Boiled Egg And Soldiers

A boiled egg standing proudly in an egg cup is an inviting breakfast or lunch.  Line up some buttered toast sticks (nicknamed soldiers) on the side, and I am in egg-dipping heaven.

Waiting To Be Cracked Open

Boiled eggs are a staple on any Irish or English household’s menu.  A knob of melting butter on top adds a creamy lusciousness to the yolk.


Egg Cups


Egg cups line the cupboards and dressers of most Irish homes.  Whether made from plain white pottery, or delicately painted china, egg cups display a boiled egg exquisitely.

Yet their design is not just showy, also serving a very functional purpose.  By balancing a boiled egg upright, the top of the egg can easily be tapped with a spoon to remove the cap, allowing access to the interior for delicious toast dipping.

Boiled Egg In Egg Cup

Egg cups are not widely available here in America.  I confess I only own one egg cup.  Next time I visit Ireland I plan to extend my collection.  Here in America, I have resorted to using shot glasses to hold my boiled eggs.


“She Can’t Boil An Egg!”


Boiling an egg has traditionally been seen as a very simple task.  In the past, a bad cook was often accused of not being able to boil an egg. Today I come to the defense of all those so-called bad cooks, wrongly denounced for their lack of egg boiling skills.

Triple Egg Timer

Image Credit

If boiling an egg is so simple, then why on earth were egg timers invented?  I love this triple egg timer, with separate hour glass timers for soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs.

Cooking an egg to order takes precision and exact timing.  Hard boiling an egg is a little easier than soft boiling, but then you have to contend with the whole issue of preventing a black ring around the yolk if you wish to serve them cold.

Saying a bad cook couldn’t boil water is definitely a more accurate indictment, because egg boiling is truly a skill.


How To Boil Eggs


A Dozen Eggs

When boiling an egg in America, the first decision requires choosing the color of your egg.  When I first came over here I was surprised by all the white-shelled eggs sold in grocery stores.  I grew up eating brown-shelled eggs, so I confess I am a little partial to them.  A white boiled egg in an egg cup just looks a little anemic to my Irish eyes.

Eggs In Saucepan Covered By 1-inch Of Water

Use eggs that have come to room temperature.  Eggs that are taken straight from the fridge tend to crack.  Place the eggs into a saucepan which is just big enough to hold them on the bottom.  Never pile the eggs up, but always lay them in a single layer.  Completely cover the eggs with cold water.

If you wish to make sure your eggs don’t crack during the boiling process, just prick a tiny hole in the rounder, less pointy end of the egg.  There is a little air pocket there, with a membrane separating the inner egg from the shell.

Bring the water to a boil. Reduce the heat immediately the water starts bubbling and start your timer.

For soft-boiled eggs, simmer for just 3 or 4 minutes (the less time cooking the softer the egg).

For a yolk that is just-set, simmer the egg for 5 to 6 minutes.

For a hard-boiled egg, simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.  As a child I was always told 10 minutes for hard boiled, but 8 minutes usually does the trick.  If planning to serve hard boiled eggs cold, immediately place them in icy water to stop the cooking process and prevent development of that ugly black ring around the yolk.

Dipping Soldiers In Soft-Boiled Egg

As soon as the timer goes off, drain the eggs and serve them immediately.  Remember if you leave them sitting in hot water, even with the burner turned off, they will just keep cooking.

I often wonder how the lord of the manor in years gone by ever managed to eat a soft boiled egg.  I imagine the poor maid dashing from the kitchen with his egg the moment it came out of the boiling water.  If the kitchen was too far away from the breakfast room, the egg would surely keep cooking as she sped to his lordship.  That’s why I think egg timers were set for 3 minutes rather than 4, to try to keep that yolk as soft as possible while transporting it through the Big House.

Sourdough Bread – Perfect For Making Toast Soldiers

Toast soldiers are just strips of buttered toast.  Their slim, rectangular shape makes them perfect for dipping into a boiled egg.

In Ireland I always loved soldiers made with batch bread, a thick textured loaf with a distinctive flavor.  Here in America I use sourdough bread.  I just cut a thick slice, toast it, remove the crusts and slice it into thin strips.

Medium-Boiled Egg

Boiled egg and soldiers – a perfect combination!


Boiled Egg In A Cup

When my triplets were toddlers, boiled egg in a cup was perfect for lunch.  Toast soldiers make great finger food for little ones.  I just scooped the boiled egg out of the shell with a spoon, mashed it in a cup with a big knob of creamy butter.  Of course when they started to feed themselves I served their eggs in plastic bowls.

If you are ever accused of not being able to boil an egg, don’t worry.  It’s just a matter of timing anyone can learn.

And so, may all the eggs you boil, be happy eggs.  Enjoy!!!

Slán agus beannacht leat!

(Goodbye and blessings)


Irish American Mom


  1. We may all have different sounding accents, but the little soldiers and hard boiled egg must be an all-Ireland thing :) It’s amazing that for a place that where travelling around was relatively difficult in days gone by, that we all ate the same types of food!

    I’ve been gone from Ireland too long – I love when you remind me of the little things like this. Thanks!

    • Liam – My husband, a Donegal man, loves a boiled egg and soldiers. He gets nostalgic thinking of his childhood soldier dipping days whenever I cook a boiled egg for breakfast. I think it islittle things like this that make our memories of home so sweet.

  2. I know what I’m having for breakfast! Our son grew up with boiled egg and soldiers, but only because my husband is English! I had never heard of an egg cup until I married him!

  3. Lovely memories, Mairead. I keep trying to do egg cups as my Gran use to, but don’t do it as often as I’d like. I like the idea of the, “soldiers!” I’ll have to try that.

  4. My husband is from Germany and every time we visit relatives there I buy more egg cups. I have a china cabinet full of them acquired over the 36 years we’ve been married.

    • Debbie – you must have an amazing egg cup collection after 36 years. It is nice to know that egg cups are appreciated in Germany as well as Ireland and the UK. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. I got my egg cups at crate and barrel a few years ago

    • I must look out for egg cups there, next time I am in Crate and Barrel. I use shot glasses in addition to the one egg cup I have. When I go back to Ireland next time I plan to stock up.
      All the best,

  6. Ha! I love that you don’t have many egg cups and use shot glasses to hold your boiled egg. In Ireland we always find we don’t have enough shot glasses and end up drinking our shots from egg cups… Cos everybody has egg cups lol

  7. I’m so excited to find your post. My grandmother from Ireland lived with us most of my life and she always made me eggs in an egg cup as well as eggs in a cup with butter. Now I know how long to cook the eggs for. Can’t wait to try it. It brings back such great memories. Thank you!

    • Hi Laura – I’m so glad this post will be able to guide you on how long to cook your eggs, to stir those lovely memories of days gone by, and of the buttered eggs your granny made for you in a tea cup. I remember eating egg in a cup in my granny’s cottage kitchen in County Cork – oh such lovely, warm memories. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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