There’s lots of content out there to help you decide what to cook with your fancy sous vide precision, immersion, circulation, sans conflagration tool, or so I’ve heard. I’ve read about all the cool things one can sous vide with tantalising results — juicy steaks, cheesecakes, buttery lobster tails, and the silkiest of eggs, it all sounds freakin’ fantastic. But for those of us puttering around with cooking tools that don’t include multiple -ion suffixes deserve silkiness too! Not only do we deserve it, but it’s possible to make sous vide-like eggs in your oven.
The concept behind sous vide immersion cooking is that you can precisely control the temperature down to the degree of perfect doneness, as the heat is evenly distributed while the food floats like a heavenly body in a tub of water. Eggs are especially satisfying when cooked in this fashion because the precisely controlled heat never goes beyond 70 degrees Celsius — the point of coagulation. This keeps the egg proteins from becoming too tightly bound, which can result in a rubbery white and a dusty yolk. Unfortunately, according to this article by Hunker and various other sources, the lowest setting possible on most gas and electric stove tops can be anywhere between 90 degrees Celsius and 150 degrees Celsius — a huge range, and definitely out of silky egg territory. In order to get Starbucks worthy sous vide-texture eggs, we need to think inside the box. The oven, that is.
The water bath
Since the softest, dreamiest egg texture can only be achieved with low, delicate heating, a barrier is needed to distribute the heat gently. This is the perfect opportunity for a hot water bath in a low heat oven. A hot water bath in the oven mimics the sous vide process relatively well — water is used for consistent, gentle heating, and even though the eggs aren’t vacuum sealed like in a sous vide, the contained humidity keeps them from drying out. The water bath keeps the temperature surrounding the food at a steady 100°C (water’s evaporation point). The oven is set at 135 degrees Celsius, allowing the ambient air to cook the top of the dish within a reasonable amount of time. After about an hour, a serving of divinely silken eggs will hit your plate.
How to make it
This method works best with egg whites, while whole eggs always set up a little firmer — though they do make excellent breakfast sandwich material. If you decide to use whole eggs, you’ll need a keen eye when checking them toward the end of their cook time. Sous vide-less oven eggs can be poured as a large batch in a casserole dish or into non-stick cupcake wells to make individual portions. Make sure you have a larger casserole dish or other oven-safe, deep cooking vessel. I like to use clear pyrex dishes so I can see what’s going on with my water bath and how the eggs are cooking within.
Place a folded up tea towel that you don’t mind getting wet into the bottom of the larger dish. Ensure that it is very flat — you don’t want any towel peeking out of the water. Lightly butter the smaller dish and place it into the larger one, on top of the towel. The bigger cooking pan will hold the hot water, while the towel will provide a buffer, keeping from direct heat hitting the bottom of the eggs.
Whisk one to two cups of egg whites or whole eggs in a medium bowl until no clumps remain. (No need to whisk too hard — you don’t want to see a ton of bubbles on top.) You can skip this step if you’re using liquid ggs from a carton, as they’re already homogeneous. Season your eggs to taste, then pour into the buttered inner casserole dish. At this point you can sprinkle on any cheese or pre-cooked, chopped veggies you want. Cover this smaller dish tightly with foil and place into the larger dish with the towel. Place the nesting casserole dishes into the oven before adding the water — it’s easier to fill the baking dish with water while it’s inside the oven as opposed to walking across the kitchen with water sloshing around inside. Pour hot water into the bigger pan until it rises slightly above the level of the eggs in the inner pan.
Bake on the lowest setting, or a 135°C oven. The timing will vary from 20 minutes to an hour depending on how big the batch is, and whether it’s in muffin cups or one large casserole. You’ll know they’re done when you shake the dish and the centre wobbles but is no longer liquid-y. Remove the entire apparatus from of the oven but leave the smaller dish covered and inside the water dish until the whole bath cools down a bit, or about 10 minutes.
Try a batch of these spinach and feta cheese sous vide-less oven eggs to stave off afternoon hangry moments. It also makes a heck of a breakfast sandwich — toast an english muffin and scoop out a bun-sized square, add a slice of tomato and you’re set. Attention weekly meal-preppers: The recipe can be doubled for a healthy, delicious anytime snack.
Spinach and Feta Sous Vide-less Eggs
- 1 ½ cups egg whites (about 12 egg whites)
- 85 g baby spinach (sautéed and cooled)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 30 to 55 g Feta cheese (crumbled)
Set the oven to 135°C. Lightly butter the bottom half of a pyrex loaf pan. Prepare a larger pyrex dish by placing a folded tea towel into the bottom of it. It’s best to use a thin or small towel so none of it pokes out of the water. Heat approximately four cups of water for the water bath. (I use a kettle for easy heating and pouring.)
Put the egg whites into a small bowl or measuring cup and whisk until there are no discernible clumps. No need to whip; bubbles on top will bake with a slightly tough texture, and we’re going for silky. (You can skip the whisking if they’re from a carton of egg whites.) Season your eggs with salt and any other herbs and spices you like.
Empty the eggs into the buttered pyrex loaf pan. Top the eggs with the feta cheese and sautéed spinach. It will sink a little, and that’s fine.
Cover the top of the loaf pan in foil securely. Place the pyrex dishes on a baking tray for easier handling and put the whole thing in the preheated oven. Fill the larger pyrex with hot water so it’s like a moat surrounding the pan with eggs. Fill until the water line is just above where the eggs are in the loaf pan. Make sure the towel is completely submerged. Push the pan in and close the door.
Bake at 135°C. Check in 30 min. Shake the pan gently to see how cooking in proceeding. The eggs will likely be liquid-y at this point, but the edges should be opaque. Top up the hot water if needed. Continue to check the jiggle every 5 minutes or so, baking for up to 20 more minutes.
If the edges are set and the centre jiggles slightly, then the eggs are done. Take out the entire rig and let it cool, as is, for 10 minutes. When you unwrap the foil the eggs will be set and ready to eat. They will also store well, covered, in the fridge for up to five days.