Written: 6th Jun 2005 | Last Updated: 6th Jun 2005
Itís true! Some people donít know how to boil an egg! But itís nothing to be ashamed of - eggs are famously fragile to the point of being intimidating and somehow just sit there, mute and challenging in their pale shells. But itís worth getting over any fears of how to deal with the wobbly, white ovals because they offer up one of the most delicious, nutritious foods on Earth.
Boiling an egg begins with buying/gathering certified excellent eggs Ė in the city, free-range eggs from your butcher, food market or supermarket are almost always the best, and in the country you really should make the most of things by keeping a coop of chickens and producing your own!
For soft-boiled eggs, go for as fresh as possible; for hard-boiled eggs for mashing or chopping to use in sandwiches or salads, eggs should be fine right up until their use-by date (or if youíve gathered them yourself, for up to 3-4 weeks) as long as they have been stored properly.
Storing properly means keeping eggs refrigerated. While many supermarkets in Australia display eggs out on ordinary shelves (to save money), they should be kept cool Ė and once home they should be immediately placed in the fridge. Eggs are not only fragile because of their fine, porous shells Ė they also may contain (unless pasteurised) certain bacteria that go crazy if you let them (Salmonella Enteritidis in particular). Always keep eggs chilled at between 2 and 4 degrees C until you need them, unless a recipe for something like Pavlova specifically calls for room temperature eggs. Do not leave them out of the fridge for longer than an hour or so on any occasion.
Raw or underdone eggs are not recommended for human consumption (sorry, Sukiyaki and Steak Tartare lovers!) because of possible contamination from bacteria Ė but donít let that put you off eating properly-cooked ones!
For a classic, 3-minute soft-boiled egg (with a reasonably firm yolk), place your egg in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and boil gently for exactly 3 minutes. Remove egg with slotted spoon to an attractive egg cup and let it stand for half a minute. Then serve with salt & pepper and fingers of lightly buttered wholemeal toast.
For a hard-boiled egg, place egg in saucepan and cover with cold water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and boil gently for 8 minutes. Carefully drain hot water from the pan then refill, running cold water over the egg to stop any further cooking. Leave egg in cold water until cool. Refrigerate until you need it.
Once cooked, eggs should be consumed immediately or returned to the fridge. Reheated eggs need to be cooked through thoroughly.