While soft-boiled eggs are pretty simple to make, there are a lot of variations on boiling the “3-minute egg,” that have been proposed, including turning off the heat and letting the egg set in the just-boiled water for several minutes. There is also the problem of eggs cracking while cooking which can lead to a watery result.
So, we recently read of the idea of just cooking the eggs over boiling water in a vegetable steamer. This is a little easier to manage and less likely to lead to cracking. The only real question is how long to cook them. We decided to find out for ourselves.
We numbered 4 eggs 7 through 10 with a pencil. Then we placed a vegetable steamer in a 2-quart saucepan, added water to just under the steamer platform and brought it to a boil. On our stove this takes about 2 minutes.
Then we quickly added the 4 eggs, covered the pan and started a timer. We prepared a pan of ice water, and quickly removed an egg at 7, 8, 9 and 10 minutes, placing them in the ice water to stop cooking quickly.
We cut open the eggs and lined them up for the picture above. You can see that the 7-minute egg looks to us most like a soft-boiled egg, but if you like them just a bit firmer, you could go for the 8-minute egg, The last two look more to us like they are on the way to being hardboiled eggs.
We had separately tested the 11 minute egg, and it is definitely hard boiled.
So, you can definitely make soft or hard-boiled eggs using the steamer. This not only minimizes cracking, it produces hard-boiled eggs that peel perfectly! This is even an advantage when serving soft-boiled eggs, since they come out of the shell cleanly.
This experiment made 4 eggs at once. In a larger saucepan, you could probably make 6-8 if you wanted to. Beyond that, the logistics of serving that many soft-boiled eggs while they are still warm becomes a bit daunting.
Soft-boiled eggs in the Instant Pot
Of course, since the Instant Pot is also a steamer, you can cook eggs in it just as well, and you can do as many at a time as you like, with the same restrictions on logistics of serving them.
We put one cup of water in the Instant Pot, added the trivet rack and put one egg in the pot. We closed it and set it to steam for 3 minutes at high pressure. Then we quickly released the pressure and put the egg in the ice bath. We repeated the process, steaming for 4 minutes. Comparing the two eggs, we rather think the 4 minute steamed egg is closest to a soft-boiled egg: the 3-minute egg seemed a little underdone. We know that a 5-minute egg is essentially hard cooked so we know we didn’t want to go further.
The only real drawback to using the Instant Pot is that it took 5 ½ minutes to come to temperature before the cooking began. Since the water was already hot in the pot, the heating time for the second egg was only about 4 minutes. However, you can make as many eggs as you can fit into the pot, although getting a large number into the ice bath to stop the cooking might be challenging.
We also tried steaming an egg for 4 minutes at low pressure instead of high pressure. Heating of the water is about 30 seconds faster, and the egg seemed perfect at 4 minutes steaming time. If you are going on to make hard boiled eggs, the low pressure method is preferable as it leads to a tenderer white.