Ink Makes Boiling Eggs a 'Timeless' Process

A special ink coating may allow boiled-egg lovers to toss out their timers. The ink reflects how fully the egg has been cooked: soft, medium or hard. Angie McGrandles of the British Egg Information service tells Melissa Block how it works.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

The same British ingenuity that brought the world the Magna Carta, Newton's Laws and the Industrial Revolution has now done something new to the egg. It's an egg that will let you know whether it's soft-, medium- or hard-boiled. It does that trick after it's been stamped with a special ink that's both heat and time sensitive.

The innovation comes from the folks at the British Egg Information Service. Angela McGrandles is a spokeswoman there and she joins us from her office in London. And, Ms. McGrandles, what was it that convinced people there that a self-timing egg was what you needed?

ANGELA MCGRANDLES: Well, we've had so many emails and hits to our website from the general public just asking us what's the perfect time to boil a soft egg, or what's the perfect time to get your egg medium- or hard-boiled? And it was unbelievable the amount of hits we had. So we thought, right, this is an issue. We've got to do something about it.

BLOCK: That was a burning issue?

MCGRANDLES: Yes. People can't boil an egg.

BLOCK: And so how did you decided what to do about that?

MCGRANDLES: We went away and researched it. We came across a company that specialized in heat- and time-sensitive technology, and we've been working with them for quite a while now on developing a self-timing egg.

And how it works is using thermochromic ink, that's an ink that's heat- and time-sensitive, we have a clear label that's attached to the egg. And there's nothing on the egg, because it's an invisible ink that they use. You drop your egg into the pan, boil it, and as soon as it's soft-boiled, the lion logo appears along with the word soft, and that's let you know that your egg's perfectly done.

BLOCK: For soft-boiled.

MCGRANDLES: Yeah. You can also buy eggs that are medium and eggs that are hard.

BLOCK: Now, you said a lion logo. Why a lion?

MCGRANDLES: The lion logo is the safety logo that's stamped on all the eggs in the U.K. And this just assures consumers that the egg has come from hens that have been vaccinated against salmonella, so it's a safety mark.

BLOCK: So for soft-boiled, it would be in the water for how long?

MCGRANDLES: Three minutes.

BLOCK: Three minutes once the water's boiling or three minutes if it's cold? Does it matter?

MCGRANDLES: Well, for a soft-boiled egg, it's about three minutes. For medium it's five and for hard it's seven. But with the self-timing egg, we're still perfecting the technology at the moment. So as we're doing the trials, we're putting the eggs straight into cold water, and then it boils, and as soon as it's ready, the logo appears and it's roughly after three minutes of it boiling.

BLOCK: After it starts to boil?

MCGRANDLES: Yeah.

BLOCK: Okay. And still perfecting the technology. Why is not perfected yet?

MCGRANDLES: Well, the softest if you want to try to. I mean initially we wanted to have a logo that changed from soft to medium to hard so you only needed one logo on one egg, but that's a little bit further down the line. But we're still working on that and we'll still just making sure everything's right with the timings before we launch here in the U.K.

BLOCK: I got to tell you, seven minutes for a hard-boiled egg seems short to me. I've always boiled my eggs much longer than that.

MCGRANDLES: No, we've got it at seven minutes for a hard-boiled egg.

BLOCK: So I've just been wasting my time?

MCGRANDLES: In seven minutes, it should be ready, yeah.

BLOCK: I mean you just never know until you crack that shell.

MCGRANDLES: That's the thing. That's why we got this self-timing egg. And that guarantees you'll always know. Cause there's nothing worse than chopping the head off your egg and it's too runny or it's too hard, and you can't dip your soldiers in.

BLOCK: You can't what?

MCGRANDLES: Dip your soldiers in. Do you have soldiers?

BLOCK: Soldiers?

MCGRANDLES: With your eggs in the U.S.?

BLOCK: I'm not sure I know what that means.

MCGRANDLES: It's when you cut your toast into tiny little slices, and they're called soldiers over here.

BLOCK: You call them soldiers?

MCGRANDLES: Yeah, and you dip them into your egg yolk.

BLOCK: Well, why not call them soldiers? Well, Ms. McGrandles, once you solve this timing problem, what do you figure the next big egg dilemma is that you might need to take on?

MCGRANDLES: I don't know, but watch the space.

BLOCK: Angela McGrandles is a spokeswoman for the British Egg Information Service. She says there will be no additional cost to consumers for the self- timing eggs, which the board hopes to introduce some time before Christmas.

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