No. 10: How to Boil an Egg

Eggs had finally left behind their bad reputation as artery cloggers, and then in 2010 they got caught up in the most massive food recall in years. Nearly 2,000 Americans got sick from eggs contaminated with salmonella, possibly from infected chicken feed in Iowa. But the recall didn’t seem to stop people from eating eggs, judging from the number of searches on Yahoo! for how to cook eggs. The top question? How to boil an egg.

Boiling an egg only sounds simple. In Julia Child’s “The Way to Cook,” she prescribes covering the eggs with cold water, bringing them to a boil, turning off the heat, and letting the eggs sit for “exactly 17 minutes.” Then you should chill the whole eggs in an ice bath and briefly shock them in boiling water again to separate the egg whites from the shell.

What makes Julia’s method perfect? She says in her book that the way she boils eggs produces tender egg whites, and “there is not the faintest darkening of yolk where the white encircles it” — overheating triggers a chemical reaction that darkens the yolks, she says.

Everyone prefers their eggs boiled differently, and it takes mere seconds for the egg to go from a soft, runny center to a hard, fully cooked yolk. In fact, because eggs are so temperature-sensitive, egg cookery is a “good barometer to judge the skill of a chef,” says Jason Berthold, a former sous chef at the famed French Laundry and now executive chef at San Francisco’s RN74. Berthold’s restaurant goes through 360 dozen per week, used in dishes from poached eggs to pasta to ice cream.

If you want to go a step beyond a simply boiled egg, try his method. Berthold is the mastermind behind the French Laundry’s coddled egg, which is cooked in a glass jar only a little larger than the egg itself, for exactly three and a half minutes, then served with black truffles and butter.

–Eugenia Chien

Before joining Yahoo! as a Search editor, Eugenia Chien was a reporter at New America Media in San Francisco. Her work has appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, on KQED, and on KALW. She crushes on geek heroes, transit enthusiasts, and animal lovers.