Not Martha

the accidentally perfect egg

a soft boiled, er, steamed egg

Scott cooked breakfast the other day and accidentally found the way to the perfect soft boiled (well, steamed) egg. Here is what he did: Place a little water and steamer and eggs in a saucepan, cover with a lid, turn on heat, set timer for 11 minutes. The eggs come out with cooked whites and still soft yolks that are just starting to firm up. (The original instructions were to steam the eggs for 11 minutes, which produce a nearly solid yolk, like this one.)

Why steamed eggs instead of boiled? This was originally something I saw on Alton Brown’s Good Eats. On a practical level it takes less time to heat up the water to steam a pot as opposed to boil enough water to cover eggs. On a subjective level I think the whites turn out more tender when steamed, though this could just be the power of suggestion. In any case it’s officially a lazy persons approved method, at least from this household.

Let’s hear it for sweeties who make breakfast and stumble upon perfection!

· comments [29] · 09-15-2010 · categories:food · recipes ·

29 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lisa // Sep 15, 2010 at 5:43 am

    Thanks for sharing this one! I love eggs and poached and soft boiled have been my faves but I will be trying this method out tomorrow morning instead.

  • 2 Kelly Anne // Sep 15, 2010 at 6:31 am

    Wait, I’m confused with how the steamer comes into play. I’m probably thinking too literally …

    Did you crack the eggs first? Probably not … if your steamer is one of those basket deals I’m used to seeing.

    Also – that looks yummy. Egg over bulgar wheat? Or is that oatmeal?

  • 3 Kiki // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:25 am

    Yum! I’ll have to try out this method. I’ve never had a soft-boiled egg before but I love to dip toast points into sunny side up eggs. This looks even better! Thanks for sharing the method! Oh, and hooray for husbands who surprise you with delicious breakfasts!

  • 4 megan // Sep 15, 2010 at 8:24 am

    Kelly Anne – I understand, here is the longer version: Instead of boiling an egg (with the shell still on) by lowering it into a pot of boiling water, you put the egg (with the shell still on) in a pot with a little boiling water and a vegetable steamer. Simply, you steam the eggs you would steam veggies or dim sum dumplings. Alton Brown said it made the egg whites less rubbery, and since they are less prone to knocking around they don’t burst as often. I just find it takes too long to boil a whole pot of water in the morning.

    Put the eggs in cold water to cool and peel them, this can be a little tricky since they are a bit wobbly. I cut mine in half and put them over steel cut oatmeal (shown here) or cracked emmer hot cereal.

    Does that make it more clear?

  • 5 aubrey // Sep 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

    I keep hearing about the magic of the steamed egg technique- looks like i’m going to have to rethink my breakfast technique this weekend! That yolk looks amazing.

  • 6 Seanna Lea // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:01 am

    That sounds delicious. I am hoping to hit the farmer’s market this weekend for some local eggs. Those would be perfect that way!

  • 7 jenni s-g // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I’ll have to give this a try–I use the Alton Brown method of putting eggs in my electric kettle. Cover with about an inch of water, turn it on, it turns off automatically, let sit in the boiled water for about 10-12 minutes depending on egg size. Consistently perfect eggs. The kettle boils water in much less time than my stove, so it’s my go-to for hardboiled eggs. Now I’m curious to try the steam and see the difference in texture!

  • 8 amanda // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:22 am

    One of the cool things I discovered about my rice cooker is how easy it is to hard-boil (or soft-boil) eggs using steam — you just put the eggs in the basket, add the water as noted in the instructions. Result: perfectly hard-boiled eggs!

    I think you’re right about the whites — I feel like they are a bit softer and more delicate than when I actually put them directly in boiling water.

  • 9 megan // Sep 15, 2010 at 9:35 am

    Jenni – That is a good technique. I’m so sensitive to the taste/smell of eggs that I’d be afraid of getting it in our (expensive, hard to clean really well) electric kettle. I might try it if I can find an inexpensive kettle in a second hand shop.

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  • 11 Emily // Sep 15, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Have you ever had a basted egg? Absolutely delightful!

  • 12 Cynthia // Sep 15, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Scott and Megan,

    You have just made my 5 year old very happy. He loves a softboiled egg but only if the white is completely cooked and the yolk isn’t too runny. This looks perfect!

  • 13 dana // Sep 15, 2010 at 1:58 pm

    Megan, I remember reading about your egg/quinoa staple breakfast as a part of your successful diet last year. How do you season the quinoa — just salt?


  • 14 Abby // Sep 15, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I like my eggs over easy, and do something similar. I saw it on a blog, which explained how they make eggs that way in diners. You cook the egg on one side, add an ice cube to the pan, then cover it until it’s cooked on the top. Easy peasy. I love little hints like yours!

  • 15 Jennie // Sep 15, 2010 at 4:12 pm

    Though I’m not a fan of soft-boiled eggs, we _love_ hard-boiling eggs in our veggie steamer. No babysitting a pan of water — just set the timer to 35 minutes and let ‘er rip. Perfect eggses every time!

  • 16 megan // Sep 15, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Dana – Yes, just salt. I used Malton sea salt flakes and fresh ground pepper on the egg. Honestly, though, I love the taste of plain grains in an unusual way. I don’t like red or black quinoa though, they taste to much like dirt (mineral-y?) to me.

  • 17 Jen // Sep 15, 2010 at 5:38 pm

    I love runny yolks! my husband is weird and only like eggs fully cooked.

    I also like stirring yolks leftover from buttercream frosting into my morning oatmeal.

  • 18 kate // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:22 pm

    thank you for sharing – i love soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers but always seem to cook them too little or too long. and i refuse to buy one of those plastic eggs that you boil with a real egg – too creepy. you have added another item to our weekday breakfast menu. my kids are going to love this.

  • 19 Jennie // Sep 15, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    hey! just heard you interviewed on Craftsanity and CAN’T BELIEVE I’VE NEVER BEEN HERE! Looking forward to catching up and lurking a LOT!

  • 20 megan // Sep 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Aw, thanks Jennie!

  • 21 Krista // Sep 16, 2010 at 5:33 am

    Great technique. I love soft boiled eggs but with three kids running around I never seem to get the timing right. I’m going to try this for breakfast tomorrow!

  • 22 Britt // Sep 16, 2010 at 8:07 am

    This looks like such a great technique, but I’m confused. Is it 11 minutes for a soft yolk or 11 minutes for a hard yolk?

  • 23 megan // Sep 16, 2010 at 8:30 am

    Britt – It is confusing, sorry! What happened was that Scott added the eggs too early (the water wasn’t steaming yet) meaning they were cooked for about nine minutes. This weekend I intend to try again to get a more exact time measurement. Let me try the equations below:

    (In both below the timer is 11 minutes.)

    Pan + water + lid + eggs + timer, THEN turn on the heat = soft yolks.

    Pan + lid + water heated up and steaming + timer, THEN add the eggs = hard yolks.

  • 24 Marie // Sep 17, 2010 at 7:33 am

    so delicious thanks for the tip! made this yesterday and this morning! :)

  • 25 wendi // Sep 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Yay! I love egg on oatmeal. I will definitely try this version. You should try a little nori and gomashio on it too. Super yummy.

  • 26 lia // Sep 28, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    oooo yuuum…you’re making me hungry….very very hungry…actually, you’re kinda torturing me here :D…ow well…it’ll be lunch soon heheheheh :)

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  • 28 Migo // Feb 26, 2011 at 11:23 am

    Megan I just tried it and eggs were PERFECT… thank you..i burned my fingers did not see the cold water part. Whats good trick to getting egg out :) unscared :)

  • 29 James // Jan 16, 2013 at 9:44 am

    This will depend on the amount of water you add, as it will start to steam at different times during the cooking. It is better to start with boiling water below the steamer and to set the time from there. To stop the egg from bursting, poke a hole with a safety pin at the wide end of the egg. I find 5 minutes give a very runny yolk and 6 minutes the outside begins to firm up.

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