By Harold McGee
There are several ways of soft-cooking eggs that are broken out of the shell and into a container, which might be a dish or a hollowed-out fruit or vegetable. As is true of in-shell soft-cooked eggs, timing is of the essence to avoid overcoagulation of the white and yolk proteins, and depends on the nature and placement of the heat source. In the case of baked or shirred eggs, the dish should be set on the middle rack to avoid overcooking the top or bottom while the rest cooks through. Eggs en cocotte (“in the casserole”) are cooked in dishes set in a pan of simmering water, either on the stovetop or in the oven. Here the eggs are well buffered from the heat source, yet cook just as quickly as baked eggs because water transfers heat more rapidly than the oven air.