I have an old Breakfast & Brunch cookbook that I keep only for the easy-to-locate instructions on making the perfect soft or hard cooked eggs. Here’s the trick:
Soft or Hard-cooked Eggs
(adapted from Sunset Ideas & Recipes for Breakfast & Brunch, 1980)
NEVER boil eggs. If you do, you’re courting such disasters as cracked and leaking shells, waterlogged and lopsided eggs, and rubbery whites.
The fresher the eggs you use, the better the result. Old eggs float at the top of the water, fresher eggs sink.
A perfect soft-cooked egg has a tender white, solidified to the consistency you prefer, and a hot, liquid to semi-liquid yolk.*(see note below)
An excellent hard-cooked egg begins the same way, but the white is completely firm, yet tender; the yolk is firm and dry throughout, with the same color on the outside as in the center.
When cooking eggs in their shells, it’s best to use eggs that are at room temperature to prevent the shells from cracking. If you do use eggs directly from the refrigerator, follow the directions below but increase the total cooking time by 2 minutes.
Place eggs, without crowding, in a single layer in a pan with straight sides. Fill just to cover with water. Set pan, uncovered, over high heat and bring water to simmering (bubbles will just begin to rise to surface of pan). This takes about 8 to 11 minutes.
For soft-cooked eggs, remove pan from heat when water begins to simmer; cover and let stand for 2 to 4 minutes. For hard-cooked eggs, reduce heat to medium when water begins to simmer; cook for 15 to 18 minutes. At end of specified time, drain eggs and immediately cover with cold water. This stops the cooking process.
To shell hard-cooked eggs, tap each egg gently all over on a flat surface or with the back of a spoon. Under running cold water, roll the egg between the palms of your hands to loosen the shell.
*The “food police” would want me to warn you that soft-cooked eggs can still contain active salmonella bacteria. They would tell you never to eat them. I’m in the camp that says “use very fresh, local eggs and enjoy them” 🙂