Every couple of seasons reality cooking shows take chef challenges back to basics. After weeks of foie gras ice cream and cucumber foam, they’re asked to cook a simple egg. I don’t remember how I learned to fry, scramble and poach my first eggs, but over the years, I’ve collected quite a few gadgets to help in the process. My favorite egg seasoning is Mrs. Dash Original Blend, and my favorite technique is frying an egg over easy in melted butter and serving it on top of buttered toast. But when I want a healthier option, I go with poached or soft boiled, which is where all of my gadgets come into play. Sure you can simply boil water and cook your eggs in a pot, but Williams-Sonoma wouldn’t be in business if we didn’t love our kitchen tools. I have a traditional egg cooker, egg coddlers, Poach Pods, egg cups and an egg topper.
The traditional egg cooker is probably what most people are familiar with. It’s an electric steamer that can poach, soft boil or hard boil eggs in minutes. I recently bought the Cuisinart model. It can poach three eggs at a time or soft or hard boil seven at a time. The cooker comes with a measuring cup that has markings to tell you how much water you need, depending on the cooking technique and number of eggs you are cooking.
The measuring cup has a sharp pin on the bottom. You rinse your eggs and then pierce the large end with the pin. This helps release steam from your eggs, so they won’t crack. Pour the correct amount of water into the cooker, place the egg tray inside and set the eggs (large end up) into the tray. Place the lid on top, and turn the cooker on. The machine will beep when your eggs are ready. Today, I made one soft boiled egg, and it came out perfect.
It wasn’t until I visited England that I learned how to properly eat a soft boiled egg. It should be cradled in an egg cup. The cup keeps it upright while you scoop out the tender egg white and luscious yolk. But to get to that goodness, you need another gadget, an egg topper. Set the topper on the small end of the cooked egg. Gently squeeze the handle. Tiny teeth protrude from the ring, cracking the eggshell.
This allows you to remove the top piece, so you can dunk toasted bread strips or a small spoon inside. Every time I eat a soft boiled egg in an egg cup, I feel like royalty, fitting since England just celebrated the royal wedding.
The next tool in my arsenal was also found in Europe. I was at a quaint bed and breakfast north of Amsterdam, Inn on the Lake. Sitting on the patio enjoying Greek yogurt and pastries, our Dutch hostess came out with these elegant glass cups of eggs. While soft boiled eggs in egg cups are naturalistically beautiful, these coddled eggs add flavor to their beauty.
Following breakfast, I boarded the B&B’s personal boat, and we navigated the canals into Amsterdam. My first stop, the department store that sold these dainty egg coddlers. To coddle eggs, you crack an egg into the glass coddler and add whatever your heart desires, crumbled bacon, a dab of butter, seasoning, etc. Place the lid on top and secure with the metal clasp.
Place the coddlers in boiling water for about six minutes and serve. The challenging part of this cooking technique is ensuring the egg white is cooked through, but that the egg yolk is still runny. To get that consistency every time, be sure that the boiling water reaches right up to the rim of the coddler. If the water is too shallow, the white on top will remain runny.
Another hint…don’t try this in a microwave. I thought that would be easier, so I filled the coddler, placed the lid on top and left the metal clasp off. Within 30 seconds, the lid flew off the top and the egg exploded all over the inside of my microwave. Not fun.
I don’t know what it is about me, eggs and Europe, but my next egg cooking tool, was bought in Windsor, England. After touring the castle, I walked the cobblestone streets of the charming town and came across a kitchen store.
Among the many things I bought that day were Poach Pods. They are flexible, plastic bowls that allow you to poach eggs in boiling water without the messiness of traditional poached eggs.
And like the egg coddlers, you can add butter, herbs, cream or bacon into the cup as you prepare them. Crack an egg into the Poach Pod, cook plain or with extra flair, place in a shallow pan of boiling water and cover.
Despite all of these fun tools, I still hadn’t prepared the perfect poached egg…until today, thanks to bon appétit food editor Mary-Frances Heck. In the May issue, she shared her method for poaching eggs in the microwave. Based on my failed attempt to coddle eggs in the microwave, I was apprehensive and didn’t really feel like scraping dried egg yolk out of every nook and cranny of my microwave again…but I had faith bon appétit wouldn’t steer me wrong.
The only tools you need for this technique are a coffee mug, a saucer and a microwave. Just pour ½ cup of water in the mug. Crack the egg inside. Cover with a saucer and nuke for one minute. Spoon the egg out of the mug and serve. I goofed on my first attempt. After one minute, I left the egg in the microwave while I buttered my toast. During that extra 30-60 seconds, the egg continued to cook and the yolk was harder than I prefer. So I tried again.
Amazing. I spooned the egg out right away, and the egg white was still tender, and when pierced, the yolk poured onto my English muffin. On weekdays, when I’m rushed to head to work, microwave poached eggs are going to be my new go-to breakfast, but when I’m entertaining and want to add that extra elegance to breakfast, I’ll always fall back to my coddlers and egg cups. Bon appétit!