Shirred eggs are whole eggs baked in individual dishes, such as ramekins. The eggs can be baked until the white and yolk is completely cooked through, or until the white is softly set and the yolk is still runny.
Although shirred eggs may seem a lot like frying an egg in the oven, there are some advantages. As well, they are similar in shape to a poached egg, but the procedure is much easier and less fresh eggs can be used. The heat of the oven bakes the eggs slowly and evenly and then the eggs can be easily served right in the ramekins, or other dishes in which they were cooking (this presentation is called in French, en cocotte.
Although the classic way to serve shirred eggs is to cook them in buttered molds with only salt, pepper, and a little butter or cream on top at the end, one advantage to shirred eggs is that other ingredients can be placed in the bottom of the dish before the egg is added, to make a unique dish that becomes a full meal.
Choices for linking the bottom of the ramekins, among other ingredients, are:
- Thinly sliced ham or Canadian bacon, lightly browned in advance (use griddle, saute pan, skillet, etc.)
- Cooked bacon, cut into small piece to fit
- Cheese (cheddar, Swiss, or Gruyere are good choices)
- Hash-brown potatoes
- various sauteed vegetables
Many other ingredient could be used, of course. Herbs can be used to top the eggs, and as a finishing garnish. As well, any number of sauces, or heated cream can be added to shirred eggs after they are baked.
It is possible to cook two eggs at a time in larger (6 oz) ramekins.
Basic Method for Shirring Eggs
Use room-temperature eggs. Preheat oven to 350 F. (175 C). For baking one eggs at a time, use 4oz ramekins. You can also use larger 6 oz ramekins for baking two eggs, as well as custard cups, or oven-proof dessert bowls. It is even possible to bake eggs in oven-proof coffee cups.
Although it is not strictly necessary, placing the eggs in a water bath (making sure not to let water get into the eggs, will help them cook evenly and slowly, ensuring soft, perfectly textured eggs.
To begin, have a pourable container of water ready.
1. Place a dish towel into the bottom of a roasting pan or other pan with high sides large enough to accommodate the eggs.
2. Butter each baking dish
3. Break eggs into individual dishes and season as desired with salt and pepper.
4. Set the dishes into the pan, on top of the dish towel, making sure the dishes do not touch each other.
5. Carefully slide the pan into the hot oven and pour in enough water around the dishes to reach the same level as the eggs are in the dishes.
6. Bake until the whites are set and the yolks are just beginning to set, or more if you like a better-set yolk.
Keep in mind that the ramekins will be very hot so they will continue to cook the eggs even after they are removed from the oven so once the eggs are served they will be more cooked than when initially removed.
The classic way to bake shirred eggs is to keep the yolks whole and cook the eggs only enough to begin to thicken the yolks. However, some cooks prefer to burst the yolks and stir they slightly to spread across the top of the eggs. This will cause the yolks to cook though much more quickly.
If you want a firmer texture, skip the water bath. If the dishes are large enough to be safely set on the oven rack, it is possible to quickly bake eggs without a holding pan. Individual gratin dishes, like these HIC Round Au Gratin Baking Dishes, are best to use for this method, which the French call oefs sur le plat, meaning “eggs on the plate.” The eggs turn out more like fried sunny-side up eggs when cooked in this way.
This article contains one or more Amazon affiliate links. See full disclosure.