make your soft-boiled eggs cooler and easier to peel.
- Leave the eggs in the cold water bath for at least 10 to 15 minutes. You don't have to immediately peel your eggs but you do need to wait for the eggs to stop cooking and cool down so they are not too hot to peel.
- Crack and peel your eggs. Usually the easiest way is to peel starting at the egg's air pocket (i.e., the thicker, wider side of the egg, or non-pointy side). This approach usually allows you to peel the eggshell and membrane layer to make the peeling easier. (Note: Sometimes you will end up with small pieces of eggshell on the outside after peeling. All you have to do is run it under some cold water. If you do, make sure you dry them before you place them in the ramen-style sauce.)
If you like your soft-boiled eggs as is, no need to read further. The next step is for the ramen-style sauce. Otherwise proceed to prepping the sauce.
Step 4: STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS (Continued for Ramen-Style Sauce in 2 Steps)
- For two eggs, I prepared 2 tablespoons of soy sauce and 2 tablespoons of mirin. The ratio is 1:1. Increase the amount accordingly to how many eggs you need to have marinated. I prepared two eggs for this demonstration and placed the sauce and eggs in a bowl to be marinated over night. Cover the bowl with saran wrap. If temperatures are cool enough, you can leave your covered bowl on the counter, or store them in the fridge. If it's not summertime and I'm consuming eggs the following day, I typically prefer the former since I don't have to reheat the eggs. The reheating will re-cook them.
- Eggs are ready the next morning. Enjoy!! : ]
Note: If you like your ramen-style eggs less salty, or you tend to eat eggs by themselves, without adding them to anything such as soup-based noodles or steamed rice, you can marinate them for a shorter length of time (i.e., not overnight). Alternatively, you can put a little more mirin than I did to dilute the sodium in the soy sauce, or use low-sodium soy sauce. I like this sauce because it's simple, hard to mess-up, and easy to recall when in a pinch to add a savory side to your meal. Soy sauce and mirin are also relatively easy to find compared to other ingredients required for more complicated sauces. These two ingredients also store well without spoiling. Though mirin might be harder to buy for some people, a substitute I'm told for 1/2 cup of mirin is the following: 1) 1/2 cup of white wine (e.g., sherry, vermouth); and, 2) 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar. (I've never tried this method so I can't vouch for it. I provided the substitute because I hope not having access to mirin would not deter folks from trying this simple yet satisfying recipe.)
Last Note: The sauce and length of marinating time are based on personal preferences. While I can guarantee the foolproof-ness in how eggs can be soft-boiled, the ramen-style sauce, though simple, should be dialed according to your taste preference.