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An egg coddler is a kitchen tool designed to be used when cooks wish to make coddled eggs. Using an egg coddler greatly simplifies the process, and also provides a handy serving dish for the coddled eggs at the table. A number of companies make egg coddlers, with some antique and vintage versions being highly sought after collector's items. Many kitchen supply stores stock egg coddlers, especially those which focus on British foods.
The roots of the egg coddler appear to lie with the Royal Worcester company, which has been manufacturing fine china and porcelain since 1751. The company first began marketing egg coddlers in the late 1800s, and some historians believe that the company invented the devices, since no records of egg coddlers existed previously.
There are two parts to an egg coddler. The bottom of the device is a heat resistant cup, usually made from ceramic. The top is a snug fitting lid made from metal or ceramic, and the lid typically screws on for security. To use an egg coddler, cooks oil or butter the egg coddler, crack an egg inside, and then submerge the coddler in boiled water for seven to eight minutes. The result is a very lightly cooked egg which is typically served in the egg coddler.
Soft boiled eggs could also be considered coddled eggs, although they are cooked in the shell, and they are served at the table in egg cups. An egg cup exposes the upper portion of the shelled egg, allowing consumers to gently remove the top of the egg and scoop out the inside. The dish is also very similar to poached eggs, which are typically cooked by cracking eggs directly into gently boiling water, although an egg poacher may also be used.
There are some food safety concerns with coddled eggs, since they are undercooked and typically runny. To avoid the risk of salmonella and other food borne illnesses, wash egg shells before cracking them so that bacteria on the outside is not transferred to the egg itself. In addition, try to use extremely fresh eggs, and if possible seek out eggs from small farms, which tend to breed less bacteria than large commercial breeders.
When using an egg coddler, remember to place it on a trivet or a towel when taking it out of the water, as the egg coddler will be extremely hot. Do not place the device on a wet or extremely cold surface, as it may crack. Gently unscrew the top of the egg coddler, if it screws on, so that the consumer does not risk injury trying to open the device.
I've always heard the term coddled egg, and I'm betting it comes from the word, "curdled." I'm not a fan, though. Runny egg yolk is not appealing to me in the least. In fact, I don't really like eggs by themselves unless they're scrambled.
I didn't know how an egg was coddled and I certainly didn't know they were done in egg coddlers. I've seen them in antique stores, but I thought they were for serving, not cooking and serving, too. I think I like them better as kitschy decorations in the kitchen rather than as practical kitchen tools.