The slowest way to boil an egg

The first two years I was in college I lived with my grandparents. Almost every Saturday my grandma would make soft-boiled eggs for me and my grandpa. Eating them with salt and pepper crushed in a bowl was one of the pleasures of the weekend I looked forward to. I’ve tried to recreate the gelatinous whites covered in gooey yolk, but I’ve never quite mastered the art.

So you can understand how the first thing I wanted to cook when we bought our sous vide cooker was a soft-boiled egg. With sous vide cooking, a water bath is kept at a constant temperature over a long time to cook foods all over evenly and without drying them out. I put an egg on at 147 F, which according to the accompanying temperature guide would have a yolk that was “firmly set but very creamy. White firmer.” After an hour of cooking it was kind of a slushy disappointment.

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If you stare at them for the entire hour, they do not boil any slower.

If you’ve studied food science, you know that the white and the yolk of the egg solidify at different temperatures, which is why boiling an egg through sous vide alone is a terrible way to get firm whites and a gooey yolk. Adam was undeterred by my failure and proceeded to make me a much better soft-boiled egg:

  1. Allow egg to warm to room temperature. 
  2. Cook egg in (already) boiling water for three and a half minutes. This gets the whites nice and cooked!
  3. Cool egg for ten minutes in an ice bath.
  4. Cook sous vide at 149 F for 35 minutes.
  5. Toast shell in a toaster oven for 15 minutes to get the shell nice and brittle. I think this step is silly.
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That’s hand-pressed flatbread from our wood-fired oven. Just kidding! We got them at CostCo.

I think I might just have to learn how my grandma does it (probably boiling ~6 minutes), but the modernist method is probably more consistent.

Pages 142-143 of the Book

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