One factor which differentiates the cooking of eggs from cooking most other commodities is the short space of time between the point when the eggs are cooked to the peak of perfection and when they are almost inedible because they have been overcooked. The decision as to whether they are cooked to the required degree must be made in a matter of seconds rather than minutes. The holding time — the period between when the dish is cooked and when it is consumed – must always be taken into consideration. Unlike some other foods, eggs continue to cook when removed from the heat and are very susceptible even to low levels of heat such as a warmed plate.
There are four main ways to cook eggs.
(a) Poaching. This is cooking eggs without their shells in water so as to set the white around the yolk which should remain soft. The term also covers oeufs en cocotte which are eggs cooked in a special earthenware mould with various garnishes.
(b) Boiling. This is cooking eggs in their shells for varying lengths of time: 2–3 minutes for soft boiled served in the shell; 5–7 minutes for soft centred eggs to be shelled for further use; and 10 minutes for hard boiled eggs.
(c) Shallow frying. This is cooking eggs in a small amount of fat. The term also covers the making of omelettes.
(d) Scrambled. This is cooking beaten eggs until almost set with the addition of butter and cream.
The following points should be borne in mind when cooking eggs.
(a) When making any egg dish, it is advisable for a better result to use eggs at room temperature.
(b) Never allow cooked eggs to remain in direct contact with metal dishes or containers for any length of time. Although some methods imply that the eggs are to be cooked in a metal vessel, to leave them in such receptacles once cooked will result in discoloration.
(c) Due consideration needs to be given to poached egg dishes that are completed with a sauce coating, especially lightly gratinated dishes as the eggs will continue to cook under the direct heat of the salamander grill.
(d) All loose particles of cooked egg white should be removed once the egg is poached.
(e) Garnishes should be hot and served in suitable quantity as if accompaniments. Retention of cooked eggs.
Retention of cooked eggs:
(a) Eggs that have been poached may be kept in a basin of cold water.
(b) Omelettes and scrambled eggs must be served immediately as they become rubbery and hard if kept for any length of time.
(c) Soft and hard boiled eggs may be retained in cold water. However, soft boiled eggs cannot be successfully reheated as this would obviously result in them becoming hard boiled.
(d) Shallow fried eggs must also be served immediately as they become hard and cannot be successfully reheated.