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Make your breakfast table unforgettable with these charming and comforting egg cups.
Getting up in the morning can be hasty or leisurely, depending on one’s schedule and routine. It could be a quick cup of coffee and granola bar heading out the door or serving a plate of pancakes and berries at the kitchen counter.
In England and other countries around the world, there’s a little whimsy at breakfast—colored egg cups topped with knitted or crocheted cups in the shape of lambs, chickens, rabbits, and other animals. Egg cups come in a variety of shapes and materials from ceramic, porcelain, metal, wood and glass.
The purpose of the egg cup is to serve a straight boiled egg that will remain warm until ready to eat. Once the relief tissue has been removed, one can cut the top of the egg horizontally with a quick stroke of the knife or cut the eggshell with a stainless steel hand tool. Some people like to use a narrow, shorter spoon to scoop up egg yolks and egg whites, while others enjoy cutting a piece of buttered toast into narrow slices for dipping. The English use a friendly term to describe these slices of toast, calling them “soldiers” because they line up like people in uniform.
Part of history
Egg cups have been a part of history for centuries. One made of silver was discovered along with other dishes in the early 18th century at the archaeological site of Pompeii, Italy, which was preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Others have been discovered perfectly preserved in various villages and cities around the world.
In France, at the Palace of Versailles, King Louis XV enjoyed poached eggs in elegant egg cups, inviting guests to join him in a little competition at the breakfast table—seeing who could effortlessly follow suit in decapitating an egg. With one blow of a knife. Points were subtracted if any broken pieces of eggshell were visible.
Due to the worldwide popularity of the egg cup, in the United States the idea of using one cup seems to have fallen out of favor. One wonders if it’s because Americans prefer to cook their eggs in other ways, such as plain or sunny side up.
New family traditions
One of the ways this practice finds its way into the country is when individuals move to the United States or marry someone from another part of the world. A newlywed woman from Ohio was baffled when her British husband unwrapped her cobalt-blue Wedgwood egg mugs. She had no idea about odd-shaped dishes, but soon was happy to learn more and eat delicious boiled eggs for breakfast.
Recently, a couple from North Carolina joined some friends on vacation in Germany. One morning at a charming inn, they are greeted by whimsical knit animals at the center of each plate: a fox, a squirrel, a lamb, and a rabbit. They were pleasantly surprised to discover that each one was a warm egg, which helps keep their food warm. This experience inspired them to bring the tradition home. They bought mugs and cups of eggs for their family and encouraged their grandchildren to explore new ways of eating eggs. It’s been a huge hit on every visit when the little ones gather at the table with slices of toast and stories to share.
Collecting egg cups is a popular hobby called pocillovyderived from Latin egg cup (“A Little Cup for an Egg”). Those who seek these treasures at thrift stores and estate sales are known as pocillovists. Many countries have clubs and gatherings, and there is the popular Egg Cup Collectors Group on Facebook. It’s a great way to meet others, share resources, find and sell a specific design, and even join seasonal competitions to show off their collection.
Cooked to perfection
The process of cooking an egg may vary from person to person like baking a cake. Ask five people, and five answers will follow. The desired end result is a solid egg white and a runny yolk with the consistency of melted cheese or soft butter.
This is just a guide. The preparation of boiled eggs is up to the individual.
- Use room temperature eggs as they are less likely to crack.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. (Some cooks like to add just an inch of water, bringing to a boil with the eggs covered with a lid, gently steaming them.)
- Reduce the heat to a medium boil.
- Add the eggs with a slotted spoon and set the timer for 3 to 5 minutes. Some say 6 minutes. Again, personal preference.
- Meanwhile, fill a bowl with cold water and ice cubes. Remove the eggs from the pan and immediately add them to the ice bath for a few minutes. This prevents the eggs from maturing further. Some people simply hold the eggs under a cold tap.
- Place the wide end of the unpeeled egg into an egg cup. Remove the top from the egg. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a slice of buttered toast, cut into slices. Enjoy!
Personalize your experience
A note on tools that cut off the top of the egg. Surprisingly, there are so many variations to choose from. One can always use a dinner knife or try one’s luck with a stainless steel egg cracker. Just place the open, inverted end over the conical top of the egg, and slide the round ball up the middle section. Then release and let the ball fall. It usually takes about three tries. The vibration activated mechanism will make a circular cut in the eggshell, making it easier to remove.
There is also a round cylinder with two scissor-like finger loops to press against. There is a ring of teeth within the mechanism that pierces the eggshell, allowing the individual to lift it as one piece. An online search for tools will turn up many useful and interesting options.
Why not bring a little whimsy to the kitchen table? Besides being an unusual way to serve breakfast, egg cups and smoothies will certainly add to the conversation, getting the day off off to a good start!
Originally published in the December 2022 / January 2023 issue of Backyard Poultry and has been regularly checked for accuracy.