Eggs are one of the most versatile ingredients in your kitchen. They’re used for baking and binding, emulsifying and leavening. But you don’t need a ton of other ingredients to make them palatable (unless you have an egg aversion, of course, which… valid). But how you decide to cook them makes all the difference. Some egg preparation methods yield chickens’ reproductive material silky, smooth and saucy, while others leave them thick, chunky and flavorless. I’ve decided to do the hard work of ranking the best egg-cooking methods to answer the age-old question: How would you like your eggs?
I have to be clear about what I mean by “baked” here. We’re not talking about a shakshuka type of situation, which requires tomato sauce to keep the eggs moist while they’re in the oven. We’re talking plain baked eggs, which are only good if you hit the cook time just right. Leave them in the oven for 20 seconds too long, and you’ll have a dry, rubbery mess. I just can’t trust myself with that kind of responsibility.
9. Hard Boiled
Hard boiling an egg is tragic because it looks so promising from the outside. You think you’re about to bite into a golden pocket of velvety yolk, and instead you’re met with a dry, sandy slap of reality: Somebody (probably you) boiled this egg within an inch of its life. The tell-tale greenish brown hue of the yolk is the first sign that something has gone very, very wrong here.
Fried eggs are okay. Good, even, if the perfect balance of exterior crispiness and interior liquidity can be achieved. All too often, though, the fried ones turn out just slightly wrong—a bit too cooked in the middle or a bit too liquidy on the outside—and it’s enough to ruin your whole breakfast.
The quality of any serving of scrambled eggs depends almost entirely on the other ingredients included. The addition of milk adds a creamy richness to scrambled situation, while ingredients like chives, soy sauce and chili crisp can add flavor and texture that break up the generic egginess of the rest of the dish. Without these additions, though, scrambling is just okay.
6. Over Easy
Over easy eggs are better than their more thoroughly fried counterparts because it’s basically guaranteed that the yolks are going to be runny. The only problem is that there’s a good chance the whites will be runny as well.
5. Sunny Side Up
Sunny side up eggs have all the benefits of the over easy version, but they just look better. You do, however, run an even bigger risk that you’re going to be forced to sop up some liquid egg whites with your toast.
Maybe I like poached eggs so much because they have such a strong association with eggs Benedict. I love that you get all the silkiness of a good sunny side up egg, but in a lighter, oil-free package. The downside of poached eggs is making them—they can be tricky if you don’t have much poaching experience.
Steaming an egg is a method that is all too often overlooked, at least in the U.S, where I live. Steamed eggs are ultra silky and make the perfect base for sauces and seasonings. On their own, they can be bland, but they’re definitely easy to dress up with just a few pantry staples.
Yes, a pickled egg is also boiled, but soaking it in vinegar and spices transforms it into a peak culinary experience. They have that slightly rubbery, bouncy texture that makes a boiled egg so enjoyable, but their brininess and bright, shocking flavor is what ultimately brings it all together.
1. Soft Boiled
There are few joys as acute as cutting into a boiled egg to discover that you did, in fact, boil it perfectly—the yolk seductively oozes from its creamy white cave, barely held in place by the lightly cooked yolk clinging to the whites. Forget the charcuterie board and put out a plate of soft boiled eggs and a few cut veggies, and you’ve got the perfect filling snack to share with friends.
Samantha Maxwell is a food writer and editor based in Boston. Follow her on Twitter at @samseating.