The trendy egg that will change everything you had previously tried
Don’t misunderstand. My point is not to debate about the perfect way to cook soft, medium or hard boiled eggs*. No. No soft, medium or hard boiled eggs here, but something different, called the œuf parfait (literally, the perfect egg), aka the “egg 65 degrees” (understand Celsius) or the “egg at the just temperature”. You may have guessed that this “just” temperature is first of all a low temperature, 65 Celsius being equivalent to 149 Fahrenheit. This egg was invented, or it would be more appropriate to say conceptualized by the French physico-chemist Hervé This (pronounced “Tiss”). As a matter of fact, cooking eggs at low temperature is not something new at all: The traditional Japanese onsen tamago (literally, eggs cooked in warm springs) or the hamine eggs cooked for 6 hours in embers by the Jewish Turkish and Greek communities before Shabbat fall in the same philosophy of cooking, so to say… But what Hervé This did, and popularized in cooperation with his friend, the legendary 3-star chef Pierre Gagnaire, was to precise the details of a low temperature egg cooking modern technique : the temperature, the time and the process of cooking.
This’s reasoning was based on a very pedestrian finding: egg white and egg yolk do not have the same coagulation temperature. Whereas the white starts to coagulate at 62 Celsius (i.e. 144 Fahrenheit), the yolk coagulates from 68 C (155 F). Since most people like their eggs, except those (me as a kid) who swallow them, with the white cooked and the yolk still runny, This leverages this difference of 11 degrees Fahrenheit to cook his perfect egg: he cooked his eggs at the exact median temperature between 62 C and 68 C, i.e. 65 C (or 149 F Fahrenheit). The perfect egg was born…
To describe it is difficult as it is different from everything known in the egg area. Of course, it looks a bit like a shelled soft/medium boiled egg (see pictures), but the texture and the sensation in mouth is totally different. The egg white is like a trembling jelly without, of course, the sticky feeling of a jelly, and the yolk, ah!!! the yolk, is creamy, syrupy, silky… The best comparison I can find to describe its texture is to compare it to (liquid) honey, a savory honey… and a killer!!!
The perfect egg is so exceptional, and versatile, as it has become very trendy, in upper class restaurants (its detractors, there are some, say it is a way to gain a lot of money on a cheap product) and in the French cooking shows (every French Top Chef season sees its own œuf parfait). Many French and European chefs feature it on their carte, associating it with a huge variety of different products, salad, asparagus, mushrooms, pasta, caviar… in dishes revisiting the great classics : a la carbonara, a la Milanese, etc. Personally, I tried it here with a ratatouille (those who know me won’t be surprised), either a hot ratatouille as a main dish, or a cold ratatouille as an amuse-bouche. Delicious in both cases, but the amuse-bouche, with its contrast between the cold ratatouille and the hot silky egg was a blast. It is also fantastic just on a toasted slice of bread, with just fleur de sel, piment d’Espelette, chive…
However, it is not complicated to cook it. After a couple of tries, I reached a quite decent result although I don’t have the precision equipment required. In fact, there are three “serious” techniques, and some more anecdotal**:
- A bain-marie at the constant temperature of 149 F for 45 minutes
- In a preheated “normal” or steaming oven at 149 F for 60 to 65 minutes
|Steaming oven - 55 minutes|
|Steaming oven - 60 minutes|
|Steaming oven - 65 minutes|
|"Normal" oven - 75 minutes|
In all cases, the temperature is the same, the famous 65 Celsius or 149 Fahrenheit. This claims that the cooking time doesn’t matter. Some others say it does matter, and I am one of them. I didn’t try the bain-marie technique as I am not adequately equipped, but those owning a sous-vide equipment could try it. But I made the test in my own oven, a countertop convection oven with several steaming functionalities, and I can tell that each marginal minute makes a difference (see pictures). Based on those tests, I concluded that steaming the eggs at 150 F (alas, my oven doesn’t allow 149 F) for 60 to 65 minutes has the better outcome. But this depends, first, on your own equipment, and, second, on your own preferences…
* In fact, making perfect boiled eggs is quite easy if you follow the 3-6-9 rule: 3 minutes for perfect soft boiled eggs, 6 minutes for medium boiled eggs, and 9 minutes for hard boiled eggs in boiling water… for an average size egg, to be adjusted for smaller or bigger eggs. It is also essential, before plunging them in boiling water, to soak them in tepid water to avoid a thermal shock.
** The anecdotal techniques consist in cooking the perfect eggs in a dishwasher or on a radiator. Notwithstanding the fact that I don't how to tune the exact temperature in those cases, I am not convinced, or put in another way, like searing a steak with an iron, this is nor my philosophy of cooking...