The Great Debate: How to Cook a Perfect Soft-Boiled Egg

By  March 08, 2010

Free Range Hen

Surely one of life’s purest culinary delights is the perfect soft-boiled egg. How to cook it remains one of the most controversial topics in the kitchen and the cause of heated debate – both professional and domestic. The great and good cannot agree. Jamie Oliver is a “five minutes into boiled water” man. Nigella Lawson insists on a small saucepan, four minutes and a matchstick which will stop the white cloudy substance flowing out, should the egg crack. Wylie Dufresne, the self proclaimed egg fanatic, has written volumes on the subject.

At Four Seasons Hotel Firenze, the exquisite eggs – with yolks a dark shade of orange – have been the talk of many guests since the property opened. “I source all our eggs from the delightful Paolo Parisi, who describes himself as a farmer, shepherd, gourmet, and inventor,” says Executive Chef Vito Mollica. “Paolo feeds his hens a blend of cereals mixed with fresh goat milk. He also shares with me interesting cooking tips from his own experiments.”

It was Paolo who gave Mollica the tip for the perfect boiled egg. His technique involves cooking an egg at a temperature below 142°F– that being the temp at which the egg starts to boil, change consistency, and harden. The recommended cooking time is 20 minutes. The egg remains soft boiled even if it’s not eaten immediately. At the hotel, soft-boiled eggs are simply served with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. “Our guests regularly ask why these eggs look and taste like no other… This cooking tip might help, but of course, the fact that Paolo’s eggs come from his happy chickens are probably the main reason,” says Mollica with a knowing smile.

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