I often cook slow poached eggs at home, could I use the steam technique to cook them at a fraction of the time?
Slow poached eggs are also referred to as 60 minute eggs, or onsen tomago in Japan (onsen being natural hot springs, the story being that eggs are traditionally left by local residents in onsen and, upon being retrieved, are perfectly cooked). Slow poach eggs are cooked in a water bath at a temperature of 145º for 45 minutes to an hour - resulting in a white that is just set (white but still runny) and a yolk that is beginning to thicken but not yet cooked (which would first begin to turn into a fudge-like consistency before hitting what we think of as hard-boiled). Because the water never goes above 145º, the eggs are never done past where they should be. The only downside to the water bath is that it takes a long time and requires a fair amount of planning in advance. Here is a chart depicting the different doneness of eggs. Notice that at 144º we are seeing whites turning white but very much still runny. Also - tangent - it's fucking fascinating that 2 degrees of difference from 146º to 148º causes that much of a change in the yolks. Eggs are amazing things.
|(photo from http://www.douglasbaldwin.com)|
Cook's Illustrated recipe for soft boiled eggs was to place the eggs in a steamer for 6 minutes 30 seconds before immediately transferring to an ice bath. I cut that to 6 minutes 10 seconds because I wanted the yolks to be even runnier (they began setting at 6:30) but otherwise it works like a charm. I wondered if I could cut that cook time in order to just solidify the whites but not cook them to soft boiled, thus rendering me a soft poached egg. I attempted to steam 2 eggs with times of 4 minutes and 5 minutes (I made an assumption that cooking time would follow an exponential curve, taking a while to heat up but then heating incredibly quickly after a few minutes). My results were that the whites on the 4 minute eggs were still mostly clear and uncooked - completely unusable in their current form. The whites on the 5 minute egg were milky and still somewhat runny, and the yolk was thickened.
|5 minute egg|
|Makeshift oyakodon - leftover chicken karaage and tomagoyaki with the 5 minute egg|