Electric egg cookers promise to turn out perfect hard-, medium-, and soft-cooked eggs without a stove or a timer. They can also make poached eggs and sometimes include special trays for making omelets. Capacities range from six to 10 eggs, though you can cook fewer if you prefer. Since we last tested these gadgets, several of our recommended models, including our winner, were discontinued or redesigned. So we began the search anew, rounding up six widely available electric egg cookers priced less than $30 and putting them to the test.
These egg cookers are essentially tiny steamers. Each model has a hot plate in its base; you add water to the hot plate, suspend cold eggs in a tray over the water, and cover the entire unit with a lid. When you turn on the machine, the hot plate heats up and boils the water, creating steam that cooks the eggs. Once the hot plate reaches a certain temperature (usually after all the water has boiled off), the cooker either alerts the user that the eggs are done or shuts itself off.
The volume of water you use varies according to the number of eggs you’re cooking and the doneness level you want. Counterintuitively, the more eggs you cook, the less water you need. It turns out that using cold eggs is important here. As the hot steam comes into contact with the cold eggs, it condenses back into water and drips down onto the hot plate, lowering the ambient temperature of the interior and beginning the steam cycle again. The more cold eggs there are, the greater the opportunities for condensation to occur, so the less water you need to start. With fewer cold eggs, less condensation is created—steam just escapes through vents in the lid—so you need more water to make sure there’s enough steam to cook the eggs properly.
Because these small gadgets use so little water in general—a bit more than a tablespoon, in one case—they take less time to cook eggs than conventional methods, which require you to bring larger volumes of water to a boil. It took just under 9 minutes to make 10 soft-cooked eggs in the best model, compared with about 14 minutes to make six eggs using our stovetop method for soft-cooked eggs.
The trouble is, the egg cookers often didn’t cook the eggs well. All but one model made perfect hard-cooked eggs when filled to capacity, and most were fine for cooking smaller batches of hard-cooked eggs as well. But with poached, soft-cooked, and medium-cooked eggs, they frequently faltered, either undercooking or overcooking the eggs, especially when we didn’t fill them to capacity. What was happening?
Most of the models included a measuring cup that indicated how much water to use for the number of eggs being cooked and the desired doneness. But as we found, most of the volumes provided simply weren’t correct, resulting in either too much or too little steam—and thus eggs that were either overcooked or undercooked. With two models, specific volumes weren’t even prescribed; the measuring cups offered only general volumes that didn’t take into account the number of eggs. To be fair, eggs can differ significantly in terms of weight, water content, and size; perhaps that explains why some of these markings were so general. But in practice, this means you may need to fuss a bit more than you’d like to find the right volume of water to use for your eggs.
Certain factors made some machines easier to use than others. We preferred machines that had loud audio alerts to those that just silently turned off or dimmed a light, as this made it easier to know when the eggs were done. We also appreciated egg trays with wide handles that were easy to grab so we could remove all the eggs in one fell swoop without the fear of dropping them. But ultimately, these ease-of-use considerations mattered little in light of the bigger performance issues we had already noted.
For consistently perfect poached, hard-cooked, and soft-cooked eggs, we think you’re better off using our tried-and-true methods, which are nearly foolproof and, in most cases, call for equipment you already own. But if you would like to cook your eggs slightly more quickly and don’t mind tinkering with water levels, you might want to consider the Cuisinart Egg Central. The measuring cup that comes with this model gives only volume ranges for each level of doneness, so it takes some experimentation to determine the right volume of water. But after we made educated guesses using the principles explained above (more water for fewer eggs, less water for more eggs), this model eventually made good hard-cooked eggs and was also successful with full batches of soft-cooked eggs and small batches of medium-cooked eggs. It has a loud audio alert and an egg tray with easy-to-grab handles. Plus, it can cook an impressive 10 eggs at a time—the most of any model we tested.