In the culinary arts, a coddled egg refers to an egg cooked by cracking it into a small dish which is then partially immersed in a hot water bath (or bain-marie) for several minutes.
A coddled egg, as its name might suggest, is prepared using gentle cooking, and when done properly the yolk should be slightly runny while remaining unbroken. In this respect it's similar to a poached egg.
Coddled Eggs Are Cooked Gently
The difference is that whereas a poached egg is made by cooking the egg directly in the cooking liquid, a coddled egg is cooked in a small dish (usually a small ramekin) instead. You can cook one or two eggs in the same dish, depending on the size of the dish.
The most common way of preparing coddled eggs is in the oven. The indirect heat produced in the oven is best for the gentle cooking a coddled egg needs. The steam produced by the water bath helps cook the surface of the egg.
Note that coddled eggs are similar to baked eggs, with the difference being that baked eggs are cooked in a dish in the oven with no water bath.
You can also cook coddled eggs on the stovetop. The best way to do this would be to place a roasting pan filled with hot water across two burners. Bring the water to a boil, then lower the heat until the bubbles barely subside. Then place the ramekins in the pan (the water should come halfway up the side of the ramekins), cover the pan with foil and cook until the eggs are set.
Coddled eggs are related to molded eggs, which are also cooked in bain-marie, but in decoratively shaped dishes, and then turned out of the dish and served on a piece of toast. Whereas coddled eggs are served in the ramekin.
Another difference between coddled and molded eggs is that while coddled eggs are cracked whole into the ramekin, molded eggs can be beaten first and mixed with other ingredients before cooking.
In both cases, it's important to rub the inside of the dish with butter or oil (particularly in the case of molded eggs) to prevent sticking.
Coddled Eggs are Semi-Soft
The degree of doneness achieved depends on how long the egg is cooked. But as the word "coddle" suggests, it is a gentle cooking method, resulting in a soft texture, with a yolk still at least partially runny (although the white should not be liquid). This can take anywhere from 6 to 10 minutes, depending on temperature.
When preparing coddled eggs, other ingredients can be included in the ramekin as well, such as chopped ham or bacon, onions, peas, cheese, herbs and so on. Additionally, the ramekin can be rubbed with olive oil rather than butter. Coddled eggs are sometimes referred to as eggs en cocotte.