How to Make Soft-Boiled Eggs

It’s as easy as hard-boiling (but faster).

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July 14, 2022

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Photo by: Yunhee Kim

Yunhee Kim

What Are Soft Boiled Eggs?

If you can make hard-boiled eggs, you’ve basically already mastered the art of making soft boiled eggs. Soft boiled eggs are submerged in water, much like hard boiled eggs, and cooked until their whites are completely set but their yolks are still runny. They’re well-suited to stand in for poached eggs in recipes because they’re a whole lot easier to make, especially in big batches. If you're interested in learning how to make soft boiled eggs specifically for ramen, head over to our story How to Make Perfect Soft Boiled Eggs for Ramen.

Soft Eggs Boil Time

Timing is everything with soft boiled eggs. Cook them too long (we’re talking, a matter of 1 minute too long), and they’ll turn into medium boiled eggs. Still delicious, but not quite what you were going for. The cook time for soft boiled eggs varies depending on the technique you’re using.

Our favorite technique, described in the step-by-step below, asks you to add eggs to already boiling water. This technique allows for very precise timing. You should leave the eggs in the boiling water for 4 minutes.

Another common technique? Putting the eggs in a large pot, submerging them fully with cool water and bringing the water to a full boil. Then, you turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow the eggs to sit in hot water for 3 minutes.

How to Soft Boil an Egg, Step-By-Step

The Perfect Boiled Eggs

Head over here for a full recipe.

Step 1: Boil Water

Start by bringing a medium pot of water to boil. While you’re waiting, fill a large bowl with ice water and pull out a slotted spoon.

Step 2: Gently Add Eggs to Boiling Water

When the water’s boiling, drop the first egg in very gently. If you’re making more than one, add the rest and start timing when the water returns to a boil.

Step 3: Simmer the Eggs for 4 minutes

Lower the heat to a simmer. In 4 minutes you’ll have the perfect consistency: tender-set egg whites with a runny yolk.

Step 4: Shock the Eggs In Ice Water

Quickly remove the eggs from the pot with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the ice water. Let them hang out in the ice water until they’re cool enough to handle, about five minutes or so.

How to Peel Soft Boiled eggs

The only tricky part of making soft-boiled eggs can be peeling them. Because they’re so delicate, it’s easy to nick the egg white when you remove the shell. Set yourself up for success by skipping the local, fresh farm eggs and opting for some slightly older ones instead. It sounds counterintuitive, but eggs halfway through their shelf life are easier to peel perfectly.

If big pieces of egg white pull off with the shell, don’t panic. Slip a small spoon underneath the shell (working your way in through the air pocket at the end) and carefully slide the spoon in a circle right beneath the shell to release the egg. When you’re finished, dip the egg in the ice water to wash off any small fragments of the shell and gently pat the egg dry.

How to Store Soft Boiled Eggs

Soft-boiled eggs last for up to three days in the refrigerator — if you don’t devour them first.

How to Re-Heat Soft Boiled Eggs

If you’d like to make soft boiled eggs ahead of time and reheat them later, leave them in their shells and steam them right before serving. Bring half an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan, add the eggs, cover and cook for about three minutes.

How to Eat Soft Boiled Eggs

We love halving peeled soft boiled eggs and serving them on avocado toast with some red pepper flakes, but they’re delicious in any sort of breakfast sandwich from a classic BEC to a bagel sandwich. They’re a beautiful and classic way to crown a salad such as this salad nicoise, adding a pop of vibrant yellow and creating a natural place for your eyes to focus. We love them atop Caesar salad, chef's salad, simple green salad and even potato salad (the starch from the potatoes emulsifies with the runny egg yolks to create the creamiest results imaginable).

You can also serve soft boiled eggs in egg cups, which are specifically designed for serving soft-boiled eggs. Leave the shell on the egg, slicing off the top with a sharp knife. Then stick the egg in an egg cup and serve it with a small spoon and toast points. Spoon out the egg or dip the toast directly into it to soak up the runny yolk.

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