Some people have never had a hot, runny, seductive soft boiled egg.
That’s because they’re such a pain to peel when hot that even most restaurants don’t offer them.
Soft boiled eggs were popular in our family. Nana had a set of vintage silver-plated egg cups; Mom had ceramic cups.
The eggs were served with “toast soldiers” (photo #2): slices of toasted bread cut into half-inch vertical strips, for dipping into the yolk. (In the photo, the soldiers are topped with lots of yummy salmon caviar.)
Soft boiled eggs have long been popular among those who could afford the egg cups: Egg cups were found in the ruins of Pompeii.
No egg cups? Small ramekins, juice glasses and even some cocktail glasses will work. You can also nestle the egg in rock salt (photo #3) or small pebbles.
You can even make origami egg cups (photo #5). Just follow the video below or this visual from Gathering Beauty.
TAKING THE TOP OFF THE EGG
Nana’s Spoon Method: With a teaspoon tap the top of the cooked egg several time to crack the top of the shell. Place the tip of the spoon under a crack and slice through the egg, lifting the top half inch off as work around.
Mom’s Knife Method: With a regular flatware knife, whack the top of the egg as if the knife were a guillotine. For a more pleasant visual, then, as if you were one of Napoleon’s Hussars, whacking the neck off a Champagne bottle with your saber [the technique is called sabotage]). This should cut through the shell and most of the egg. Use the knife to lift off the top of the egg.
We are incapable of doing either of these correctly. With the spoon, we end up with fragmented pieces of shell. With the knife, the force can end up spilling yolk.
Practice makes perfect, but we found a better solution: an egg cutter, also known as an egg topper. It’s an inexpensive gadget and takes up very little room in the gadget drawer.
Our Egg Cutter Method: Place the egg cutter (photo #4) around the top half inch of the egg. Squeeze to cut. Remove the top.
Dye The Eggs: Photo #1 shows how they do it at Petrossian.
Top With Caviar: For Easter or other festive occasion, top your eggs with affordable caviar: capelin, lumpfish, salmon, tobiko, trout or whitefish roe.
For bright colors, we’re partial to salmon caviar or colored and flavored whitefish roe. (For sturgeon caviar, we waive this suggestion.)
Check out the different types of caviar and roe* in our Caviar Glossary.
FOR SCRAMBLED EGGS
If you want to fill the egg shells with scrambled eggs, you need to sterilize the insides of the shells or else (far easier) buy pasteurized eggs, such as Davidson’s Safest Choice.
Here are instructions to sterilize the shells from Rem Cooks.
*The Difference Between Roe And Caviar
All caviar is roe, the uncooked eggs of any fish. While caviar has traditionally referred only to sturgeon roe, the roe of many (or any) fish is now commonly called caviar. In the U.S., it is legally permissible to call any roe caviar as long as the fish is identified, e.g. salmon caviar.
As food writers, we prefer to use the latter with the fish identified, even if it is sturgeon caviar. There are enough different kinds of sturgeon caviar, that even confining the word to sturgeon requires a modifier: beluga caviar, Black Sea caviar, Iranian osetra caviar, farmed white sturgeon caviar, etc.
By the way, caviar is not a Russian word, nor is it used by Russian speakers. Khaviar, meaning eggs, is of Persian origin, found in the Iranian and Turkish languages. Russian speakers use the word ikroj (pronounced EEK-ruh, with a rolle “r”) for all roe, and use a modifier (beluga, salmon) to specify which type. Habitués of sushi bars will note that the Japanese adapted this word into ikura, salmon roe.
 For Easter, dye the eggs after you’ve cooked them (photo courtesy Petrossian).  Salmon caviar and toast “soldiers” (photo courtesy Le Coq Rico | NYC.  No egg cups? Use rock salt (photo courtesy Sturia Caviar).  Or make origami egg cups, with these instructions from Gathering Beauty.  How to cut the tops from the eggs (cutter from Amazon)..