Two dishes are commonly known as the most difficult tests for a world class chef:
That’s right; the stuff you’ve served at home countless times.
Why soup and eggs? They are so simple, and that’s exactly why they are so difficult.
There is no way to cover up a mistake or a mis-step. There is no where to run and no other ingredients to hide behind. There is precisely one way to do it correctly and millions of ways to mess it up irreversibly.
You may think “I cook that all the time,” but really most people don’t really make these things from scratch (canned soup doesn’t count as “cooking”), and most people do a horrible job of making eggs at home.
If your boiled eggs look like this:
you’re doing it wrong…
Properly boiled eggs look like these:
(Shown top to bottom: hard boiled, soft boiled, and runny-soft boiled)
That little gray/green ring around the yolk means it’s over-cooked and now you’ve dried out the yolk to the consistency of chalk.
Making perfectly cooked eggs is hard… most people just don’t know what properly cooked eggs look or taste like so they don’t realize when they do it wrong.
PS: Because I’ve had to repeat this in the comments…
1) Eggs means eggs in general; not just boiled eggs. Different chefs use different egg dishes as a measuring stick. Gordon Ramsey makes every new chef he hires cook him scrambled eggs, Wolfgang Puck and Thomas Keller prefer omelettes, etc… I used boiled eggs as an example because there is a visually obvious way to show when they have been badly burnt; the grey/green ring around the yolk.
2) No, a properly cooked boiled egg does not mean it has to be “soft” or “runny” or “under cooked.” A properly cooked egg can be “hard boiled;” which means it is fully set (no jelly like liquids inside). It’s just relatively difficult to get to “hard boiled” without accidentally over cooking and burning the eggs. Most home cooks/restaurants lack the knowledge, skill, or time required to do it correctly. Apparently as a result, a sizable number of people have started to incorrectly assume that an egg has to be burnt beyond recognition (aka cooked till that grey ring appears) in order to be “hard boiled.” However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Just like a steak, eggs can be correctly cooked to a range of “doneness.” If you like your steak well done or your eggs hard boiled that’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s a perfectly valid request. However, just like a charred lump of crumbling ashes is not the same as a “well done” steak, a boiled egg with a grey/green ring around the yolk is not the same as a “hard boiled” egg.
3) Because some people asked; I personally started to steam my “boiled” eggs. I found it to be a more consistent and slightly forgiving process that requires less active attention.
I used this method as a baseline and tweaked it a bit to my needs: