Photo: Alison Miksch; Food Styling: Catherine Crowell Steele; Prop Styling: Lindsey Lower

It's not hard (get it?).

I am a firm believer that the way in which someone chooses to cook their eggs is a great indicator of character. Scrambled? Very untrustworthy—pray that the eggs are soft-scrambled at the very least. Hard-boiled? This person lacks excitement. Omelet? They’re greedy—what this person has will never be enough for them. Over-easy? This person is impatient, but skilled with a spatula. Sunny side-up fried? Top-notch human. Hopefully they’re cooking it in a puddle of oil and basting the whites until they’re perfectly set and the edges are frizzled and crackly. Poached egg? Wooaaahhhh, fancy! In the microwave? Surprise, this person is actually an alien. Whites only? Run. Run. Run. Raw? How...bold. Soft-boiled? Now, that’s a wise person.

With so many different ways to prepare your eggs, the process can become overwhelming. How do you choose? What is right for you? I’ll tell you what—soft-boiled eggs. Perhaps the most underrated way to cook an egg, soft boiling is just as easy as it is delightful. Despite its simple method, a soft-boiled egg has something about it that adds a level of sophistication and intrigue to any situation. Do not fear the runny yolk—it’s what makes this such an elegant creation.

So here’s how it works. Start by bringing a medium pot of water to a boil, and then once it’s there, bring it down to a rapid simmer. Gently lower your eggs into the pot with a large spoon (if you drop them in, they’ll crack, release their whites and yolk into the hot water, and it will be tragic). While some people belong to the belief system that you should start with the eggs in the water and then bring everything to a boil, I find this technique to be less reliable when making soft-boiled eggs. Because the name of the game here is timing, I prefer to wait for my water to reach a rapid simmer, and then introduce the eggs into the equation. This way, I can set my timer and be confident that I know when they’re done.

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Once the eggs have been gently lowered down into the simmering water, set a timer for anywhere from 6 to 8 minutes. As you make more and more soft-boiled eggs, you’ll have a better feel for how long you like to let them cook–the longer they go, the more set the yolk will be. It’s also worth noting that you might need to tack on a couple extra minutes if you’re cooking anymore than 4 eggs at a time. Personally, I can get down with a 6-minute egg. The yolk is runny (but not cold) and the whites are firm and set. However, if you like, by letting it cook for closer to 8 minutes, the outside of the yolk becomes somewhat firm and creamy, and the inside takes on a jammy texture.

When you’re ready to stop cooking your eggs, gently lift the eggs out of the simmering water with a slotted spoon and place them into an ice water bath, letting them rest for at least 5 minutes. Once they’re no longer hot to the touch, gently tap the egg around its entire surface on the counter to create cracks in the shell, and then carefully and slowly peel back the shell (aiming to pinch onto that very thin membrane that lines the egg’s shell and makes its removal seamless). Many people find that running cold water over the egg during peeling makes the process easier—give it a try if it feels right to you.

Remember, if you only cooked the eggs for around 6 minutes, the yolk is not going to be solidified, so make sure to handle with care, or else you might have a punctured yolk on your hands.

Serve your soft-boiled beauty on a piece of toast, nestled into a breakfast bowl, atop a bed of greens, perched on a creamy pasta dish, or give it a shake of salt & pepper and eat one straight-up. The soft-boiled egg is the perfect cross between a hard-boiled egg and a fried egg, as you don’t have to cook it in any fat in order to bring it to life, but you still get that signature runny yolk that any fried egg enthusiast knows and loves. And that’s a pretty beautiful thing, isn’t it?

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