Learn how to make soft-boiled eggs that yield oozy yolks and have easy to peel shells. Boiling them on the stovetop or steaming them delivers reliable results, no matter your equipment.
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Soft-boiled eggs have tender whites and golden, liquid yolks. The task seems simple, but the cooking method you choose is crucial. Egg whites and yolks set at different times, so overcoming them just a minute longer can completely change the center consistency.
I’ve tested both boiling and steaming alternatives for efficient and reliable results. Not only is cooking technique and time important, but cooling the eggs quickly to stop the heat keeps the yolk dippable, jammy, or fudgy. Once you master soft-boiled eggs, you can use them to elevate your breakfast or slice them up to make a bowl of ramen noodles more exciting.
I used large eggs in my experiment. If using smaller or larger egg sizes like jumbo, you may need to adjust the time. Use 5 to 6 minutes as a starting point, then change. Farm fresh eggs tend to be harder to peel due to the alkaline nature of the egg white.
Over time the egg whites bond closer together instead of the membrane inside the shell. Most eggs you purchase at the grocery store are already a few weeks old, so sticking is less of an issue. Use cold eggs straight from the refrigerator to ensure the yolks stay oozy.
The Different Types of Eggs & Sizes
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How to make soft boiled eggs
Soft-boiled eggs have firm, but tender whites, with a yolk that oozes out or has a scoopable custard consistency. To achieve this result, you can boil the egg similar to my traditional hard-boiled egg method. Simply remove the egg sooner in the cooking process.
Alternatively, a more gentle approach is to steam them in a basket or directly in the pan with shallow water.
Option 1) The boiling method
Completely submerge the eggs in nearly boiling water, set at 200ºF (93ºC). This prevents the cold eggshells from cracking. Cook at a low boil for just 30 seconds to quickstart the cooking of the egg whites. Then cover the pot and cook on low heat, to gently simmer and soft-boil the egg.
This method takes about half the time of hard-boiling, about 6 minutes for a runny center. The whites will be firmer because the eggs are completely immersed in hot water. If adding in multiple cool eggs, you may need slightly more cook time as the water lowers in temperature.
Option 2) The steaming method
Steaming the eggs on a basket at about 212ºF (100ºC) is more gentle yet effective. The moist heat quickly surrounds the eggs and penetrates the porous shell, setting the proteins.
The egg whites tend to be more tender and slightly less firm because there is no direct contact with hot water or the bottom of a pan. This method isn’t as impacted by temperature fluctuations when adding multiple eggs as boiling in hot water.
Option 3) Steaming without a basket
If you don’t have a steamer basket, you can still steam the eggs using a hybrid of methods. Boil the eggs in 1-inch water and cover the pot to generate steam. Add about an inch of water to the pot and bring to a low boil. This comes halfway up the egg so it won’t be completely submerged.
The eggs are added, covered, and cooked over medium-high heat for about 6 minutes. The whites will have a similar firmness to boiled eggs because it’s sitting directly in the bottom of the hot pot.
Chill the eggs
After removing the eggs from the pot, you don’t want the yolks to continue to cook and solidify. To prevent this, immediately plunge the eggs into an ice-water bath. I use equal parts water to ice to make it super chilly. All you need is 1 minute of cooling, then remove them.
You’ll notice that the surface is still warm and easy to crack and peel. If you are meal-prepping or want cold eggs, chill for 15 minutes. You can store the unpeeled soft-boiled eggs for 5 days in the refrigerator.
Peel the eggs
Hot starting the eggs makes them much easier to peel. Just be a little more gentle compared to peeling hard-boiled eggs. The egg whites will be firm, but the center is jiggly, so take your time. I like to crack the sides and wider bottom of the egg.
Start peeling from the bottom as there is an air cell with a small gap. This makes it much easier to lift off with your fingertips, then work your way up the shell. You can also peel under cool running water or submerge in a water bowl for a larger batch. The liquid seeps in between the white and the shell, making it easier to lift off.
Serve this with
- A hot bowl of udon noodle soup
- Served jammy inside of an egg salad sandwich
- Runny center on top of avocado toast
- Serve in an egg cup with toasted bread or crostini, dipping into the runny yolk
How long to soft boil an egg
- 5 minutes: Very runny, dippable yolk.
- 6 minutes: Thick yet runny, oozy consistency.
- 7 minutes: A jammy, spreadable, soft, but not runny, half set.
- 8 minutes: A very creamy, gelatinized yolk, fudgy, but not set or crumbly.
Yes! The eggs should be hot-started in either water set over a low boil or steam. This quickly coagulates the egg white proteins, making them stick less to the membrane in the shell.
The egg whites will be set. It’s firm enough to keep its structure when peeling and holding the soft yolk. The yolk will either be runny sufficient to dip or turn thicker with a custardy consistency, called jammy, which is half set.
You can peel it just like a regular hard-boiled egg. If you are serving in a cup, like eggs with soldiers, a “dippy egg” served with toast, tap the top side of the egg with a butter knife or teaspoon. Once you get an opening through the shell and egg white, lift off the top of the egg with the utensil or your fingers.
Time impacts the yolk’s texture
With no surprise, the longer the egg is cooked, the more firm the yolk becomes. The yolk hardens between 150 to 160ºF (66 to 71ºC). The goal is to stay below that temperature to prevent a solidified, opaque, chalky texture. I observed that the consistency significantly changed with each minute of my testing. Try the different times and see what you enjoy best.
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Soft Boiled Eggs
- 4 large eggs, cold
- 2 cups ice cubes
- 2 cups cold water
Soft Boiled Eggs (Boiled)
- Boil the Water – Fill a large pot with enough water to cover the eggs by 1-inch once added. Bring to a low boil, around 200°F (93°C), and then carefully place the eggs inside.
- Cook the Eggs – Boil for 30 seconds, then place the lid on the pot and reduce the heat to low. Cook on a low simmer; 5 minutes for a very runny yolk, 6 minutes for a runny yolk, 7 minutes for a jammy yolk, 8 minutes for a creamy but not hard yolk.
Soft Boiled Eggs (Steamed)
- Heat the Water – In a large pot, add 1-inch of water. Place a steamer basket inside the pot, place the cover on, and bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat.Alternatively, if you do not have a steamer, add the eggs directly to the water once it reaches a low boil of 200ºF (93°C).
- Cook the Eggs – Once steam forms, carefully use tongs to place the eggs into the steamer basket or directly in the water. Cover the pot and cook; 5 ½ minutes for a very runny yolk, 6 minutes for a runny yolk, 7 minutes for a jammy yolk, 8 minutes for a creamy but not hard yolk.
- Stop the Cooking Process – In a medium bowl, add ice and water to make an ice bath. Once the eggs are done cooking, immediately transfer them to the ice bath to chill for 30 to 60 seconds for a warm yolk or 15 minutes to chill thoroughly.
- Peel the Eggs – Gently crack the sides and bottom of the eggshell and peel. It's easiest to start peeling from the wider bottom where there is an air gap. Run under cool water to remove any excess shells.
- Batch Size: Use this recipe to make 1 to 6 soft-boiled eggs. Adjust cook time as needed when making a larger batch.
- Storing: Eggs can be left in their shell and refrigerated up to 5 days.
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2 Comments Leave a comment or review
First time I ever cooked soft boiled eggs and, following your recipe verbatim, they were perfect. Thanks so much Jessica.
Jessica Gavin says
Whoo-hoo! Great job making the soft-boiled eggs, Denis!