If I have only about five minutes to throw breakfast together, I'll usually have a scrambled egg with fresh chives and a slice of multi-grain dry toast. It’s quick and foolproof. But once in a while, I like to switch it up and make a sunny-side up egg so I can dip my toast in the yolk.

My sunny-side up eggs are not so foolproof. Sometimes the yolk breaks when I crack the egg into the pan. Other times I get distracted and let it cook too long and the yolk hardens. I figured a soft boiled egg, once I figured out the correct time to get the yolk to my liking, would be more consistent. I’ve hard boiled hundreds of eggs in my life, but I had never soft boiled one before. So, I read a few sets of directions, figured out how I’d like to do it, and got to work.

The method is simple. You place an egg in boiling water and leave it in until it’s cooked to your desired doneness – usually five to seven minutes. I tried a five-minute and a six-minute egg.

egg in boiling water to make soft boiled

First I brought about an inch of salted water to a rolling boil and lowered my eggs in gently using tongues. I made sure that the eggs were equal in size. I covered the pot with a lid and set my timer for five minutes. While I was waiting for the timer to go off, I prepared a bowl of ice water and put my bread in the toaster.

soft boiled egg chilling on ice

I took the five-minute egg out of the boiling water, set my timer for an additional minute and put the five-minute egg in the ice water for 30 seconds to stop it from cooking inside. Then, I moved it to a bowl. When the timer went off again, I put the six-minute egg in the ice water for 30 seconds and moved it to a separate bowl.

soft boiled egg and toast

This is the five-minute egg. It was more difficult to peel because of how soft it was.

soft boiled egg and toast on a plate

This is the six-minute egg. It peeled more easily, and it looks more appetizing than the five-minute egg.

Which one did I like better? I liked the five-minute egg better. The yolk was runnier; there was more for my toast to sop up. I don’t think I need to do any more experimentation. It’s a five-minute soft boiled egg for me. Next time, however, I’ll put it in a little cup and just crack open the top like the photo at the top of the page so I don't have to try to peel a soft egg.

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Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

How to make a soft boiled egg
The method of making a soft boiled egg is simple — it's the timing you need to experiment with.