How to make the perfect soft-boiled egg

How do you like your eggs in the morning? I like mine with, not so much a big sloppy kiss, but a really gooey centre. Boiled, poached, fried: who cares? If you serve me one with a core of liquid sunshine, you’ll be getting more than a peck in return – I’m that over easy…

The thing is, up until recently, I couldn’t make a Dippy myself. Whatever method I used, however hard I tried, the toast always buckled on contact, and Little B was later than most to discover the primary function of a soldier. Given that she’s a fussy eater and egg and toast is one of the few meals she will consume, this was unacceptable, so, once and for all I was going to learn how to make Humpty ooze.


Remembering Mamma G hovering over a bubbling pan: PE teacher stopwatch in one hand – me and my sisters at the table with empty Homepride Men egg cups in front of us, I went into study mode. She nailed it every time and there was never any sense of jeopardy, so how hard could it be?

Fearing we were about to get more bunged up than a dodgy Premiership manager, I  stocked up on prunes and stripped friends, family and the interweb for tips. But soon it became clear there wasn’t a generic method. ‘Put the egg in a pan of cold water and boil it up for 10 minutes,’ said Steph, my most trusty of pals, texting an insta-perfect picture of her own efforts. ‘Works every time.’ Well…

What worked for Steph certainly didn’t work for me. Not even the avocado bothered to turn up.

When the results slipped onto the plate in a mucousy, yellow puddle, I realised it wasn’t going to be as simple as getting timings right. Other variables like size of egg, size of pan – size of hob even – could affect the outcome. So, turning my kitchen into the kind of makeshift laboratory Walter White would have been proud of I prepared for some proper scientific experimentation.

The Eggsperiement:

Using medium-sized eggs first, I whipped out my post-its and played with a few of the suggested methods:

In pan 1, I pre-boiled water, then put an egg in for 3 minutes on a rolling boil.
In pan 2, I pre-boiled water, then put one egg in for 4.5 minutes on a rolling boil.
In pan 3, I pre-boiled water – took it off the heat, put one egg in for 6.5 minutes and put the pan lid on.


After each cook, I plunged the eggs straight into cold water:img_8609

And result! See for yourself. This is how they turned out:


A week later, plating up lunch, I honestly felt like Snow White in my kitchen, whistling while I worked, coyly imagining birds and forestry creatures resting on the windowsill, telling me how awesome I was. It was my third egg and soldiers since the trial, and, for a third time in a row, the 4.5 minute method: medium egg, (pan size: irrelevant) had come up trumps. Slicing open the top, the yolk dripping like nectar, I stood back and waited for Little B’s applause or, at least, some appreciative noises of gratitude. Instead she stared at the plate, crinkled her nose and sheepishly said: ‘Next time, can I have an egg that’s not dippy with waffles?’ The yolk’s on me.

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Lyndsey Gilmour

Lyndsey Gilmour is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist. She's also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, feminist and ex-procrastinator.

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