How to make the best-ever soft-boiled egg

Whether you want a soft-boiled egg to dip your toast sticks in, or to top off a salad — timing is the key to getting that egg just right.

Soft boiled eggs

Best-ever soft boiled eggs

One cannot overlook the virtues of a good custardy, runny yolk — truly a gift from nature. Whether you want a soft-boiled egg to dip your toast sticks in, or to top off a salad — timing is the key to getting that egg just right.

The ideal soft-boiled egg will have a fully cooked white and a runny centre. There are two schools of thought on how to achieve this. The first, I’ll refer to as the boil and rest method. The second I’ll refer to as the six-minute egg. I’ve put both methods to the test to see which fares best.

Boil and rest: Place cold eggs in a pot. Fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs by one inch. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove the pot from the heat and cover. Let sit for 3 1/2 minutes and enjoy.

Six-minute egg: Bring a pot of water to a simmer (small bubbles, not a rapid boil). Add eggs, and cook for six minutes. Adjust heat to keep a consistent temperature going. Remove eggs from water and enjoy.

The verdict: The boil and rest method was the method I grew up with — so I assumed it was the best. Guess what? I was wrong! This method has a few problems. First, different stove-tops give off different amounts of heat, which means it takes varying amounts of time to bring the water to a boil. Due to this, the cook time and consistency are an issue. Second, an egg is pure protein and when protein is exposed to heat, it coagulates. When it’s exposed to extreme heat — it coagulates and becomes rubbery. By exposing the outer layer of the egg (the white) to water at the boiling temperature, it results in a slightly rubbery texture.

On the flip-side, the six-minute egg had great results. By exposing the egg to a more moderate and consistent heat, the egg white was fully cooked and not rubbery at all. In the image above, the eggs were cooked for five, six and seven minutes from left to right. The five-minute egg still had translucent whites, therefore undercooked. The seven-minute egg (on the right) had a layer of cooked yolk next to the white — therefore overcooked. So the conclusion is, the six-minute egg is the perfect soft boiled egg!

Soft boiled eggs and egg shells

Soft boiled eggs

7 comments on “How to make the best-ever soft-boiled egg

  1. Usually what I do is put a cold egg in a pot and barely cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer for 1 1/2 mins. Then I let it stand for about a minute, and it comes out pretty good. But I am open to trying your method to compare the results.


  2. Questions for the 6 minute method: 1: Were the eggs cold (just out of the fridge) or were the eggs closer to room temperature when you put them in to the pot of simmering water? 2: How many eggs are put in the hot water? (Many might cool the water a lot, therefore stopping the boil) 3: If eggs are fridge- cold, do you then turn the burner to high to accelerate the water returning to boil? I can see if its 2 eggs it might eventually come back to the light boil by itself, but not if 6 eggs go in cold…?


  3. I put eggs in water, set on high, come back 10 minutes later and they’re good. I’ll try these other methods sometime and see how I like the results.


  4. followed to the letter and got an almost hard-boiled egg :(


    • Agree with the hard boiled comment. This method is worse than bad.


    • Followed to the letter – perfect. There are a few things you need to be aware of when boiling eggs. 1) What is your altitude? Water only boils at 100°C ( 212°F) at sea level. If you live half way up a mountain your water will boil at a much lower temperature. 2) What is in your water? If you add salt or there are other impurities in your tap water this will also effect the temperature at which your water will start to boil. 3) What size are your eggs? Larger eggs naturally take longer to cook than smaller eggs. 4) What temperature are your eggs before putting them in the pot? So, for reference, I am at sea level, my tap water is very pure with few heavy metals, only thing added was a splash of vinegar, eggs are slightly smaller than shop size and at room temp.


  5. Followed to the letter… gently boiling water, not a rolling boil, 4 eggs were out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before taking the plunge into a medium sized pot with enough water to cover them by about an inch. Gorgeous cooked whites and a lovely runny yolk.


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