Back to basics: Eggs

Back to basics: Eggs

Eggs can be cooked in minutes and are the perfect base to create endless healthy and economical dishes. Sarah swain takes us through boiling, scrambling and omelettes.


  • Eggs are best stored in the fridge as their freshness deteriorates at warmer temperatures. Eggs are best stored in the carton.
  • Store them pointed end downwards to prevent breakage and minimise dehydration.
  • Eggs are porous and will absorb strong flavours and smells, so store them well away from strong-smelling foods.
  • Egg yolks placed in a container and covered with water to prevent them from drying out will keep in the fridge for up to two days.
  • Egg whites can be put in a covered container and will keep for up to two days when stored in the fridge.
  • Hard-boiled eggs can be stored in the fridge and used within two days.

Testing for freshness

  • To test for freshness, put an egg in a bowl or glass of water.
  • If it sinks and lies on its side, it is fresh.
  • If it floats with its rounded end on the surface of the water, it is stale.
  • If an egg floats in the middle of the water with its rounded end up, it is not stale but it is probably two or three weeks old.

Boiling eggs

  • Remove the eggs from the fridge in advance so they are at room temperature before cooking; this will help prevent cracking.
  • Use a slotted spoon to place eggs in boiling water and take them out.
  • Once eggs are in boiling water, reduce heat and cover.
  • Once cooked to your liking, scoop out eggs and immediately place in cold water to prevent further cooking.
  • To shell hard-boiled eggs, as soon as you remove them from the boiling water, crack the shells all over with a spoon and immediately plunge the eggs into a bowl of cold water for a couple of minutes. This helps stop the dark circle forming around the yolk and makes eggs easier to shell.

How do you like your boiled eggs?

Runny yolk and set white Cook 5 minutes
Less runny yolk and set white Cook 6 minutes
Almost-set yolk, but with a little stickiness (soft-boiled) Cook 7 minutes
Soft-set yolk (soft-boiled) Cook 8 minutes
Hard-boiled Cook 9 minutes

Scrambled eggs

  • For best results, the eggs should be well beaten with a fork before cooking so the yolks and whites are well mixed.
  • Use a non-stick pan and a wooden spoon.
  • Use a low-fat spread suitable for cooking. I use Logicol.
  • Beat 3 eggs together with 2 tablespoons trim milk.
  • Melt 1 1/2 teaspoons low-fat spread spread in a non-stick pan and run it around to coat the base of the pan.
  • Pour in the beaten eggs and cook them gently, stirring every 20 seconds, ideally with a wooden spoon.
  • The eggs will start to scramble. Continue stirring every 20 seconds until you have the eggs at your desired consistency.
  • Take the eggs off the heat when they are still a little wet if you like your scrambled eggs very moist, as they will finish cooking in their own heat while on the way to the table. Season with black pepper.


  • For 3 eggs (to serve 2 people) use 1 1/2 teaspoons low-fat spread. Beat the eggs thoroughly so that the yolk and whites are well mixed.
  • Melt the low-fat spread in a non-stick frying pan over a moderate heat. Make sure the hob is heating the entire pan base.
  • When the spread begins to foam, add the eggs. Shake the pan to distribute the eggs evenly.
  • After 40-45 seconds the eggs will begin to set on the base in the centre first. Continue to cook over a moderate heat while the entire base becomes set.
  • To test to see if the base is cooked all over, use a palette knife to lift at the edges.
  • At this stage you can add any sliced vegetables you like to create a vegetable omelette. Scatter over evenly.
  • Cook for a further 30 seconds, then use the knife to fold one side of the omelette into the middle. Fold in the other side and serve.

Poaching eggs

A poached egg on toast makes a perfect quick, healthy light meal or breakfast choice. Here's how to get a perfect poached egg:

  • Fill a frying pan with 10cm of water and add a teaspoon of vinegar (this helps the egg keep its shape).
  • Bring the water to a boil. Break the egg into a shallow cup or dish with a lip for easy sliding.
  • Slide the egg into the pan. As soon as the water returns to a boil, cover the pan. Turn off the heat and stand for about 2 minutes, or until a light film of white has set over the yolk. Do not lift the lid until after 2 minutes as the steam helps cook the egg (a glass lid will make this easier).
  • Lift the eggs out with a slotted spoon.

Whisking egg whites

  • For perfect results with egg whites, make sure the bowl and beaters are completely grease-free.
  • Place egg whites in a large bowl. Allow them to come to room temperature.
  • Begin whisking on a slow beating speed, until the egg whites begin to froth.
  • Increase the speed to 2 or 3. After 30-40 seconds, increase to a higher speed. Continuing whisking until you have reached the desired thickness.
  • Soft peaks are ideal for an egg white omelette. Stiff egg whites are ideal for meringues.

Recipe ideas

Fruity egg custard
Baked omelette
Spicy baked eggs

Author: Sarah Swain

Healthy Food Guide

First published: May 2008

2018-04-09 11:13:51

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