Reinventing the Boiled Egg, in 6 Minutes

By Aparnaa Seshadri

Oct. 11, 2006 — -- Cooking a soft-boiled egg can be, well, "eggscrutiating."

But Simon Rhymes, a British university graduate, thinks that he's found the solution to the problem of cooking up an eggy breakfast.

The 23-year-old has designed what he calls the Bulbed Egg Maker, or BEM, which uses four halogen light bulbs to "boil" an egg.

The lights surround the egg and heat it up, cooking a soft-boiled egg in about six minutes, roughly twice the time it takes to cook the egg the traditional, watery way.

Rhymes said he got the idea while studying at Bournemouth University, where he was a project design student.

He loved soft-boiled eggs, but found them too difficult to cook.

"I always thought that cooking a boiled egg was labor intensive," Rhymes said to ABC News. "I could never make the effort."

His light-bulb moment came when he read an article about energy efficiency in the winter.

"I read that it was just as efficient to leave lights on in the house to heat it, rather than using central heating," he said.

He was inspired, and used a friend's desk lamp to experiment with his first egg for a class project.

After it showed some promise, he used different types of light bulbs in various arrangements -- about 700 eggs' worth of tests.

But now Rhymes reckons he's got the perfect boiled egg down, and he's looking for a manufacturer for the BEM.

The device allows for an increase or decrease in cooking times, depending on the user's preference.

Once the egg is cooked, a simple push of a button cuts off the top of the eggshell.

Rhymes says that the real advantage of his machine is that users can go off and do other things while their egg is being prepared.

The idea doesn't go over so easy with Xanthe Clay, cooking columnist for London's Daily Telegraph. She thinks that BEM is a sad sign of the time.

"People can't even boil an egg anymore," she said to ABC News. "We are so microwaved up these days, that there's no sense of having to watch things, or be around them as they cook."

But Clay conceded that she had an egg boiler herself, one that used a few tablespoons of water to steam.

"I'm embarrassed to admit that I use it," she said, "but I have children, so we eat a lot of soft-boiled eggs. To use this device, you'd have to eat a lot of them."

She added that she felt that the BEM would probably not be purchased for one's own use, but rather as a gift.

Still, Rhymes hopes that because his BEM is hands-off and easy to use, it will someday get a place beside the toaster.

One place the BEM might be appreciated is the British royal kitchen.

BBC presenter Jeremy Paxman recently said that Prince Charles likes a boiled egg after a long day of hunting, but does not know how he'll want the egg.

So, the kitchen staff allegedly prepares up to seven eggs cooked from very runny to hard-boiled, so that the prince can test the eggs and find what he likes.

With the device, the staff would just press a few buttons to vary the texture of each egg, and could attend to other duties in the meantime.

Because, apparently, making food for the royal heir is no yolk.

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