Eggs: Soft- or Hard-Boiled

by Cat, Mar 2010 (photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

See also: Coddled Egg

The Mysticism of Boiled Eggs

Dark chicken eggs in straw

Dark chicken eggs in straw

Years ago, when I was learning to cook by the seat of my pants, I was also studying the mystic philosophies. So I decided to experiment, and was amazed at what I discovered. A few years later, my Mom and I had driven to Viborg, South Dakota to visit Mom’s favorite aunt, Marie.

Marie was typical of farm women of Scandinavian heritage, always offering food (& black coffee) to any guest – lots of it. But unlike many, she was also open minded. One morning she was preparing to make us a breakfast of soft-boiled eggs, when I walked into her kitchen.

“Aunt Marie, I’ve discovered an amazing way to cook the perfect egg. You’ll be amazed. Wanna know how to do it?”

“Sure,” she said, handing me the box of eggs, “Have at it.”

So I brought a saucepan of water to a boil. “How do you like your eggs?” I asked her.

“Soft, with the whites just set and the yolks runny,” she responded.

“Me too, but Mom likes the yolks just beginning to set. So this is perfect for the demonstration.” Using a spoon to hold each egg, I carefully put 6 eggs into the boiling water without breaking the shells. Then I adjusted the heat so that it was enough to keep a gentle boil, but not so much that the eggs bounced around. And I set a timer for two minutes, just as a backup.

Before the timer went off, I put my spoon into the water and gently touched each egg, asking it if it is ready. None were. I waited a few moments and repeated the process, focusing on the soft-cooked version. As I touched each egg, asking the question, 3 of them responded. Oh, not in words exactly, I just felt the strong urge to remove them from the water.

Then I handed the spoon to Marie. “You try; we need one more soft egg.” She swirled the spoon around for a moment and as she touched the remaining eggs, she felt the urge from one of them, and removed it. Meanwhile, I cracked the first 3 open to examine them; they were perfect, as was the fourth that Marie removed.

“OK,” I said, “Now we need the two eggs for Mom, Can you do those too?”

“I think so,” she answered. And within a couple more moments, she had the urge to remove them. When cracked open, they also were just like Mom liked them.

Just then, Mom walked into the kitchen. “What are you two up to?” she asked.

Marie smiled at me. “Learning something new!” she said, and then explained the whole thing to Mom.

I still use this method, both for soft and hard boiled eggs. It has never failed me unless something (like the phone) distracts me.

Using a timer:

Although I do trust my mystic method, I use a timer as a backup, just in case I get distracted. For hard-boiled eggs, I set the timer for 15 minutes. For soft-boiled eggs, I set the timer for 2 minutes (or more, depending upon how ‘soft’ they are needed).

Note that the timing also depends on how fresh the eggs are, the size of the egg, and whether you start them in cold or boiling water. Excellent reasons why my mystic method is best – the eggs know when they are done to your liking.

Start with cold water or boiling water?

For hard-boiled eggs, most experts advise to put the eggs into cold water in the pan and then bring to a boil. But when I try this method, even tho they may be perfectly done, it is difficult to remove the shell. So I stick with my method of adding the eggs slowly to boiling water.

Cat’s Mystic Method

Ingredients & Equipment:

  • As many good quality eggs as needed
  • Saucepan of water, large enough that the eggs will be completely covered by the water
  • Spoon
  • timer (optional


  1. Place eggs in bowl of warm water, to pre-warm the shells so they won’t crack.
  2. Bring water to boil in saucepan, then reduce heat to simmer
  3. Add eggs one at a time, using spoon to lower them into the water.
  4. Test eggs, while concentrating on desired degree of doneness. Picture the egg on your plate, just the way you like it.
  • Hard-boiled: set timer for 15 minutes. After timer goes off, stir spoon around in the water, asking eggs if they are ready. If not, wait a minute and try again. When ready, remove from water to a bowl and let cold water flow out of faucet over the eggs until the shell is cool. You might even chill the egg in the fridge before removing peel.
  • Soft-boiled: set timer to 2 minutes (or more). After timer goes off, stir spoon around in the water, asking eggs if they are ready. If not, wait a moment and try again. When ready, serve immediately.
  • In-between: set timer to 3 to 5 minutes and proceed as for soft-boiled.


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