Of course, there is always sous-vide. If you sous-vide anything, even chicken nuggets, this automatically puts it into the fine dining category. Sous-vide eggs have indeed been popping up on restaurant menus like mushrooms after the rain. Unfortunately, I don't like sous-vide eggs. I like almost anything sous-vide, just not eggs. With sous-vide, the whole egg ends up being done to the same temperature. If it's 142F, the yolk is perfect to my liking (completely runny), but the white feels like snot even if it looks white. If it's 149F, the white is nicely set and still tender, but the yolk is no longer runny. And the picky person that I am, that's not quite right. I want the yolk at 142F and the white at 149F.
I finally figured out how to get those perfect eggs reliably and with no fuss. The key is extremely low oven of 225F. And ditch that water bath. It's not worth all the mess. Another important factor is making sure there is something under your eggs. It can be absolutely anything: a small slice of tomato, sautéed mushrooms, a piece of smoked salmon, some creamed leaks, a piece of ham, ratatouille, smoky eggplant puree, etc. If it's savory, it can certainly go in there. You need about 1 Tbsp of this stuff per ramekin. Not only will it make a more interesting dish, but it will serve as a buffer between the hot ramekin bottom and the yolk preventing it from overcooking.
The most important skill about cooking these eggs is testing them for doneness. Jiggle one of the ramekins. The eggs are done when the yolk still moves freely in the white. Most of the white will appear set and white, but it will still be translucent and liquid where it meets the yolk. A more accurate way to test them, is to insert and instant read thermometer into the white right next to the yolk (just be careful not to pierce the yolk). It should read around 145F. Don't be surprised that the egg will appear not set. Let it rest 7 minutes. During this time, the heat of the ramekin will finish cooking it.
How long do they usually take? In my oven, they take 32-35 minutes. But keep in mind that every oven is different. When I set my oven to 225F and you set yours, there is no guarantee that we are cooking at the same temperature. Every ramekin is different thickness and shape. So the only way to get a perfect egg is to practice a few times. Once you find the optimal time for your oven and ramekins, making these eggs will be a cinch whether you are cooking for 1 or for 15 people.
Here are some tips:
- cooking time depends on how much stuff you put under the egg, so try to be consistent with that if you want your timing to be predictable.
- never put more than 1 egg per ramekin. This recipe relies on the fact that the yolk will be in the center and will be cooked to a lower temperature than the surrounding white. If you have 2 yolks, there is no way to place them both in the center.
- make a small indentation in the stuff that goes under the egg forming a cup. This will help hold the yolk in the center.
- if the yolk didn't end up in the center after you cracked the egg, gently move it there with your fingers.
- if serving these eggs for company, you can fill the ramekins in advance and keep them in the fridge -- all you'll have to do when your guests arrive is put them in the oven.
- when testing the eggs for doneness, make sure the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the ramekin.
Oeufs en cocotte without a water bath
For 1 ramekin
1/2 tsp butter
2 tsp heavy cream, divided
1 Tbsp flavorful accompaniment (smoked salmon, ham, tomato sauce, etc)
1 large egg
salt and pepper
chopped fresh chives or dill (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 225F and set a rack in the middle.
- Butter each ramekin with 1/2 tsp butter. Place 1 Tbsp flavorful accompaniment into each ramekin and make a slight indentation in the center. Top with 1 tsp heavy cream. Crack an egg into the ramekin being careful not to break the yolk. If the yolk is not in the center, gently move it there with a spoon or your fingers. Drizzle another 1 tsp cream near the edges of each ramekin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Place ramekins on a baking sheet and place in the oven until eggs are done, 30-35 minutes. Test for doneness early and often. The eggs are done when the yolk still moves freely in the white when the cup is jiggled. Most of the white will appear set and white, but it will still be translucent and liquid where it meets the yolk. A more accurate way to test them, is to insert and instant read thermometer into the white right next to the yolk (just be careful not to pierce the yolk). It should read around 145F. Don't be surprised that the egg will appear not set.
- Let the eggs rest 7 minutes. During this time, the heat of the ramekins will finish cooking them. Sprinkle with chives or dill and serve.