to Boil an Egg
is what happened when our friend Vince wrote to his dad asking for
a description of how to cook eggs.
By: Aad Berk
0. Executive Summary
a. Make one (1) millimeter round hole in top of ROUND side of the
egg. Do not puncture the thin film separating the contents from
the shell. Practice this often.
b. Put eggs in pan with cold water.
c. Heat pan, water, eggs at full heat on gas or electric stove.
Do not roll the eggs around.
d. When water boils (identified by big bubbles) start counting three
(3) to five (5) minutes exactly, depending on size of the egg and
preferred gooey-ness. Four (4) minutes will often work fine.
e. Frighten the eggs by pouring cold water into the pan. The cold
water has to replace all the hot water, so let water overflow.
f. Leave eggs in cold water for thirty (30) seconds before serving
1. Identification of the “Round Side’’ of the
Each chicken egg has two sides; the round side and the pointed side.
It is of utmost importance to properly identify the round side.
The theory is that the shape of the egg is determined by the process
of the chicken laying the egg, however the validity of this theory
cannot be established with certainty. Nevertheless, the round side
of the egg is the end that we are interested in and although it
is hard to identify by itself, a comparison test between the two
sides of the egg will quickly reveal what side of the egg is more
round, and what side is more pointed. The reason for this confusion
is that the pointed side is actually quite round itself, however
the curve (degree of rounded-ness) is sharper than for the rounded
side. This might mean that eggs could be identified that have a
pointed side that is less sharply curved than an equivalent eggs
rounded side. However, each of the two specimens will have a more
sharply curved pointed side compared to their respective rounded
sides. Another reliable way of determining which side is which,
is the imaginary sphere technique. This involves imagining two small
spheres inside the egg that give the egg its shape; a larger sphere
with a smaller sphere on top, and then the egg-shell stretched tightly
around it. The side of the larger sphere would then be identified
as the rounded side of the egg. As for the radius of the two imaginary
spheres; the radius of the larger sphere is approximately two times
bigger than the radius of the smaller sphere.
2. The making of the “Hole’’
At this given time you should have identified the actual round side
of the egg. If unsure, read chapter 1: “Identification of
the Round Side of the Egg’’ first. The objective of
this step is to create a small round breach in the egg-shell without
having the inside of the egg exit prematurely. The hole is made
in the top of the round side of the egg; along its imaginary symmetrical
axis. That is, if we were to attach a small string to the hole,
the center of gravity of the egg should align with the string once
we lift the egg by the string. Another way of thinking of this would
be to imagine the set of all symmetry planes of the egg. A properly
formed egg will have symmetry planes that divide the egg exactly
in 2 identical halves. Clearly there are an infinite number of these
planes, however, they do all intersect on the same line; the center
line of the egg. Now, the hole has to lie on that center line, and
specifically on the rounded side of the egg.
The purpose of the hole is to relieve pressure from within the eggshell
while the temperature is raised. This is important since eggs were
designed to be laid at room temperature and at most withstand body
temperature. When the egg is boiled in a later state the inside
of the egg will expand further than the shell, due to increased
temperature. Were there not to be a hole in the shell, the shell
would crack certainly once the egg is brought to a boil. To avoid
spilling the contents of the egg through the newly created hole,
however, it has to be ensured that the thin film inside the shell
of the egg is not punctured. This thin film resides between the
contents of the egg and the shell.
The proper puncturing of the shell requires practice and dedication.
There are tools on the marked that will create a perfect punctured
hole with the press of a button, however, it is highly unlikely
that you will have such a tool at your disposal. The next best thing
is a pair of scissors, or the tip of a fork, but any other sharp
object will do as well. It is imperative that the diameter of the
sharp object is no more than one (1) millimeter (1 thousanths of
a meter) since the hole in the round side of the egg will have to
be exactly one (1) mm. Hold the egg in one hand with the rounded
side up and hold the sharp object between the thumb and index finger
of the other hand. It is important to let the sharp object protrude
only about one (1) mm from the fingers. This will make certain that
the thin film inside the egg is not punctured when the hole is made.
Now slowly tap the sharp object to the top of the rounded side of
the egg. This will create structural integrity flaws that eventually
cause the shell to give way right underneath the sharp object. Once
this small puncture is complete, the object may be rotated to complete
a perfect round hole with a diameter of one (1) millimeter.
3. The Pre-Boiling of the Water and Eggs.
Now find a pan that has a long handle such as that it may be held
by one hand in a longitudinal orientation. The pan should be sufficiently
large to hold the desired number of eggs and sufficiently deep to
properly submerge the eggs in water. Put the eggs carefully in the
pan and fill the pan with cold water until the eggs are submerged.
Do not overfill the pan. The temperature of the water should be
close to the temperature of the eggs, both preferably at room temperature.
Now put the pan on a heater (do NOT microwave) and let the pan,
water, and eggs heat up until the water boils. This should be done
at full-heat. Both electric and gas stoves will suffice, however,
in case of the gas stove full-heat might be referred to as full-throttle.
During this process, do not move the eggs. They are happy the way
One more important fact to note is that there should be tiny bubbles
coming from the hole in the top of the round side of egg. These
bubbles are natural and prevent the egg from splitting and/or exploding.
If there is white goo dripping from the hole, then the thin film
was punctured while the hole was made. This is a fault and a clear
indicator of inexperience. Keep practicing.
The second stage of this step is to recognize the boiling of the
water. Water boils at one hundred (100) degrees Celsius, at which
point the water molecules are all desperately trying to get out
of the liquid state and become air-borne, in the so-called gasified
state. Since the pan is hottest at the bottom, that is where most
of these molecules will gassify and form bubbles. These bubbles,
having a lower specific weight than liquid water, will quickly rise
to the surface and create steam, which closely resembles white smoke.
The point at which this step is over is when BIG bubbles are made,
not SMALL bubbles. The water will quickly form small bubbles, however,
that is not a solid indicator of the water cooking. Small bubbles
may even produce some steam, but never in the volume that big bubbles
do. There is no trick to recognizing big bubbles; if unsure, they
are small bubbles. You’ll know big bubbles when you see them.
Depending on the altitude, the big bubbles might be slightly bigger
or smaller, however, big bubbles bubble significantly more violently
than the smaller bubbles. Big bubbles can be anywhere between one
(1) and three (3) centimeters in diameter. Additionally, the big
bubbles will move the eggs around slightly. This is not an undesirable
effect. When the big bubbles have been identified, move on to the
Now all the hard work has been done.
4. Cook time.
This is the step in which the jelly part of the egg becomes solid
egg-white and the yellow part of the egg becomes nice and gooey
and warm. The water is now boiling, leave it like that, it should
keep boiling (however, not too violently.) The moment that big bubbles
are observed start counting time. Cook time is about three (3) minutes
for small eggs up to five (5) minutes for bigger eggs. Cook time
will vary with experience, however, four (4) minutes seems to work
fine in almost all cases. Again, do not move the eggs.
5. The “Frightening’’ of the Egg.
Now that the eggs are properly boiled, turn off the heat source
and lift the pan by the longitudinal handle. The object of this
step is to frighten the egg and make the innards shrink slightly
compared to the shell, such as that it the shell may be peeled off
more easily during consumption. (Do not eat the shell.) The frightening
is done by taking the pan with boiling water and holding it under
cold running tapwater. Hold the pan at a slight angle such as that
the hot boiling water may overflow and run out at the lower end
of the pan. Let the cold water pour in at the higher end of the
pan. Be careful not to wash the eggs out of the pan while it is
at an angle, it would ruin all the hard work done. Do this until
all the hot water is replaced by cold water, which has to be colder
than room temperature. How leave the eggs in this cold water for
exactly thirty (30) seconds without supplying new cold water. It
is hard to overdo this step, however, don’t muck around with
ice-cubes, you are not trying to freeze the egg.
After the thirty (30) second frightening period, the egg is ready
for serving and consumption. Serve with salt.