Soft boiling an egg on an electric stove using the least amount of electricity

There is really no trick to it, so if you own an electric stove this is the end all be all guide to soft boiling an egg.

The recipe

Pour 4 tablespoons of water in a small pot and put the egg in. With the lid on, heat on maximum setting until you can see steam exiting from under the lid. Immidiately turn off the heat entirely and start the egg timer on four minutes.

When the four minutes are up your egg is done and ready to eat, though be warned it is quite hot at this time, so you might want to wait a minute or two. Of course depending on the size of the egg and your particular taste, you might want to extend the cooking time by thirty seconds or maybe even a minute. Also if you need your egg to be hard boiled instead, simply extend the cooking time to around eight to nine minutes.

You can boil more than one egg at a time using this method, actually as many as will fit inside the pot without stacking them. I have not tried stacking the eggs so I really don't know if it would work, but since the cooking method depend on steam surrounding the egg, I think it would be bad. Use the same amount of water and the same cooking time.

How it works

This method of boiling an egg might sound novel to some. The canonical boiling rules for eggs after all dictate, that you should cover the egg entirely by water. However on an electric stove this is a bad idea for a couple of reasons.

First of all common physics teaches us that the amount of energy it takes to heat a volume of water one degree is directly proportional to the volume or mass of water. Now filling the pot with water so it just covers the egg will take approximately 0.6 liters of water. On the other hand, four tablespoons of water amounts to just 0.06 liters of water or less. It is now a mater of simple math to calculate that the amount of energy required to bring the water to boiling point is ten times as high with the egg covered by water as opposed to when you just use the four tablespoons worth.

The second reason is slightly more subtle. In both cases when the water boils the stoves work is done, in principle. You turn it off. If you covered the egg with water it also means that you egg is done and ready to eat. However if you use the electricity saving method described above, this is where the real boiling time starts. At this point the pot is entirely filled with hot steam, but not all the water has evaporated from the bottom yet. When you turn off the heat at this point the bottom of the pot and the cooking plate will remain very hot for quite a while. All that heat just goes wasted using conventional cooking techniques, but with this method we use the remaining heat to make sure, that the egg is enclosed in hot steam for the remainder of the boiling period.

The end result is that you use considerably less energy to boil your egg. You can also use this method on advanced electric stoves like ceramic and induction stoves, but you might have to extend the cooking time a bit, because these kinds of stoves does not generate quite as much residual heat.

Ending notes

- But you cannot possibly steam boil an egg?!

To quote my university physics professor Jens Martin Knudsen - "The experiment decides the case."

In other words, try it. See what you think. I have tried it myself plenty of times.

And one last thing. My mom would suggest serving your soft boiled egg with two slices of home made rye bread with butter and salt between. You can also add salt to the egg while eating it if you feel the need. Fresh orange juice goes nicely with soft boiled eggs.

Throw away your egg timers! Chuck out your egg cups!

I always make soft boiled eggs without either; I learned from my mother.

Put your eggs in a small pot. Add cold water to just cover the egg. Put it on the stove and turn the heat on, then watch it carefully. When the water is boiling, the egg is done. Take the pan off of the stove and take the egg out of the water.

Take a slice of bread for each egg, and tear or cut it into cubes. Put the cubes in a bowl.

Now comes the tricky part, which takes quick fingers. Use the edge of a spoon to crack the egg around its equator. Tap it hard enough to break the shell and just tear the inner membrane.

This next step takes some practice to avoid getting any eggshell into the bowl. Part the two halves of the egg over the bowl of bread, so that the yolk drops or pours into it. Put one egg half down and use your spoon to scoop the white out of the other one. Then scoop out the other half.

Stir, add salt and pepper to taste, and enjoy.

Note that eating any form of undercooked egg, where the yolk and white are not perfectly solid, poses a risk of salmonella. Use your common sense; that's what it's there for.
And while we're talking food safety, always wash your hands after touching eggs.

Some random thoughts on soft-boiled eggs:

Once upon a time I dated a man who was in the wholesale egg business, a Butter and Egg Man, if you wish. He taught me how to coddle an egg:

In a medium-sized pan with a tight cover put enough water to cover your egg(s) to four times its(their) depth. Bring this water to a rolling boil. Take the pan from the heat, quickly slip in the egg(s), put the cover back on AND DO NOT REMOVE THE COVER FOR AT LEAST 30 MINUTES.

If you have the time to do this you will have a soft, creamy egg, never overcooked.

Again a long time ago, I once traveled from New York City to Sydney, Australia via cargo ship, a 30-day journey. There were only twelve passengers and we had the same menu as the crew, but were served in a different dining room.

One of the most popular breakfast items was soft-boiled eggs. They were served in a covered saucer, without their shells,  and were smooth and creamy in texture as in the "coddled" egg method described above. I don't know how the kitchen staff peeled them, as the eggs were very soft and fragile without their shells.

For me, at that time, it was the height of luxury to eat soft-boiled (not poached) eggs that I did not have to peel.

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