The Secret to the Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg

Wayt Gibbs wrote . . . . . . . . .

A perfect soft-boiled egg is a thing of beauty: a yolk with the texture of sweet condensed milk surrounded by a white that is tender but not runny. But for generations, great cooks have differed on how to achieve this state of perfection reliably.

Some authorities say you should drop a whole egg into boiling water for about three minutes — a bit longer if the egg is extra-large — and then gently peel away the shell. That can leave the yolk too runny, however. And when the egg is peeled, it’s all too easy to tear the tender white into a mess.

The legendary Julia Child advocated a six-minute boil (for large eggs starting at room temperature, or a minute longer if chilled), followed by a rinse with cold water before and also during peeling. That certainly works for the white, but often overcooks the center.

The French food scientist Hervé This argued some years ago that temperature, not time, is all that matters to the egg—cook it to 65 °C / 149 °F, and the result will be heavenly no matter how long it sits in the water. Or so it was thought. For a while, the “65°C egg” was all the rage at high-end restaurants.

But more recent research by the food chemist Cesar Vega , an editor and coauthor of the 2012 book The Kitchen as Laboratory, conclusively showed that both time and temperature matter. Moreover, the white and the yolk contain different blends of proteins, so the white gels at a higher temperature and a different rate than the yolk does. Vega’s rigorous experiments have armed scientifically inclined chefs with the information they need to cook eggs to whatever texture they like.

When the chefs in our research kitchen make soft-boiled eggs, they use a four step process that involves a blowtorch or liquid nitrogen. Here is a simpler version better suited to the home kitchen. You’ll need a pot of boiling water, a bowl of ice water, a temperature-controlled water bath, and, if you plan on peeling the eggs, a toaster oven.

The first step is to set the egg whites quickly by submerging them completely in a pot of rapidly boiling water for three minutes and 30 seconds, 15-30 seconds less if you like the whites quite loose, as our research chefs do, or 15—30 seconds longer if you prefer the whites fully set. When the time is up, plunge the eggs into the ice water to cool them completely.

Next, cook the yolks to a syrup-like thickness by submerging the eggs in a 64 °C / 147 °F water bath for 35 minutes; it’s important that the water temperature doesn’t change more than a degree or two during cooking. Dry the eggs thoroughly with paper towels. They are now ready to place in egg holders, top, and eat with a spoon. (If you have a Dremel or similar handheld rotary tool, use a thin grinder bit to top the eggs like a pro.)

Alternatively, you can make the eggs easier to peel by drying the shells in a toaster oven. Use a medium-dark toaster setting, and let the eggs heat for two to three minutes to make the shell hot and brittle. It will then readily flake away to reveal a flawless white beneath. Remember to remove the thin skin around the white if it doesn’t come off with the shell.

You can make these eggs in advance and later reheat them in a 60 °C / 140 °F bath for 30 minutes.

By adjusting the temperature of the cooking bath or the time the eggs are in it, you can achieve all kinds of delicious results and reproduce them flawlessly time after time. Prefer a yolk that is more like honey? Let the egg sit in a 65 °C bath for 45 minutes. For a runnier center, try our recipe for Liquid Center Eggs.

Or try cooking them in a 72 °C / 162 °F bath for 35 minutes (you can skip the boiling step). The yolk will then set just firmly enough that you can peel away the white to obtain a perfect yellow sphere, which makes a striking garnish or dumpling-like addition to a soup.

It’s remarkable how advances in science and precision cooking have given new life to this versatile food.

Source: Mordernist Cuisine


Read also at Serious Eats:

The Food Lab’s Guide to Slow-Cooked, Sous Vide-Style Eggs . . . . .

Unscrambling the Egg Data: One a Day Looks OK

Go ahead and crack that egg. Eating one a day isn’t likely to increase your risk of heart disease, researchers say.

The three-decade study showed no association between moderate egg consumption and risk of heart disease. The report — led by a team at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston — should help reassure uneasy egg eaters.

“Recent studies reignited the debate on this controversial topic, but our study provides compelling evidence supporting the lack of an appreciable association between moderate egg consumption and cardiovascular disease,” first author Jean-Philippe Drouin-Chartier, a visiting scientist, said in a Harvard news release. He’s an assistant professor at Laval University in Quebec, Canada.

For the new study, the researchers analyzed data from more than 173,000 women and over 90,000 men in the United States who did not have heart disease, type 2 diabetes or cancer when initially assessed.

The study participants were followed for 32 years, during which their diets and other lifestyle habits were recorded.

The researchers also analyzed 28 studies with up to 1.7 million people. This meta-analysis supported the finding that moderate egg consumption is not associated with increased risk of heart disease in Americans and Europeans.

The investigators also found some evidence suggesting that moderate egg consumption may be associated with lower heart disease risk in Asian populations, but the finding may be affected by their overall dietary habits, according to the authors.

The results were published online in the BMJ.

While not essential, moderate egg consumption can be part of a healthy diet, said study co-author Shilpa Bhupathiraju, a research scientist in the Harvard Chan department of nutrition and an associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

“There is a range of other foods that can be included in a healthy breakfast, such as whole grain toasts, plain yogurt and fruits,” Bhupathiraju said.

The link between eggs and heart disease risk has been hotly debated in recent decades. In the past 12 months, three published studies have reported conflicting findings.

One study, published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, also found no heart harms tied to moderate egg consumption.

This new study updates a 1999 one that likewise found no connection between eggs and heart disease risk.

Source: American Heart Association

One Egg Per Day is Heart-Healthy, After All

It’s no yolk: Americans for decades have gotten dietary whiplash from the back-and-forth science on whether eggs are good for them.

But a major new study will have many egg-lovers relieved: You can enjoy an egg a day without having to worry about your heart.

“Moderate egg intake, which is about one egg per day in most people, does not increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or mortality even if people have a history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes,” said study lead author Mahshid Dehghan. She’s an investigator at the Population Health Research Institute (PHRI) of McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada.

The study, which analyzed data on more than 177,000 people, was funded by various provincial government health agencies in Ontario, and nonprofit groups focused on heart health. It received no funding from the egg industry.

Dehghan’s group pored over data from three large, long-term international studies, all conducted at the PHRI. The three studies involved people with various income levels living in 50 countries on six continents, so the results are widely applicable, the researchers said.

Most of the people in the studies had one or fewer eggs a day, suggesting that this level of consumption is safe, Dehghan said.

“Also, no association was found between egg intake and blood cholesterol, its components or other risk factors,” she said in a McMaster news release. “These results are robust and widely applicable to both healthy individuals and those with vascular disease.”

Eggs are an inexpensive source of essential nutrients, but some nutritional guidelines have advised that people should limit intake to fewer than three eggs a week, due to concerns they increase the risk of heart disease. But as study principal investigator Salim Yusuf pointed out, prior studies about eggs and health have yielded conflicting findings.

“This is because most of these studies were relatively small or moderate in size and did not include individuals from a large number of countries,” Yusuf said in the news release. He directs the PHRI.

Two U.S. experts in nutrition and heart health agreed that maybe it’s time — again — to give eggs a break.

“The case of eggs causing heart disease has been cracked — Humpty Dumpty can remain on the wall,” said Dr. Guy Mintz, who directs cardiovascular health at the Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. “This very large study has clearly demonstrated that people can have one egg a day without any cardiovascular consequences.”

Mintz believes eggs are a good source of many nutrients, and he stressed that no deleterious effect was seen, even in people who already had heart disease or were taking medications.

Audrey Koltun is a registered dietitian in the division of pediatric endocrinology at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Lake Success, N.Y. She said, “I am so happy to hear that eggs are not the bad guys anymore.”

The nutritional value of eggs is a constant question from her clients, Koltun said, and “the answer has always been complicated because previous research on this topic has been conflicting.”

Eggs do have high cholesterol levels, she said, but they are also very nutritious in other ways.

“They have many essential vitamins and minerals as well as they contain very high-quality protein,” Koltun said. “The egg white contains most of the protein; the yolk contains iron, phosphorus, fat-soluble vitamins including vitamin D, B vitamins, healthy fat, and other valuable nutrients.”

Besides all that, eggs are “inexpensive, are not processed or have added sugars or added food dyes, preservatives, artificial flavors,” she noted. “Now with science backing me up, I can now answer the question about eggs.”

The study was published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: HealthDay


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What’s the Difference Between Cage-Free, Free-Range, Pasture-Raised, and Organic Eggs?

Brette Warshaw wrote . . . . . . . . .

Unless you have a chicken coop in your backyard, or the access to and budget for farm-fresh eggs every day, you’re probably spending some time in the supermarket egg aisle. And if you’re spending time in the supermarket egg aisle, you’re probably familiar with the assault of qualifiers and descriptors—Cage-free! Hormone-Free! Free-range! Local!—that awaits you there. Here’s what they all mean, and how to navigate them efficiently—so you can get to the rest of your grocery list.

Cage-free, a term regulated by the USDA, means that the eggs come from hens that, put simply, aren’t caged: they can “freely roam a building, room, or enclosed area with unlimited access to food and fresh water during their production cycle, but [do] not have access to the outdoors.” Considering the conventional cage is 8 ½ by 11 inches, or the size of a piece of paper, this seems like a better lifestyle—but there are down sides, too; according to All About Eggs by Rachel Khong, cage-free facilities have more hen-on-hen violence and lower air quality than facilities that use cages.

Free-range, another USDA term, means that the eggs come from hens that have some sort of access to the outdoors. However, it doesn’t mean the hens actually go outdoors, or that the outdoor space is more than a small, fenced-in area with a netted cover.

Pasture-raised is not a term regulated by the USDA; however, if the carton says “pasture-raised” and also includes stamps with “Certified Humane” and/or “Animal Welfare Approved”, it means that each hen was given 108 square feet of outdoor space, as well as barn space indoors. This is pretty much as close to the bucolic, E-I-E-O farm vibe you’ll get when dealing with large-scale egg producers, so if you’re looking to support those practices, keep a look out for those labels.

For eggs to be Local, they must come from a flock located less than four hundred miles from the processing facility or within the same state. And for eggs to be Organic, the only stipulation is that they must come from hens who are fed an organic diet. Amount of space per hen, access to the outdoors—neither of those are specified or required, though many organic eggs are also at least free-range.

When it comes to eggs labeled Vegetarian-Fed, it’s worth noting that chickens are actually omnivorous; they love worms and bugs and larvae and other crawly things. However, in the mass-scale production sense, they’re not necessarily doing Whole30—they’re getting fed animal byproducts, like feather meal or chicken litter. So depending on the context, vegetarian-fed can actually be the lesser of two evils.

Hormone-free means that the hen wasn’t administered hormones, which isn’t particularly commendable—considering that hormones and steroids are already banned by the FDA. No Added Antibiotics is another funny term, because very few hens are administered antibiotics—and those that do end up being “diverted from human consumption” anyways.

So, given all of this information…what should you buy?

Cartons stamped with the Certified Humane or Animal Welfare Approved seal are good bets—both of which are administered by third-party groups. When it comes to brands, Vital Farms, Family Homestead, Oliver’s Organic, Happy Egg Co., and Pete and Gerry’s all have particularly good reputations, as well as Safeway’s cage-free eggs and Kirkland organic eggs at Costco.

Source: What’s the Difference

Dietary Choline in Eggs and Meats Associates with Reduced Risk of Dementia

A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland is the first to observe that dietary intake of phosphatidylcholine is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Phosphatidylcholine was also linked to enhanced cognitive performance. The main dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine were eggs and meat. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Choline is an essential nutrient, usually occurring in food in various compounds. Choline is also necessary for the formation of acetylcholine, which is a neurotransmitter. Earlier studies have linked choline intake with cognitive processing, and adequate choline intake may play a role in the prevention of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, choline is nowadays used in a multinutrient medical drink intended for the treatment of early Alzheimer’s.

The new study now shows that the risk of dementia was 28% lower in men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine, when compared to men with the lowest intake. Men with the highest intake of dietary phosphatidylcholine also excelled in tests measuring their memory and linguistic abilities. These findings are significant, considering that more than 50 million people worldwide are suffering from a memory disorder that has led to dementia, and the number is expected to grow as the population ages. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common cause of dementia, for which no cure currently exists. The new findings may, therefore, play a vital role in the prevention of dementia. Successful dementia prevention is a sum of many things and in this equation, even small individual factors can have a positive effect on the overall risk, possibly by preventing or delaying the disease onset.

“However, this is just one observational study, and we need further research before any definitive conclusions can be drawn,” Maija Ylilauri, a PhD Student at the University of Eastern Finland points out.

The data for the study were derived from the Kuopio Ischaemic Heart Disease Risk Factor Study, KIHD. At the onset of the study in 1984–1989, researchers analysed approximately 2,500 Finnish men aged between 42 and 60 for their dietary and lifestyle habits, and health in general. These data were combined with their hospital records, cause of death records and medication reimbursement records after an average follow-up period of 22 years. In addition, four years after the study onset, approximately 500 men completed tests measuring their memory and cognitive processing. During the follow-up, 337 men developed dementia.

The analyses extensively accounted for other lifestyle and nutrition related factors that could have explained the observed associations. In addition, the APOE4 gene, which predisposes to Alzheimer’s disease and is common in the Finnish population, was accounted for, showing no significant impact on the findings. The key sources of phosphatidylcholine in the study population’s diet were eggs (39%) and meat (37%).

Source: University of Eastern Finland


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