How to Cook an Egg and Why Are There 100 Folds in a Chef’s Hat?

By 4 m read
how to cook an egg and why are there 100 folds in a chef's hat (Photo by Viana Boenzli)
(Photo by Viana Boenzli)

Why are there 100 folds in a chef’s hat?

Let’s have a look a the second question first: Culinary lore has it that the 100 folds in a chef’s hat represent the 100 ways to cook an egg; although in Escoffier’s standard tome of French cooking, “Guide Culinaire” from 1903, you’ll find 143 ways to prepare an egg. Ask a chef what his or her favorite food item is in the kitchen and the answer most likely will be the egg. Why do highly decorated chefs ask an apprentice to cook an egg in order to judge the apprentice’s cooking abilities? Because it is so hard to cook the perfect egg. But why? Watch Gordon Ramsay’s reaction starting at 1:25 in this video:


Are there really 100 ways to cook an egg?

So the story goes that the 100 folds in a chef’s hat represent the 100 ways to cook an egg, but is this true? Well, let’s see…there’s scrambled, over easy, over medium, over hard, poached, shirred, soft boiled, hard boiled, pickled, baked, sunny side up; in an omelette, quiche, or frittata; etc, etc, etc. And that’s just where the egg is the main ingredient! Don’t forget about how many other dishes include eggs as an ingredient…in cakes, souffles, breakfast burritos, egg noodles, mayonnaise, sauces. I could go on and on. So, there certainly are at least 100 different ways to cook an egg!


About the Egg

Before we start on our journey to cook the perfect hard-boiled, soft-boiled, and poached egg perfectly every time, we have to delve a little into the nature of the egg. I’m not addressing fresh versus old, supermarket versus local farmer, etc. In general, try to get the freshest egg from the closest source you can; although, hard-boiled eggs tend to be a little easier to peel when the eggs are not super fresh. Or built your own coop. Because eggs are basically liquid protein (compared to steak), we can actually crack it open and – under the right temperature – they will solidify when we scramble them. That’s hard to do with steak.


About the Egg’s Behavior

If we start boiling an egg in cold water, we will end up with a hard-boiled egg that can be very difficult to peel, as the inside of the egg fuses to the inside of the shell. We could also drop the egg into boiling water. By doing this, though, the whites will cook so fast that by the time the yolk achieves the right consistency, the white turns into a rubbery mass. As I said, it’s not easy. And then there’s the question about peeling the thing: add vinegar to the cooking water, put it in an ice bath, increase the water’s pH by adding baking soda, crack and roll the egg on the kitchen surface, or even just blow it out of the shell. I’ve tried them all and they all seem to work sometimes. And sometimes they don’t. Who knew that a product from an animal that basically poops breakfast would be so difficult to handle. Nothing is eggsact when it comes to eggs.



Hard-Boiled Eggs

Add enough water to your saucepan so the eggs will be covered. Before the water starts to boil, add your eggs. Let it come to a boil. Cover the the pan with a lid and remove from heat.How long you let the eggs sit in the water depends on how hard-boiled you like your hard-boiled eggs and also depends on the heat-retention ability of your pot.  

Eggs in pot
Boiling Eggs (Photo by Erich)

The easiest way to figure this out is by starting out with three eggs and remove them one at time after, say 7, 9 and 11 minutes (start the timer after you remove the pan from the heat).


That’s the easy part. Now comes the hard part: peeling the eggs. As I mentioned earlier, the freshest eggs can be the hardest to peel.  Everything else works sometimes and sometimes it doesn’t. But there are two techniques that I’ve started to use with consistently good results: after you drain the water from the pan, give your pan and eggs a good shake to crack the shell. Then, put the pan with the eggs under cold running water. As soon as they’re cool enough to touch, start peeling them under the running water. For easy cleanup, put a strainer in the sink. Enjoy. 

7, 9 and 11 minutes (Photo by Erich)
7, 9 and 11 minutes (Photo by Erich)

Do you love eggs? Check out a few of our recipes in which eggs are the star ingredient!


Did you make this egg recipe? Let us know in the comments below!

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