Sunday, 14 September 2014

How To Boil An Egg

“He’s a useless cook – he can’t even boil an egg!”

I find such condescending statements bring out a unique reaction in me; a perfect storm of outrage, annoyance and frustration. Such statements lead me to race for my soapbox and rant.

I am not the world’s best cook by any stretch of the imagination (in fact I absolutely hate cooking – I hate it almost as much as I hate both ironing and gardening – or ironing in the garden – I hope you get the picture). But if somebody were to tell me that I couldn't boil an egg, I would find the nearest chair, request that person to sit down, grab my soapbox and rant at them.

Rather than ranting to you, dear reader, I just want to offer my thoughts about a culinary chore that the experts suggest is the easiest of all culinary chores.

I can hear you asking:

“What on earth has caused this idiot to start waffling on about boiled eggs? Has he lost his marbles?”

Let me explain.

I have just returned from a holiday in Santorini with Mrs PM and her folks. Each day in the hotel we were served a boiled egg as part of our breakfast. We had no control over how this defenceless egg was cooked; it just turned up in a little egg cup. One thing was consistent – the egg was as hard as concrete.

This sparked a debate whereupon I was told, in no uncertain terms, that my own views on boiled eggs were weird.

Can you imagine my reaction? Three people all looked me in the eye and told me that I cannot cook a boiled egg, that my idea of the perfect boiled egg was flawed and even that I don't know how to eat a boiled egg.

Rant? You have no idea!

Here’s what I told them.

First of all, everybody is different. Every person who likes boiled eggs has a unique preference when it comes to the temperature, hardness and texture of their egg. My own theory is that when a person is presented with an egg boiled by another person they politely smile, rub their tummy and say “Hmmmm! Lovely!”

The truth is that they think: “This person can’t even boil a bloody egg. This egg is a disaster.”

The overcooked boiled eggs in the hotel may not have been to everyone’s taste but I will bet you any money that one or two people will have genuinely liked them.

My second point is a corollary of my first point: there is no correct way to boil an egg. When I boiled my first egg, it was a total disaster. I hit it with a spoon and the raw uncooked white exploded out of the egg. I realised that leaving it in boiling water for thirty seconds wasn’t nearly enough.

My next attempt wasn’t much better. Leaving an egg in the pan for four hours, constantly replenishing the hot water is also not advisable.

The correct technique for the best egg is one of trial and error. You boil it, try it, and next day adjust the time until the yolk is flawless, in your opinion.

My third point, and possibly the most contentious one with Mrs PM and her folks (who all agreed) is how to serve the egg when it has been boiled.

Let me tell you how Mrs PM serves a boiled egg. She cooks it and then pours away the hot water. She then grabs a spoon and scoops the egg out of the pan, popping it into the egg cup and handing over to her victim, in this case me, to eat. Sadly, she fails to realise that the egg has just spent a fair amount of time in boiling water and when, a minute later, I grab the egg from the egg cup, it is like grabbing a piece of molten lava forged in the hottest part of the Hell. The first time I did this, I was so shocked that I shrieked in pain and threw the egg in the air. It hit the ceiling and crashed down on the table, spraying yolk all over the place.

My own technique is to add cold water to the boiling water, gradually cooling it down but not sharp enough to crack the egg. I am left with a boiled egg, in cold water, which I allow to cool to a point where I do not need industrial gloves to handle the thing.

When I mentioned this to Mrs PM and her folks, they looked at me as if I had just beamed in from the Starship Enterprise.

“Are you all mad? “ I raved. “What are you trying to do? Burn my hand off?”

Mrs PM’s dad then leapt to her defence with an unforgettable statement that made me laugh out loud.

“You’re not eating it properly.”

The other hotel guests were now openly chuckling.

Being told I can’t boil an egg properly is one thing, but then being told that once boiled, I don’t know how to eat it properly is the lowest insult of all.

“Do you think I am that thick?” I asked incredulously.

“It’s just been boiled,” he said staring at me in disbelief. “You should KNOW that it’s hot. Here, let me show you what you should do.”

I swear this is true. He held his egg by the egg cup and expertly lopped the top of it off with his knife. He explained it to me as if he were teaching a child of three.

I was speechless.

“What if I want to take all of the shell off?” I asked.

“Why would you want to do that?” he asked in all seriousness. “You won’t be able to dip your soldiers into the yolk. You’re doing it wrong. No wonder you burn your hand.”

Yes that's right: a grown man of over seventy years told me that I was eating my egg incorrectly.

“Is there a law about that?” I asked. “The ten commandments of boiling a bloody egg? How about: 

Thou shalt not pour cold water on your boiled egg. 

Thou shalt attempt to eat the egg when its temperature reaches 3000 degrees. 

Thou shalt not take off all the shell with the egg intact. 

Thou shalt slice your toast up into ten equally shaped soldiers. 

Thou shalt lop the top off your egg.

Thou shalt not have any naked boiled egg before one with its bloody top lopped off. 

Thou shalt dip your soldiers into the yolk. 

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s egg. 

Thou shalt not dip your soldier in your neighbour’s egg. 

Thou shalt only eat the remainder of thine egg when all of the soldiers have been doused in egg yolk.”

“Now you’re being silly,” he said.

Perhaps I was but at least I made a few people chuckle, including Mrs PM and her folks.

Do you agree, dear reader? 

Are my views about boiled eggs weird?

Don’t get me started on fried eggs.


Grace said...

Laughed out loud - that's a plus. How do you eat your boiled eggs and are they hard boiled or soft boiled? Makes a difference in how you eat them. (And it seems Sunday is the day for people to blog about how much they hate to cook - I know I did.)

River said...

Fried eggs? Over easy, it's the only way.
Boiled eggs are trickier. Older eggs boil hard quicker than fresh I've heard, or maybe it's the other way around. Do you allow the water to boil, then slip the eggs in from a spoon? Do you put the eggs in the cold water and allow them to heat and cook as the water heats? Should the eggs be room temperature or fridge cold?
All of these will influence the end result, so play safe and have them fried. Over easy. Or mix them into pancake batter and serve with maple syrup.

DrB said...

Mr PM,
I totally agree with you!
I do cool my eggs down in cold water before serving.

An aristocrate (son of a Lord) I dated for 6 uears told me that dipping shoulders into soft boiled egg york is rather 'common'. One shall never attempt it.

Malaysians and Singaporeans served soft boiled eggs differently - cracked it in half just like a raw egg in a small dish, then drizzle soy sauce and pepper.

Some anglos find it dsigusting but we love it and do not apologise for it.

jeremy north said...

Plenty of hyperbole there but it does illustrate the complications of such a simple process.

Personally I prefer a poached egg. If you think the variables on a boiled egg are manifold, Poached is several orders of magnitude removed.

Water? Pah, I put vinegar in it. do you stir it into a whirlpool? ...

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Grace,

To be honest, I quite like both soft and hard boiled eggs. There is a time and a place for each.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I feel another post coming on about frying eggs.

Sorry - over easy ain't the way for me.

And maple syrup is far too sweet to combine with an egg of any kind.

Still - each to their own. I hope you enjoy your over-easy eggs.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

You dated an aristocrat? What's "common" about soldiers, I wonder?

I wish I had heard him say it - my sopabox would have been out before you could say "How do you want your eggs - fried of boiled?"

Singaporean boiled eggs sound delicious. I might try that myself.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jeremy,

I eat poached eggs sometimes - and I commit a cardinal sin when cooking them. I zap them in the microwave and they come out absolutely fine.

Vinegar? Not sure about that.




River said...

The Maple syrup is for the pancakes that you made with eggs. I would never put syrup on just eggs.

H2B said...

Dear Mr PM,
You are completely correct that people like boiled eggs with different levels of hardness. However, it is very difficult to explain to others how you would like it.

Would you please write about fried eggs and omelette?

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

I just don't like maple syrup. It really is too sweet.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi H2B,

I think fried eggs would be an excellent topic for a blog post.




joeh said...

If dipping the toast in the yolk, that sounds like a soft boiled egg.

Here is the correct way to boil an egg.

1. put the egg in cold water.
2. fire the burner to full.
3. When the water reaches a full boil, turn off the heat and cover the pot.
4. Let the egg (s) sit in covered pot for exactly 8 minutes (3:45 for soft boiled)
5. Dropp egg into ice bath to stop cooking process.
6. Peal egg hole from shell (HB)
or poke and lop off the top (SB).

All other methods are wrong...unless they work for you!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Joeh,

Do you know - I'll give that a try.



PM said...

Also, check as well.