Don’t Be Chicken

3 Oct

People.  I want to talk about a delightful European breakfast tradition that appears to horrify Americans — and, no, it’s not blood sausage.

When I was very little, my Mom used to make us soft-boiled eggs, scoop them into custard dishes, and serve them with a spoon.  We loved it.  When I got a little older (about the time we were living in Hamburg, Germany) I had my own special egg cup that was painted like a little viking, and it had a felt cozy with blonde braids for a hat.  I understand it was hard to wash, but very cute.  I’m fairly certain we got it in Denmark.

I was surprised, as an adult, to discover that many Americans appear to have never even heard of a soft-boiled egg, much less tasted one.  And when you explain it to them, their reactions range from suspicious to disgusted.

Here’s what a soft-boiled egg is.  

It’s a hard-boiled egg you pull out halfway through cooking.  So the white is cooked and the yolk is still runny.  If you’re about to say that’s disgusting, then you’d better not eat your fried eggs sunnyside up or over easy, because it’s the same damn thing with less fat.  This was sagely pointed out to me by my German friend, Lisi.

Soft-boiled eggs have the benefit of being cooked with no oil or butter, and they are delicious when spooned onto toast.  Furthermore, they are extremely civilized.  In my humble opinion.

If you want to try a soft-boiled egg, here’s what you do.

Get a pot of water boiling just very lightly.  Carefully spoon your eggs in.  Don’t let the water boil too hard or they will crack (which is not the end of the world, but it lets water into your egg.)  Keep the eggs at a light boil for 5 minutes.  The standard used to be 4 minutes, but I think the larger your egg is (and they’re pretty big now) the longer you need to cook it, because runny egg WHITE really is gross.


Not too rough!


Use a spoon to lift your eggs out at 5 or 6 minutes (you can experiment to your  taste) and run them under cold water to stop them from cooking.  If you don’t do this, they will continue to cook even as they sit on the plate and you will instead eat hard-boiled eggs for breakfast (thanks to Lisi for reminding me of the rinsing trick).  Then, if you’re an adult (which all of you are, of course) you stand them up in what is called an egg cup.  Like so:


Two styles of egg cup...


Then you take a knife and bravely (do not hesitate or all is lost!) swipe off the top of the egg with it.  I find it’s best to hit the narrower end and not right in the middle of the yolk.  If you hit the yolk wrong, you’ll get it running all over and that is not very civilized, after all.  See below for an example of a pretty good crack:


Not bad, eh?


The way you eat it is to sprinkle a little salt in both the top and the main portion of the egg and spoon it out.  You can either eat it straight or spoon it onto toast or an English muffin.  If you have a toddler, clean out the entire egg and break it up in a custard dish for him or her.  See me in the middle of that process below:


Like so...


Cormac absolutely loves this dish and will eat three of them at one sitting.  No other egg preparation can compare for him.


I can't believe how smart these Europeans are!


Next stop, coddled eggs…

Happy Monday!


12 Responses to “Don’t Be Chicken”

  1. Chris Hagerman October 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm #

    I too loved soft boiled eggs as a kid. The little cups. Tapping on the top with a spoon and carefully opening it up (the sword swipe trick is new to me). My folks were living in Germany when I was a baby so maybe that’s where they picked it up too. We also added butter to ours, so there goes the healthier angle, but you have inspired me. Next time I get ahold of some free range eggs and fresh butter, I’m going to give it a shot.

    • frazzledfoodie October 4, 2010 at 8:09 am #

      You know, the whole tap-on-top method is emerging as being more popular (see all those comments on Facebook). I’ve never heard about the butter! Now, when you tap on top, does any of the broken shell fall into your egg? Or does the cooked white protect it? Of course, as a child, my favorite part was always the little bit in the broken top…I’d miss that. 😉

  2. Loren October 4, 2010 at 3:08 am #

    When I either hard-cook or soft-cook eggs, I steam them instead of putting them directly into boiling water. I just use a standard metal steamer basket. The main advantage is that you don’t have to worry about the eggs hitting each other while the water in boiling. I also find it easier to peel the eggs.

    • frazzledfoodie October 4, 2010 at 8:08 am #

      Interesting! Does the cooking time change?

      • Loren October 7, 2010 at 9:01 pm #

        I’m not sure as I have been making soft-cooked and hard-cooked eggs this way for so long that I don’t have a frame of reference. It takes about six minutes to make a soft-cooked egg that has the right consistency for me, but it does vary depending on the size of the eggs (I usually buy large eggs) and your current altitude.

  3. Kris October 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm #

    I make my poached eggs with a runny middle and eat them on toast – it’s roughly the same thing minus the need to remove the shell after cooking (I like over easy eggs, too). My husband and children all find the runny yolk disgusting and request their eggs cooked hard.

    When I was a child, eggs over easy or poached soft were referred to as “dippy eggs,” the soft center being an ideal dip for one’s toast.

  4. incomepowerboost October 7, 2010 at 8:39 pm #

    OMG I loved that growing up I am Canadian. I haven’t had that in years though. I remember my parents use to cut toast lengthwise in little strips with butter on them so i could dip them in the egg yoke…. now you done it .. gonna have to do that gain sometime…. Your fault 😛 lol

  5. She's a Maineiac January 3, 2011 at 8:41 pm #

    This post brought back some memories! My dad used to serve us soft boiled eggs on buttered toast. A little salt, all runny and gooey. It was heaven on a plate. I still make it sometimes and my husband is just disgusted by it.

    • frazzledfoodie January 3, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

      I wasn’t sure how this post would be received (the greatest conversation always seems to happen on Facebook under the notification of my post) but I found that soft-boiled eggs had more fans than I realized! I had very few disgusted responses – although I’m sure some were kept private. 😉 Glad I could bring back a good memory.

  6. kamil April 15, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    i loooove soft boiled eggs. When I was sick as a little boy, my mom knew that I’m getting better when I asked for soft boiled eggs in a mug and HBO. lol

    • kamil April 15, 2011 at 1:31 pm #

      my American friends say i’m weird and that soft boiled eggs are unhealthy, but I was never sick after those eggs and now i sure look healthier that many Americans, if you know what I mean.

  7. Natalia September 24, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

    As a Brit, it has come as a complete surprise to me that soft boiled eggs are so alien to Americans… How odd… Did you know the strips of toast (or more traditionally buttered bread) are called ‘soldiers’? Bit of soft boiled egg trivia for you there…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: