Science is cooking done in a lab. Mixing carefully (or not so carefully) measured components, heating, cooling, observing phase transitions, exploring the behavior of animal and plant proteins, exploring the properties of different chemicals, slowly changing variables to optimizing procedures. Often, feeding bacteria has a lot in common with feeding people, and I have to admit that freshly autoclaved yeast media smells delicious.
Said another way, cooking is science where at least you can usually eat the failures. My fiancé and I have been failing at making soft-boiled eggs for quite some time now. After an analysis of the peer-reviewed literature on the subject the consensus seemed to be “put eggs in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.” Afraid of overcooking, we have probably eaten at least a dozen (still quite delicious) eggs cooked in this range where the inner egg white was still pretty runny, the egg exploding all over the place when we tried to peel it. So we decided to do an experiment.
With eggs of unknown but intermediate age (weeks?) that had been brought to almost room temperature outside of the refrigerator for about an hour we tested a range of boiling times in almost-duplicate. Eggs were removed from boiling water at the times indicated in the figure below and placed into cold water for approximately 1 minute and then immediately peeled to allow for direct comparison.
Our analysis clearly shows that by 6.0 minutes, the egg white has become fully solid, allowing for easy manipulation of the peeled egg and a delicious runny center. At 5.5 minutes and below, eggs are too runny and do not hold their own shape. At 6.5 minutes, the yolk had begun to harden, but the egg was still decidedly soft-boiled. Of course, individual differences in egg quality, age, temperature, and cooking procedure will lead to variability in required cooking times. Future experiments will be used to optimize starting temperature and cooling procedure after boiling.
In conclusion, our breakfast was delicious:
Many thanks to co-author, house head chef, and photographer Nick.