how to cook the perfect soft-boiled duck egg

I have three kinds of neighbour: neighbours who are lovely, neighbours who are strange and insular and who don’t interact with the world, and neighbours who have screaming matches with teenage children in the middle of the night, feel their gardens are best planted with beercans and broken glass, and who set fire to their houses for amusement – or possibly as an artistic statement, I’m not sure.

Amongst the lovely neighbours are Gem and Charlie, and amongst their lovely traits are of occasionally gifting me with duck and hen eggs that are laid by their flock; the duck eggs especially are huge, a soft blue-white (well, duh) and with yolks so yellow as to be almost tangerine. Yellow is simply not the word, unless prefixed by “deep cadmium”.

Having experienced the birds at first hand I’d call the eggs “aggressively free range” given the fowls’ single-minded pursuit of exploring my garden (memo to self: maybe it’s about time you rebuilt the fence?) – but I forgive everything, everything, for the near erotic pleasure of these soft-boiled eggs on toast.

For me the perfect egg has a fully set white, and the heat is just starting to impinge on the yolk, thickening it to a syrup but without really setting it yet. Method:

Saucepan, three-quarters filled with water hot from the kettle. Pinch of salt. Serious heat on the hob. Boiling vigourously, tumults of hell-style.

Take up to two eggs (update: at room temperature) and for each work out which is the blunt, more rounded end. Using a substantial needle, pin or similar sharp point, drill a tiny hole in the blunt end. This allows the air-pocket to vent gas quickly without cracking the shell, when you drop the eggs into boiling water.

Set a timer; these timings are an estimate and subject to tweaking depending on egg-freshness, but they’re approximately what I use:

  • XL hen eggs: 4m20
  • M duck eggs: 5m10
  • L duck eggs: 5m40

Using a slotted spoon drop the eggs into the vigourously boiling water, and start the timer.

Make toast – Ideally fresh bread, butter at room temperature so it’s spreadable. Don’t faff about.

When the timer expires, use the spoon to remove the eggs.

DO NOT QUENCH THE EGGS IN COLD WATER – drop them straight into eggcups and serve immediately. Hack the top off and dip soldiers, or spoon the rich, unctuous goo over buttered toast, sprinkle salt and/or freshly grated pepper.

This works any time of day – with tea for breakfast, or a crisp white for a light, late dinner.

UPDATE: something different: poached goose egg, picture; if folk are interested in the method, let me know. [June 2012]

21 thoughts on “how to cook the perfect soft-boiled duck egg

  1. Valerie

    Wow, I’ve never had duck eggs, nor been brave enough to attempt a soft boiled, but this sounds absolutely delightful!

    I get fresh eggs occasionally from my neighbors (particularly when they are traveling and need someone to pick them up), and you really can’t get something better from any farmer’s market or grocery. Yum!

    Reply
    1. alecm Post author

      I suspect the other thing I left unstated was to start with eggs at room temperature, might be important… :-) Give it a go

      Reply
  2. Chris Samuel

    @Valerie – you *must* try duck eggs, they’re wonderful!

    Now we have a pair of ducks of our own then hopefully we’ll be getting some very fresh ones too soon! ;-)

    Reply
  3. Britton

    Just came across duck eggs in a new little bakery in our little village. Your recipe is breathtaking in its simplicity. Thank you! The yolks were lovely and rich and beautiful to behold. Your precise time suggestion (5’40”) yields the exact result you described. I think this is a perfect breakfast.

    Reply
  4. Giyari

    Litterally just finished 2 duck eggs there and WOW! They were amazing! Also my first successful soft boiled eggs, thanks for the good times :D

    Reply
  5. Maria

    Thanks so much! I have always been uncertain about timing with duck eggs. I was given 6 LARGE beauties as a gift, fresh from the market yesterday. This morning:perfect soft boiled duck egg and soldiers! Brilliant!

    Reply
  6. Charles

    Perfect instructions, thank you.
    I have just followed them and enjoyed a lovely duck egg for the first time. Not hard boiled as I usually end up with.

    Reply
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  8. Mary

    Umm. Thank you. Just had the best soft boiled duck egg I’ve ever made. Delicious with fresh avocado.
    Thank you

    Reply
  9. Lou

    A friend gave me some fresh duck eggs yesterday, I have never had them before today & just wanted to say thanks. I so enjoyed my breakfast this morning!

    Reply
    1. Lynne

      Just followed your advice and enjoyed a perfectly cooked duck egg. Thankyou. I enjoy them poached as well. I prefer them to hens eggs now.

      Reply
  10. Jacki

    What are they like scrambled I wonder. My friend blows the egg out and then exquisitely decorates the shell.

    Reply

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