I'm having problems with boiling eggs. The egg whites are not hardening and stay soft, but the yolks did set. The eggs I'm using are freshly laid. What can cause this? How can I make sure my egg whites set too?

  • 1
    Please share some more detail about how you are cooking these eggs.
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 0:48
  • In a stainless steel pot . Bring water to the boil then gently place eggs into the water for 3to4minutes
    – Greenie
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 1:07
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    Lacking what? Spirit of cooperation? Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 1:18
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    @Greenie the egg white proteins set at lower temperatures than yolk proteins. So it's possible the chickens are low in protein in their feed. This time of the year (winter/early spring) is usually harder regarding feed (per Michael Pollan, Omnivore's Dilemma)
    – MandoMando
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 1:28
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    Thanks mandomando I will try adjusting their feed and see what happens
    – Greenie
    Commented Apr 12, 2013 at 3:21

5 Answers 5


This is not a real answer, but rather some info to hopefully, help:

  • Egg whites are 90% water, when they harden, the protein unravels and creates a grid network that does not allow the molecules to slip past each other. If the protein level drops, it might make it harder to set and stay runny.

  • Egg white proteins go through a phase change (become hard) at a lower temperature than the Yolk by a few degrees, that's how you can have soft-boiled eggs.

  • If you crack a fresh egg and it sprawls on the dish (as opposed to hold tall), you're looking at an egg from a chicken that didn't eat many insects/larvae. ;) This may be expected as at this time of the year (northern hemisphere) insects aren't very active.

There is a good section in Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma that gets into more detail. And perhaps better information regarding the off-season feed.


What intrigues me is what happens in the cooking of an egg already open?

Have you tried doing an egg "poached"? You should be able to see directly the cooking, since it lacks the shell. "In fashion", the egg is cooked by pouring it, without shell, in boiling water, with a flick but delicate. The white should be fully cooked, but the yolk remain raw.

Theoretically, you should see the white cooking, while the yolk not. Please try it and tell us the result.

  • I wouldn't make that assumption about egg whites and yolks just based on their relative protein content. The biological processes involved in making the egg may not prioritize the yolk and white the same.
    – Eric Hu
    Commented Apr 18, 2013 at 23:24

I never had a cooked yolk and raw whites. Try what I usually do --> put the eggs in water together and wait for 5-10 mins. below is the guideline for boiling eggs. don't wait till the water boils before you put the eggs.

Egg Size Degree of Doneness Time Required Medium Soft-cooked yolk 3 minutes Medium-cooked yolk 5 minutes Hard-cooked yolk 12 minutes

Large Soft-cooked yolk 4 to 5 minutes Medium-cooked yolk 6 minutes Hard-cooked yolk 17 minutes

Extra Large Soft-cooked yolk 5 minutes Medium-cooked yolk 7 to 8 minutes Hard-cooked yolk 19 minutes

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    Given that the yolks are cooking and the whites aren't, the problem is definitely not cooking times. If the cooking time were too short, the yolk wouldn't set either.
    – Cascabel
    Commented Apr 14, 2013 at 17:03


Eggs could be too fresh. I just made this mistake and searched for why my eggs were mushy...

  • Welcome Johanna - Link only answers are discouraged: Always quote the most relevant part of an important link, in case the target site is unreachable or goes permanently offline. You can edit your post to include this information, by clicking the edit link at the bottom of your post.
    – Debbie M.
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 16:14

i have been boiling and poaching eggs for many years and this is the first time I have not been able to cook the White of an egg, so I don't think it's the cooking process but to do with the chicken's productive system

  • I just had the same thing happen to me this week with an organic egg from a local farmer. It was strange because the yolk was fully firm, yet the white was not runny but soft in the shell Commented May 27, 2015 at 22:34
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    This got flagged - I think it's marginally an answer (something to do with the chicken, not the cooking) but it's not a really good answer (what's that something?).
    – Cascabel
    Commented May 28, 2015 at 2:01

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