Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs

soft boiled eggThe last time I ate a soft-boiled egg was over 25 years ago when a particularly gooey drop of yolk decided to befriend my $150 Hermes tie.  Thanks to a botched job at the dry-cleaner, they have become inseparable friends and, as such, I decided then to give up both expensive ties and soft-boiled eggs.

Nevertheless, “Drama Queen” Abigail has insisted that I share a recent recipe that appeared on Cook’s Illustrated that explains how you “steam” rather than “cook” an egg to achieve a soft-cooked egg “that delivered a set white and a fluid yolk every time.” Before caving into Abigail’s request, I have decided to share the highlights of Cook’s Illustrated “science” required to achieve the perfect soft-cooked egg.

Science Class: According to America’s Test Kitchen, the traditional way of cooking soft-cooked eggs is to add eggs to boiling water. Sadly, this lowers the temperature of the water and makes for uneven cooking results depending on when eggs are added and how quickly the water reaches the boiling temperature again after each immersion. The folks at America’s test kitchen have found that “steaming” eggs in a small amount of water achieves consistently perfect results.  (Note to Langston: They probably don’t teach this in Texas as evolution is still not part of the school curriculum.  Langston, I too am still trying to figure out which came first:  The chicken or the egg?)

How to Cook Perfect Soft-Cooked Eggs

Note:  This recipe works for any number of eggs.  Use large eggs that have no cracks and are cold from the refrigerator.


  1. Bring 1/2 inch of water to a boil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat.  Using tongs (or better yet a steamer basket), gently place the refrigerated eggs into the boiling water.  The eggs will not be submerged.  Cover the saucepan and cook the eggs for 6 1/2 minutes.
  2. Remove cover, transfer saucepan to sink and place under cold running water for 30 seconds.  Remove eggs from pan and serve, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.


Note from International Travel Correspondent:    Sadly, I will be writing more frequently for our sister commercial website Gourmet Living which will soon be introducing its own line of balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy to be followed by Mediterranean salts and olive oil.    For those more interested in food than theatrics, you may find something useful on the new site.  Cheers.

Thanksgiving Post-Mortem

For those interested in trivia, 51 million turkeys were consumed by Americans this Thanksgiving Day.  Needless, to say not all Americans gathered around the table to give thanks: Native Americans gather annually on this day in Plymouth, MA to celebrate this “National Day of Mourning.”

It’s hard to argue with their point of view, but I suspect that if the NFL Washington “Redskins” change their name and logo to something less “racially” offensive like “Foreskins” all will be forgiven by Native Americans.

Given GourMay’s declining readership, Editor-in-Chief Sheila has recommended that we give readers “what they want to hear,” rather than the “rantings of a grumpy old man.” We want to hear from you, so please check on the box below that best represents your view in this year’s first “Right Side of History” Poll:

Regardless of which way you voted, I would like to provide readers with a post-mortem on my spatchcock heritage turkey that we cooked for Thanksgiving. It was delicious and the recommended timing was dead on! I will certainly be using the technique for all future turkeys. Found below are a few photographs of the bird at various stages of the cooking process.

Turkey Legs Skin Side Down at 250 degrees

Turkey Legs Skin Side Down at 250 degrees

Flip turkey breast and cook for about 2 hrs at 250 degress

Flip turkey breast and cook for about 2 hrs at 250 degrees

Papa and sous chef with Turkey

Papa and sous chef with Turkey

Now there are many people who dismiss the culinary virtues of a heritage turkey, but frankly it tastes like turkey rather than the factory-farm variety produced by Perdue. Courtesy of Cooks Illustrated (Nov-Dec Edition), found below are the characteristics of a heritage turkey as agreed to by the Livestock Conservancy and the American Poultry Association:

  1. Heritage turkeys must have a long productive lifespan – five to seven years for breeding hens, three to five years for breeding toms – and have a genetic ability to withstand the environmental rigors of outdoor production systems.

  2. Heritage turkey must have a slow to moderate rate of growth, reaching marketable weight in about 28 weeks, giving the birds time to develop a strong skeletal structure and healthy organs before building muscle mass.  Commercial turkeys grow to full size in only 12 to 14 weeks.

  3. Unlike commercial turkeys that must artificially inseminated, heritage birds are the result of naturally mating pairs of both grandparent and parent stock.

Now heritage turkeys cost quite a bit more, but are certainly worth the money.  If you attend a market, consult with your poultry specialist.  They often can supply heritage turkeys for far less than ordering online.

Marcella’s Milk Pork: A Letter to Cooks Illustrated

As Gourmay readers are aware, Marcella’s Braised Milk Pork is a popular favorite among the May family. In fact, I suspect that this Italian classic is a favorite for almost anyone who doesn’t have an eating disorder. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the test kitchen at Cook’s Illustrated was going to “improve” on this beloved recipe of braised milk pork.

Braised Milk Pork

In the March – April edition of Cook’s Illustrated, chef Lan Lam argues that “Italian Milk-Braised Pork” will taste better and look better through a complicated preparation that produces “smooth and silky” gravy rather than the far more flavorful “lumpy and frumpy” gravy that is traditional for this Italian classic.   It didn’t!

While I am a great admirer of Cook’s Illustrated, Marcella Hazan most certainly would have pleaded with St. Peter to be resurrected so she could beat Lan Lam over the head with a wooden spoon. Boy, was this a big disappointment.

Found below is my open letter to the Editor of Cook’s Illustrated:


Dear Mr. Kimball:

My wife and I are loyal enthusiasts of Cook’s Illustrated and look forward to your delightful and informative “test kitchen” suggestions on improving food classics. For the most part, your test kitchen results are clear winners and we have incorporated many of them into our own food preparation.

Unfortunately, there are a few abject failures which – in my opinion – should have never made it past the editor’s scalpel. I refer to Lan Lam’s silly attempt to “improve” on the taste and appearance of Italian Milk-Braised Pork.

Without going into a lot of detail, the “smooth and silky” non-curdled gravy was far less flavorful than the “lumpy and frumpy” gravy produced the traditional way. More to the point, why would anyone waste the prep time to render salt pork and other make-work suggestions to produce braised milk pork that looks and tastes like some bland hospital food?

I think Marcella Hazan and cooks everywhere deserve an apology from Cook’s Illustrated for this ill-founded attempt to improve on this Italian classic.


Richard May