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3 or 6 minutes to boil an egg? Or somewhere in between?

Best Soft-boiled EggBit of an uproar on the other side of the pond last week as a group of British students proved that cooking expert Delia Smith was correct in recommending that 6 minutes of simmering produces the best soft-boiled egg. Many Brits have long believed that 3 minutes is the correct time.

The Royal Society of Chemistry decided to test Ms. Smith's cooking advice and engaged the help of students at Sherborne School in Sherborne, England. The students found that cooking large-size room temperature eggs in gently simmering water for 6 minutes produced eggs with runny yolks and cooked whites.

From what I understand after listening to a CBC radio interview with one of the students and reading online newspaper articles about the experiments, the water was first brought to a simmer, then the eggs were placed in the simmering water for 6 minutes. In fact, on Delia Smith's website, her directions suggest two ways to boil eggs. In the first method, room temperature eggs are placed in simmering water for 1 minute, then the saucepan is covered and removed from the heat, and the eggs are left to sit for 6 minutes. In the 2nd method, room temperature eggs are put in cold water in a saucepan. The water is brought to a simmer, and the eggs are simmered for 4 to 6 minutes depending on the doneness preferred. Last Wednesday (Oct. 5), Carol Off, host of CBC Radio's As It Happens show interviewed Iram Hasan, one of the students who participated in the project. You can listen to the interview here (on the link, click on Listen to Part 1; the interview begins at 17:23. Move the small white bar to that mark to listen to just that interview if you wish. If you do so, you may have to wait a moment or two for that portion of the broadcast to begin.) The students also reported that white bread made sturdier "soldiers" (aka toast fingers or strips) for dunking in the soft-cooked yolk than whole wheat bread which was more crumbly when toasted. And that the best width to cut the soldiers was 2.5 cm (or 1 inch), optimum toasting time was 2-1/2 minutes, and spreading the toast with margarine was better than using butter which tended to simply soak into the toast. You can read more about the experiment in this article on Yahoo UK. If you're thinking of changing how you cook your soft-boiled eggs to simmering them for 6 minutes (or one of Delia Smith's online methods), remember that putting cold eggs into hot water will possibly crack the shell. You'll want to use eggs that are at room temperature to prevent this from happening. The easiest way to warm up the eggs is to remove them from the fridge and let them sit in a bowl of warm water while the cooking water in the saucepan heats to a simmer. Pricking the end of the egg to allow some air to escape when the egg goes into the water will also help prevent cracking, but I find it a nuisance to do unless you have an egg piercing gadget to use. Also, be aware that British egg sizes are a little different than Canadian eggs. In England, eggs are categorized according to these weights: Very Large eggs: 73 grams and more Large eggs: 63 to 73 grams Medium eggs: 53 to 63 grams Small eggs: 53 grams and under In comparison, Canadian egg weights fall into these groups: Extra Large eggs: At least 63 g Large eggs: At least 56 grams Medium eggs: At least 49 grams Small eggs: At least 42 grams Since British eggs are a little heavier (likely larger) than their Canadian counterparts, it will likely take less time to little cook a Canadian egg. Egg Farmers of Ontario recommends something similar to Delia's second method for hard-boiling or hard-cooking eggs: Place the eggs in a saucepan filled with water that comes about an inch above the eggs. Bring the water to a boil; immediately cover the saucepan and remove it from the heat. Let the eggs stand in the water for 3 to 5 minutes. Scoop the eggs out of the water, and serve! There you go. Lots of different options. Hopefully there's one that suits you! Wendi Hiebert, PHEc

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