Cooking With Confidence
Happy Mornings
by Nick

How to Make Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs

2012 ended up being the year of the egg for me in the kitchen.  I set out to find the perfect way to make soft boiled eggs and I failed miserably.

I failed so miserably that I promised to never try them again. I relinquished myself to only having poached eggs in my own kitchen.

Then last month I opened the latest Cook’s Illustrated to find, apparently, the perfect way to cook Soft Boiled Eggs.

As you might imagine, I was very skeptical. But after reading the thousands of words that were devoted to finding and testing all the egg-cooking methods, I decided I had to try it.

I did so and I almost cried when my eggs came out. They were perfect. I’ve replicated the results a few times since and so I figured I should write something about it.

As a bonus, I’m partnering with the people over at Cook’s Illustrated to do a cool giveaway at the end of this post! They are the ones who get all the credit for this method and its awesomeness.

Bunches of eggs
Prep Time
Total Time

Just a moment please...

Soft-boiled Eggs


  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • Pepper
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1) Bring about 1/2 inch of water to a boil over medium high heat in a pot big enough to hold your eggs in one layer.

2) When water is boiling, add eggs straight from the fridge.

3) Cover pot and let cook for 6 1/2 minutes exactly.

4) Uncover pot and run cold water over eggs for 30 seconds.

5) Peel eggs starting with the larger end of the egg and slowly working up the egg.

6) Eat eggs immediately on whatever you want or store them for later!

Big props to Andrea Geary at Cook's Illustrated for coming up with this method.

Soft Boiled Eggs

Cooking the Eggs

For this method to work, the only things you need to remember when picking out the eggs are:

1) Get large or extra large eggs.

2) Move them straight from the fridge to the hot water. You don’t want them to come to room temperature before cooking.

Also, older eggs seem to be easier to peel after cooking. That said, I had good results peeling these eggs and I cooked them the same day I bought them.  If they are fresher though, you’ll need a bit more patience while you peel.

Eggs for soft boiled eggs

Heaven or hell.

Cooking The Eggs

There are a million variables that go into Soft Boiled Eggs and I won’t reproduce the crazy analysis that went into their article. You should just go buy it if you care.

In short, the main issue with reproducing good soft boiled eggs is that when you put the eggs in water, the water decreases in temperature and takes a while to return to the right temperature. So depending on the pot you are using, how many eggs you’re cooking, and your water levels, you can get pretty drastic results.

They removed this variable by using a very small amount of water. They recommend about a 1/2 inch of water in the pan. What this means is that you are basically steaming the eggs instead of boiling them and the little amount of water in the pan will rapidly return to a boil regardless of how many eggs you cook.

Soft BOiled Eggs Cooking

Very low water level.

I’m fairly confident that this method will work for anybody because it worked for me with one egg, three eggs, and six eggs on the very first try.

The chances of that happening randomly are approximately zero.

The method is really very easy.

Add 1/2 inch of water to your pan and bring it to a rapid boil over medium-high heat. Once it’s boiling, add in your eggs in a single layer in the pan.

Cover the lid, return the pan to the heat, and set a timer for exactly 6 minutes 30 seconds. 390 seconds. No more. No less.

The pan should almost immediately return to a simmer which is what you want.

Soft Boiled Eggs simmering

390 seconds.

When the timer goes off, remove the lid and immediately run the eggs under cold water for thirty seconds.

This completely stops the cooking.

Soft Boiled Eggs cooling

Cool it down.

At this point the eggs are done!

You can eat them immediately or save them for later. The whites will be nicely set and the yolks still runny.

Peeling Soft Boiled Eggs

Peeling eggs is always stressful. Especially if you know you’ve cooked them perfectly, it sucks to lose eggs because you can’t peel them.

To be honest, I don’t think there’s a 100% way to make sure you can peel the eggs right every time. I even tried the blow method which works great on hard-boiled eggs but leaves you with a handful of runny yolks for these.

The best chance you have is to make sure you are using slightly older eggs and to start cracking them at the larger end of the egg.

Peeling Soft Boiled Eggs

Start at the big bottom.

There’s a little air bubble that is normally on that end and you can use that to get a good start peeling. Work slowly and use the membrane around the egg to help lift the shell away from the egg.

It takes a bit of patience but I can usually peel one in about a minute or less.

Half peeled Soft Boiled Eggs

Slow going.

To be honest, not all of my eggs peeled perfectly. One had some cracks but still very edible and one was a complete loss. Out of ten I tried from two different dozens of eggs (not a large sample size I realize), I peeled seven that I would consider pretty perfect.

Like this one.

Finished Soft Boiled Eggs


These go well on pretty much anything. Serve them on toast, salads, or in soups.

They are just plain excellent.

Soft Boiled Eggs recipe from Machessmo

These were beyond good.


This is simply the best way I've discovered to make perfect soft boiled eggs every single time. Do it!

The Giveaway

This whole egg experience reminded me how amazing Cook’s Illustrated is. If you’re serious about becoming a good home cook, I’m not sure that there’s a better resource out there to deliver great recipes.

To that end, I’m giving away three one-year subscriptions to the printed Cook’s Illustrated publication. Because they are awesome, Cook’s Illustrated is also giving away three subscriptions to the online site where you can get access to tons of recipes and videos.

Six winners will be chosen in total! Winners will be picked on the morning of December 24th and announced on this post. (If you can’t see the below widget because you have javascript disabled, you can also enter the giveaway simply by leaving a comment on this post!)


Printed subscription winners:
Sarah Lustberg (facebook)
Starletta Schipp (Twitter)
Sara Chatfield (comment)

Online Subscription winners:
Stacey Gold (Google+)
Priyanka Anand (comment)
Kate Bigam (Twitter)

Thanks everyone for reading and happy holidays!

Check out these other Breakfast recipes!

Hard Roll Breakfast Sandwiches

Hard Roll Breakfast Sandwiches

Egg and Cheese Breakfast Pinwheels

breakfast pinwheels

Tortilla Breakfast Casserole

tortilla breakfast casserole

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203 comments on “How to Make Perfect Soft-Boiled Eggs

  1. Love, Love, Love Cook’s Illustrated! This makes me feel like I could really poach an egg… WOW! :)

  2. LOL… This is perfect! My wonderful husband of 34 years is now wanting to learn to cook! So Please, a subscription to Cooks Illustrated… would be awsome. Merry Christmas!

  3. I haven’t tried making soft-boiled eggs but my German grandmother would make them for me all the time when I was little. I’ve just learned how to poach them, but this will be the next thing I try!

  4. My grandmother used to serve soft boiled eggs and toast for breakfast. I thought they were weird when I was a kid, but your post has me seriously reconsidering because I would love them now!

  5. When we used to eat soft-boiled eggs regularly when I was a kid, we never shelled them. We just cracked the shell, broke them in half, and used a spoon to scoop out the innerds. I think this is the less-elegant variation of what I see in British TV shows when the upper-class are eating their eggs out of egg cups.

  6. Hi, Love your blog:) I can’t wait to try this method for soft boiled eggs. Do you turn off the burner when you cover the pan? Thanks:)

  7. Hi, Nick. I know this isn’t the proper place to ask, but I haven’t heard anything about the new book and the recipe testing. I wanted to make sure I somehow didn’t miss any emails you may have sent out, though. Merry Christmas!

    1. Hey Man! No problem. I have you down for the pulled pork chapter and I’m not quite ready for that to be tested… I’m kind of doing the testing in waves so I can keep up. I think I’ll send out that chapter in the next month or so. Thanks again!

  8. I made a few of these last night and they turned out perfect. Now I must say I do not like soft boiled eggs at all…but…I’ve seen many people saying they are hard to make or there are special tricks so I had to see if I could even do it! You never know when you will have a guest who prefers them that way! So although I don’t like them…this recipe/method is perfect for them :)

  9. I love softboiled eggs but they are hard to make just right – I’ll definitely try the 390 second rule!! My grandmother was notorious for peeling half the egg away with the shell when I was growing up, and for a lifelong egg lover like myself it was so painful to watch!! lol

  10. Absolutely perfect eggs! We eat soft-boiled eggs a lot and although cooking them has never been a problem, getting them perfect every time didn’t always happen. But this method, wow, that was a lovely egg! We make them to eat out of an egg cup and I purposely make them early so that I can put little hand-knit sweaters on them to keep them warm until everyone comes to the table! Thanks for the method!

    1. Janet –

      What a thoughtful person you are! I would love to come for breakfast at your house!


  11. These came out perfect! All of them peeled perfectly and the eggs I cooked were only 4-5 days old, max, since I raise my own chickens. I have never been able to get soft boiled eggs right – I was about to break down and get one of those egg cookers (the West Bend recommended in CI), but no more! Thanks for the how-to!

  12. It’s Saturday and the first day of my spring break! I love being able to sleep in. I’m trying this recipe this morning. Last night I baked some ciabatta. I think the two will go well together!

  13. Wow! These were PERFECT! And really, these were less trouble than using the silicone cups for poached eggs. I may make them this way all the time. Thanks for another great recipe!

  14. Wow, I do a lot of home cooking and have had only limited success with soft boiled eggs as sometimes there were over cooked and other times to soft runny whites. I was skeptical when I came across the above instruction on how to cook soft boiled eggs and to only add a half inch water just seemed to easy. I used 4 large eggs I had in the refrigerator for about a week and followed the instruction exactly except maybe the 6 minute 30 seconds as I had no timer, I just took the eggs off the stove when the clock hit 6 minutes and rinsed them in cold water right away as instructed, I was amazed at first on how each egg peeled so easily and all 4 came out perfect no ruined eggs :) My wife and could only mumble between bites on how perfect the eggs came out as the egg whites were firm, but the yolk still soft!

    I plan on using the same method the next time I plan on doing deviled eggs, but cook a little longer as the eggs came out perfectly shaped and the old way of boiling you get what you get lol!

    Thank you so much

  15. Great recipe. A chef friend told me that putting a little vinegar in the boiling water for hard/soft boiled eggs makes the peel easily – seems to work!

  16. A teaspoon works very well to peel boiled eggs. Crack the egg all around, insert teaspoon at the flatter end of the egg, work it in, down the side, keeping it just under the shell. Rotate the egg til it’s free of the shell.

  17. I love this recipe except for one thing I noticed. I’ve tried making it twice, the first time was perfectly the second time not so much. Your instructions don’t say whether to keep it boiling or turn it off during the 6 mins.

    Do you keep the water boiling or turn it off completely?


    1. Heya! I see what you mean. That is a bit confusing. After you add the eggs and cover them, put the pot back over the heat. IT should be constantly simmering. Once the 6.5 minutes are over, then turn off the heat and run it under cold water to stop the cooking.

      Good luck!!

      1. I’m sorry, still confused as simmering is different from boiling and when you say return to the heat and keep simmering, does that mean full bubbling boiling, OR turn the heat down to a simmer. Sorry if I’m just an “egghead”

        1. Hey Karen, there is so little water in the pan that it would be tough to regulate the difference between a simmer and a boil, but in any case, I always just crank the heat up to high. So I guess that would be a BOIL. :)

    2. From all the comments, I wondered if I was the only one to notice this too! Good to know to keep the burner ‘on’.

  18. soft boiled eggs are my comfort food. my mom makes the perfect soft boiled eggs but ive never been able to master them! now that im an adult, mom doesn’t make me eggies as much as she use to. im definitely trying this method! I have a friend that got a few chickens this spring and will have fresh eggs. maybe 2013 will be MY year of the egg!

  19. This method worked perfectly when I tried it this morning, thanks for the tip. I’m just amazed at how many people commenting on a food site have never tried soft boiled eggs .

  20. I’m obsessed with soft-boiled eggs. I eat them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They are part of at least 2 meals a week in my house.

    A little trick for peeling that I recently learned (thanks to Chef Wylie Dufresne of WD~50)…add a teaspoon or two of baking soda to the water, depending on how many eggs you are cooking at once. I tried this trick on eggs that I just brought back from the farmer’s market and it worked like a charm! No struggling to peel or ugly, pitted whites.

  21. Yes – Science = The perfect zen of soft boiled eggs
    Been using this nothing-short-of-brillient CI method for quite some time.
    SBE’s on everything!
    Grilled asparagus, English/Gruyere/Jamon, crab cakes, etc. etc.
    So ….. I’m having my cholesterol checked again soon!

  22. My grandma ran a small stream of cold water over the eggs as she peeled them..I like that method the best for hard boiled eggs… Don’t know if it will work for these eggs but I’m gonna try it…they look good… Thanks

  23. These worked perfectly for me! Hard whites on the outside and the yolk is just beginning to coagulate on the edges. As good as it gets. Thanks!

  24. As a dedicated subscriber to Cooks’ Illustrated, I also have great success with this method, however my one or two eggs are done in 3.5 to 4 minutes!
    I use the swift sharp smack with the sharp end of a table knife at the fatter end. If it doesn’t go all the way thru, it’s o.k. Because deft fingers will complete the transfer to a small heated bowl. Counter intuitively, I seldom get any tiny shards in the egg.

    Saw on an episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmerman while at the Grand Hotel in St. Petersburg, Russia, a perfectly cooked soft-boiled egg BUT the egg shell was cut perfectly smooth! So beautiful they even used the smaller part of the shell as a decoration. Now I’d love to know how that was achieved.

  25. Used this method several times with 100% success! I just devour them after cooking…rather primal…but SO GOOD.

  26. Here in Brasil the most oftenly used methode for peeling eggs is to peel them under running water. At the same time it cools them down and it helps to separate the membrane from the egg….

  27. I love my Cooks’ Illustrated and soft boiled eggs and when I saw this post I let out a great big ME TOO!! I saw the article in Cooks’ this winter and was so excited about trying it out and then I filed it away without trying it and of course forgot where I’d seen that “perfect soft-boiled eggs” article and I’ve been searching for it ever since. So THANK YOU! I just had some truly awesome eggs with butter and toast. They came out perfectly, of course, but I never would’ve found the procedure if you hadn’t put it online.

  28. After I add the eggs to the pan it says to “return the pan to heat” but it doesn’t have any instructions on removing the pan from the heat before that?

    When am I removing the pan from the heat? Right after water starts to boil?

    1. Hey Meena,

      I leave it over the heat the entire time so the water stays boiling. That’s the best way to make sure they cook evenly. Good luck!

  29. For the perfect cut shell to eat from an egg cup use a “eierschalensollbruchstellenverursacher”
    You can get one from a german company name CLACK.
    You out the egg in the cup, set the “tool” on top of the egg, drop the weight and it make a perfect crack around the top. after you lift the hat off, you can eat the egg with your proper egg spoon.

  30. I tried this but for some reason the yolk was solid and the shell had cracked, even though I lowered it carefully into the half inch of boiling water. Maybe just an unlucky egg…

  31. I just had a bunch for 10 friends and cooked a dozen eggs (two batches) the day before using this method. I live at 5,000 feet elevation and had to adjust the cooking time slightly, adding 20 seconds more to compensate for the lower boiling temperature. I cooled and peeled them immediately using your tip of starting with the large end, under a trickle of cold water with the help of a teaspoon under the membrane – perfect. Held them in cold water overnight in a loaf pan. Perfect fit for twelve. At the brunch, I warmed four at a time “to order” in boiling water for a little over a minute. My guests were wowed and amused by the process and how perfectly they were done. So glad I found your post!

  32. I never peel my soft boiled egg. I hit it with a knife around the egg to break in half. Now just scoop all that goodness directly from egg to mouth!

  33. If you add a teaspoon of baking soda before you place the lid on your pan it will make the peeling process easy. Trust me, I’m clumsy. I’m grateful for the recipe, I always under cook the egg or over cook it. Thank you for sharing!

  34. Add baking soda to the cooking water and your eggs will peel effortlessly every time fresh or otherwise.

  35. I struggle with boiled eggs so I’m super excited to try these in the morning! Poached eggs don’t taste as yummy as a perfect boiled egg.

  36. I am following the directions but sometimes the eggs crack and then I have a mess. They do not crack every time I make them….sometimes they come out perfectly. I am not doing anything different …any suggestions?

    1. Hey Pam, the only things I can think of is A) the eggs might have a small crack in them before going in or B) they are cracking as you are putting them in. B is probably more likely since there isn’t much water in the pan. You have to be pretty gentle with putting them in. There’s nothing about the cooking process that would crack them unless they are already cracked as far as I know… good luck!

    2. Hi Pam, I can’t believe I’m following all these threads, but want to offer what I think will be the solution if you have not already found it. Using the 1/2 in of water, add a steamer basket, and put the eggs in as soon as the heat is turned on. Cover. The only tricky part is you must watch to see when water boils, by the stream emerging. Start timing for about 3 1/2 min. This way the shells gradually hear, reducing expansion shock, which can result in cracked shells. Briefly cool in cold water to handle, hit with table knife and scoop out with spoon.

  37. You can remove the shell of every boiled egg in two pieces by using ONE trick! As soon as the egg is done, immerse it into freezing cold water for 30 seconds or so (it separates the fine skin that attaches the egg to the shell) then peel it immediately and your egg peeling days will be great, I promise! Make sure to share this trick with your followers. (I used to get very sore fingers simply because I was picking one tiny piece of shell off at a time). Thanks to my mom, my fingers enjoy removing two big pieces of shell every time!

  38. Nick, You can remove the shell of every boiled egg in two pieces by using ONE trick! As soon as the egg is done, immerse it into freezing cold water for 30 seconds or so (it separates the fine skin that attaches the egg to the shell) then peel it immediately and your egg peeling days will be great, I promise! Make sure to share this trick with your followers. (I used to get very sore fingers simply because I was picking one tiny piece of shell off at a time). Thanks to my mom, my fingers enjoy removing two big pieces of shell every time!

  39. Have you ever tried saving them for later? How would you reheat them without cooking the yolk? Although if they are this easy and fast, there may be no reason, except my young kids love them, but they aren’t old enough to use the stove, and when we are in a hurry, it would be so convenient to just grab them. I actually make hard and soft boiled eggs in my instant pot on the steam setting, and they always peel easily.

    1. I subscribe to CI and know they had something later about reheating soft-bailed eggs — I was hoping this would either point me to that or contain the method. Apparently it can be done. I’ll keep looking to remind myself how.

      1. I’ve made them in advance. If you just pop them in steaming water for about 45 seconds, they warm up but are still soft. You might have to do a trial run to make sure, but for me 45-60 seconds does the trick!

  40. Wow these are perfect!! Thanks so much for the beyond descriptive tutorial. I made 3 and the first one I forgot to peel from the air bubble so I messed it up, but the other 2 turned out great. Thank you so much, this is going to be my daily breakfast now!

    1. So many comments on the lowly egg!!!
      It DOES make a difference whose eggs are chosen…ie, a very successful grocery chain has cheaper prices on their own eggs, but turn out a watery, thin egg when following my own method of soft boiled eggs….so pay a little extra and get your traditional result. The watery egg can absolutly ruin a sponge cake recipe…like upside down cake, and many other recipes.
      My way: cold egg plus cold water to cover egg, no lid, timer set for 9 minutes, and Ready!! I remove egg from water which had just begun to boil, run egg cup or intended dish through remaining water. Hot egg, hot vessel…great. easy. I feed the dogs during that nine minutes!

  41. I’ve always had great luck peeling my eggs with a spoon. Find a spoon that has approximately the same curve as your egg. After you crack the egg, run a bit of water over it (or the spoon) and slide the spoon between the shell and the white. It should come off like a dream!

  42. Well mine are cooking now but the second I put them into the hot water from the fridge, one of them exploded into the water.

  43. To peel a hard boiled or soft-boiled egg perfectly, add one half teaspoon of baking soda to the water before it starts boiling. Works for me every time. Can’t wait to try your method of soft boiling eggs.

  44. This is the first I’ve heard that soft boils eggs were difficult. I’m really confused. I’ve been eating soft boiled eggs my whole life and I’ve never thought this to be a difficult task. The only catch is sometimes if I stop it too early there might be a very small amount of runny whites in top of the yolk but it’s easy spooned away.

    All I have ever done is placed 2-3 eggs in a medium pan, barely cover the top of the egg with cold water, put the burner on high and time 10 minutes from the moment I put the pot on the burner. Boom done, seriously.

    Run it under cold water immediately and eat a minute or two later.

    Also, recently I got an electronic timer that I got at a dutch store, it’s shaped like an egg, you actually put it in the water. When the egg is ready for soft boiled it will play a song. When it is ready for medium, a second song, when ready for hard it plays a third song.

    I think one mistake people are making is boiling the water and THEN adding the egg. I never do this.
    You’re method sounds interesting, I might try it sometime, but it seems necessary.

    1. But are you able to actually peel your eggs whole using that method? That’s what I was going for and this method is pretty successful for that.

  45. My eggs must be too big or something, because I did everything exactly as written and my egg whites were runny on the inside, so my peeling had to be done quickly, and I couldn’t rinse them as they were gooing all over my fingers, leaving tiny bits of shell. It was a disaster basically, and a waste of 2 beautiful backyard eggs. I’m sticking to my tried and true poached eggs for now on lol.

  46. I’ve been searching for the perfect recipe for soft boil eggs and alas I have found it here. Thank you so much Nick, I tried it and it worked perfectly, I thoroughly enjoyed my soft boiled eggs with an English muffin and it was AWESOME!!! I even thought to myself I just might my skip the whole poached egg process because this is easier although I got my skill down on poaching eggs, which I happen to love very much. It does bring back memories of when my mother used to serve us soft boil eggs in an egg cup. Next time I’m going to sauté a bit of shallots, garlic and spinach top it on an English muffin and dress it with the soft boiled eggs. Hollandaise Sauce or not its always good…

  47. When I hard boil my eggs, I find that what works for easy peeling, is first the method of fridge to boiling water…But…..before I put in the water I take a needle and pierce through the shell using the back of a wooden spoon…….peeling is easy… great.

  48. I have never tried doing eggs like this before. The eggs look so good that I am going to start doing this from now on.

  49. Thank you so much!I’ve never even tried soft boiled eggs but they were so delicious!I loved the texture :D

  50. This is a fantastic tutorial. Mine were perfect- some old eggs mixed with fresh. The old eggs were definitely easier to peel!

  51. I found this article very interesting about the the soft boiled eggs! Made me laugh because I still call my mom to ask “how many minutes” is it again? 4, 5 or 6??? I cannot have my eggs too over done or too “gooky” as I like to call snotty yolks! Here is my mother’s method. Eggs in the pot before the water and the water just barely covers the eggs. Bring to a boil and then time for 4 1/2 minutes, remove from heat and run under cold water. Now here is a tip about peeling the egg – keep it under the running water and starting from the flat end begin to peel allowing the water to get under the shell and peel away. This also prevents the shells from sticking to your fingers and keeps your fingers from getting burned by the hot egg!

  52. Oh my!!! My first attempt at soft boiled eggs were a success and its all due to this article!! I just finished eating these divine eggs and had to tell you how blissfully good it is. Day made!

  53. Got to try this method. I love soft boiled eggs. I remember Mum making them for me in the morning and putting them in egg cups. We would take a knife and hit the egg at the narrower end cutting through the egg and shell. Then Mum would serve them with buttered bread cut into strips which she called “soldiers” . Nothing tastes better than “soldiers” dipped in a nice warm soft yolk.

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