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If you learned how to brew your tea from George Orwell, and would also like to learn to soft-cook an egg, this is the course for you. Certainly the most civilised and likely the most delicious preparation of an egg, soft-cooking yet remains, for most, poorly understood. So many mistakes to be made! Yet I don't make mistakes! Nor Escoffier nor Nabokov nor Rombauer tell you what I shall tell you. This is a curriculum for a six-minute egg (at any altitude), the only egg for a spoon. This is not a recipe. (A recipe would say, 'Cook an egg in water for five or six minutes.') This is a set of rules.
I recommend a five-minute egg, personally.
1. Use a room-temperature egg. This may seem an unnecessary instruction to many, but the standard American practice is to refrigerate eggs. This is entirely unnecessary, and, frankly, the quality of an egg can be compromised by changes in temperature. Preferably, the egg has never been refrigerated at all, from hen to home, but, if it has been, bring it gradually to room temperature in a bowl of warm water. A cold egg, the perfect suicide, loves nothing more than to crack itself open in boiling water.
2. Use a medium or large egg (50–60g). Issues of naturalness aside, an egg of modest size will cook most reliably, and you'll avoid cracking into a horrid breakfast of but-half-coagulated albumen. A jumbo egg is the worst. Furthermore, a soft-cooked egg should be nice, and jumbo isn't nice.
3. Make sure that the water in the pot comfortably covers the egg even if it's standing upright (which it may want to do), you fool.
4. Boil the water first, then take it off the boil, then put in the egg. You are not boiling the egg! This is the most controversial point, but it is undoubtedly right. This is the only way you can ensure that the violence of boiling water will not cause your egg to crack. This is the only way you will have control of the temperature of the egg for the whole of the cooking process, and the only way you can reliably cook an egg by the clock. This is the only way to ensure that, whatever equipment you are using, your method may always stay the same.
5. Move the pot off the burner. Anywhere else.
6. Make sure the egg doesn't lie on one side the whole time it cooks. The pot is hot. The side (if I may say that an egg has sides) to the pot bottom will cook more than the other. Poke the egg (gingerly) around.
7. Don't bother shocking the egg, as you won't be peeling it. (Thus, it doesn't matter how fresh or old the egg is.) Never peel it. If you try, even in the best of circumstances, you will contrive to ruin two eggs for each egg you peel successfully.
8. Eat the egg immediately. Do not refrigerate it, ever.
9. Use an egg cup. (Obviously.)
10. Use an egg spoon. The use of a teaspoon guarantees that you will put some shell in the egg, or otherwise bugger it up.
11. Pepper the egg, but do not salt it. Trust me.