London: It is a question which has often triggered heated exchanges at the breakfast table -- how long is too long to boil an egg?
Now, a group of schoolgirls in Britain claims to have finally cracked the secret of cooking the perfect boiled egg -- it takes six minutes.
The students at Sherborne Girls school in Dorset found the answer after carrying out a series of experiments overseen by Prof Hal Sosabowski of Brighton University, and backed by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
The knack, they found, was to get the water just to boiling point before gently dropping the eggs in and leaving then for six minutes. The method requires large sized eggs which have been stored at room temperature before boiling.
"I was particularly impressed by the pupils` diligence in generating results but not believing what they saw upon first inspection; checking and rechecking the results; scrutinizing their own experimental design to eliminate variables and error," Prof Sosabowski was quoted by `The Daily Telegraph`.
Having successfully navigated the controversy over egg boiling times, the girls then moved on to a potentially even more vexed issue -- what makes the best toast soldiers. They concluded -- against the prescriptions of nutritionists -- that white bread is better than brown for the purpose.
The girls also found that margarine makes stronger soldiers than traditional butter, that the optimum toasting time for soldiers is two and half minutes and that they should be sliced no wider than 1.5 cm.
Sixth-grade student Rosanna Younger, 17, who came forward with the hypothesis said: "It has been really interesting to identify a strong trend in such a short time. We kept the experiment simple, focusing on one aspect of boiled eggs and soldiers."