Egg

How Professional Chefs Hard-Boil Eggs

Rubbery yolks, begone!

January 24, 2019

Google "how to hard-boil eggs" and more than 28 million (digital) hands will fly into the air, ready to offer advice. Amongst the first page of search results alone, you'll find responses as varied as "place into boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes" to "start with cold water and bring everything to a boil together" to "steam over a pot of boiling water for about six minutes." And that's not even to mention the peeling.

Cookbooks offer no respite. My favored tome How to Cook Everything, courtesy of Mark Bittman, would have you place your eggs in a pot of room temperature water two-thirds full and bring it to a boil, before turning off the heat, covering, and allowing everything to sit for nine minutes. (Bittman writes in his headnote, "My method of hard-cooking eggs...has changed over the years.") Meanwhile, J. Kenji López-Alt's James Beard Award–winning The Food Lab suggests (after many, many rounds of tests) lowering eggs into boiling water for 30 seconds, then adding ice cubes, reducing to a sub-simmer, and cooking for 11 more minutes.

So many answers!!!! Photo by Bobbi Lin

So what's a person with deviled eggs on the brain to do? I turned to two New York City chefs— each at the helm of a prolific brunch restaurant—to get the the bottom of my hard-hitting questions about hard-boiled eggs. Here's what Nick Korbee (co-founder of Egg Shop and author of Egg Shop: The Cookbook) and Jason Hua (chef at The Dutch) had to say:


To Start Cold, or At a Boil?

Hua and Korbee both agree: gently lower eggs into water that's already at a boil for the best results, rather than bringing the eggs and cold water to a boil together. (As Sarah Jampel points out, Korbee touts this method in his cookbook as well.)

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Top Comment:
“You’d think it would be simple but.... I’ve been a food service professional for more than 45 years. I started as a breakfast cook at a 24 coffee shop. Many years later among other things, I did frequent plated breakfast banquets at SDCC for as many 5000. We didn’t serve scrambled eggs. Experience aside, my point is that there are many ways to do the same task. Even boiling eggs. It’s such a simple thing. Regardless, I’ve heard and tried everything after working with so many opinionated Chefs (imagine that?). What I’ve learned is that time and temperature mean everything in this task. Also the age and quality of the product you’re working with are an important factor. There’s more. Are the eggs 38 degrees? 70 degrees? What size is the egg? Jumbo or medium? How many? Was the water hard or soft? Non reacting pan? If you’re into salt, baking soda, vinegar or oil in the water it’s gonna discolor the pot. And in the restaurant biz there’s almost always some other reason things go wrong. What’s important to remember is that all food cooking is a science experiment of sorts. Conditions, even room temperature can really matter a great deal. If you consider these thing 1st, you may need or want to change the cooking method according to the above factors. So after many boiled eggs what is the best? I don’t know. It depends on the Chef genius your standing next to. My method? I use warm water because using cold eggs in boiling water causes them to crack. No salt, or anything else. I use fresh large eggs (you’d be surprised what sits in some walk in cooIers). I normally use stainless steel pots if possible. Using aluminum won’t hurt much but it’s a reacting metal so any kind of acid oxidizes it. Then I’ll place the (room temp or at least not ice cold) eggs eggs in the water. Put em on the stove top and bring to a boil for 12 minutes (at sea level) from start to finish. Timer goes off and I place the pot on the sink and add ice. 5 minutes later they’re easy enough to peel without having the whites stick to the shell. Also I don’t make more than 25 or 30 max per batch. A dozen is perfect for this method. The more eggs you have in the pot changes the time the temp takes to get to 212. That’s it. Chef Steve from SD CA. Last this methodology I described is exactly what I do with all food items I’ve prepared in my career. Temp and size of the product always changes the cooking time. You either need to adjust the cooking temp or the time you cook it. Most pros know this. And also, once you prepare a product, and it comes out perfectly? You just found the proper methodology as lonhyas you can replicate everything exactly. ”
— Steve S.
Comment

"I have noticed the egg white sticks to the shell when I start from cold [water]," says Hua. López-Alt explains this phenomenon on Serious Eats: "Slow-cooked egg whites bond more strongly with the membrane on the inside of an eggshell."

Depending how many eggs you're working with, Korbee suggests boiling enough water to fully cover them by at least an inch. He adds that he somewhat superstitiously chooses to add white vinegar, salt, and a pinch of baking soda to the water before bringing it to a boil, for extra peeling insurance.


Timing is Everything

Once you've gently lowered your eggs into boiling water—and remember, there should be enough water to cover the eggs by at least one inch—let them cook for 10 to 11 minutes, depending on size.

In her battle-testing of Korbee's preferred method, Jampel noted that his 10-minute boil produced "perfect specimens."

For a more medium-boil (his personal preference), Korbee suggests an eight-minute cook time.


Peeling 101

After boiling your eggs, the name of the game is to immediately transfer to an ice bath—aka a bowl filled with ice and some cold water—to stop the eggs from carry-over cooking and to chill them as quickly as possible.

"I have tried every method out there, and this is the best for peeling and consistency," says Korbee, who lets his hard-boiled eggs sit in the ice bath for five minutes before peeling.


Have any foolproof tips for hard-boiling? Let us know in the comments.

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a a writer at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.

64 Comments

Steve S. April 20, 2019
I was traveling home from Maui and needed to HB a few eggs I didn’t use to take along for the flight home. The hotel coffee maker works for about 6 eggs. I let em sit for 15 or so. They came out just fine.
 
Kat H. April 20, 2019
I use a hack of Alton Brown's: I put the eggs in an electric kettle, cover with water by at least an inch, switch on, set a timer and walk away. It comes to a boil very fast, turns itself off, and the timer reminds you when to drain the water out and put the eggs in cold water.
 
Dominic C. April 19, 2019
The most foolproof way to a perfect boiled egg is to sous vide them at 185 degrees fahrenheit for 13 minutes and then put into an ice bath. I believe the new Instapots now have a sous vide function!
 
Ron` April 18, 2019
I prefer the America's Test Kitchen method. You put your eggs into a steamer basket over one inch off boiling water, cover and steam for 13 minutes and then transfer to a bowl of ice water.
 
Elspeth February 1, 2019
Just steam them.
 
Elspeth February 1, 2019
Just steam them.
 
Linda N. January 29, 2019
I steam Grade A large eggs for 12 - 13 minutes and then submerge them in an ice bath for 5 minutes. The eggs peel very easily!
 
Karin B. January 27, 2019
Soft boiled eggs: two large organic fresh eggs, cool water to cover, when they reach boiling time 3.5 minutes, drain off water replace with cool water to stop the cooking and for ease of handling -serve. Perfect eggs every time.
Hard boiled eggs: six large organic fresh eggs, cool water to cover, when they reach the boiling point time for 5 minutes, turn of heat source, leave the eggs in the hot water for 5 minutes, drain off hot water , replace with cold water, peel when eggs are cool.
The hardest part is finding a reliable source for good farm fresh organic eggs.
 
Lisa S. January 28, 2019
That's why we raise our own chickens!
Lisa
Fresh Eggs Daily
 
John J. January 27, 2019
I like to pierce the larger end of my eggs with a bulletin board pin before dropping them into the boiling water. That is a hedge against the shell cracking with the drastic temperature change when the egg hits the boiling water. I believe that is an old Jacques Pépin trick from years ago.
 
Patrice W. January 27, 2019
Okay, but what about the eggs themselves? Before cooking them using whatever method, are they right out of the fridge or at room temperature?
 
kjrmcclain January 27, 2019
I drop them in cold (37F)
 
Anita January 27, 2019
When using instant pot, it does not matter if they are right out of the fridge or room temperature. It does not matter if they are "old" or fresh. They work out perfect every time. Two minutes HP, then wait 12-15 minutes and release. We peel while warm and put them all in a container, but that is not necessary.
 
cathy1755 January 27, 2019
The instant pot or any pressure cooker makes the very best velvety yolks!!!!!
I totally agree with the ice bath, nothing else works for peeling!
 
Anita January 27, 2019
With an instant pot, there is no need for an ice bath. They peel perfect regardless.
 
Sally January 27, 2019
For years, I have been steaming room temperature eggs, including getting up to a steam in an electric steamer for 20 mins. Ice bath until I can handle eggs and perfectly peeling then or later.
 
Kt4 January 27, 2019
45 comments in 3 days... Wow! Something so simple done so many ways LoL.

It's nice to see so many different opinions on how to achieve the same thing and there not be any negative comments! I really wish this happened on more topics (cooking or not).
 
Nkenge C. January 26, 2019
😂 I just put eggs in a pot of water with some salt bring to a full rolling boil turn the pot off cover with a lid...let sit till I'm ready to peel them. crack both ends roll the middle and peel 😂 till recently I seen where you shake the eggs they crack on themselves and practically fall out the shell😂
 
kjrmcclain January 26, 2019
I eat a lot of eggs, my wife would say too many. I am at 450ft above sea level and drop a dozen cold eggs in boiling water, no additions like vinegar, for 13 minutes. I then put them in an ice bath for 10 minutes and peel away. I have tried this with every type of chicken egg I can find (fresh, not fresh etc.) and have never had a bad egg...
 
Eric K. January 26, 2019
Like everyone below, I don't know—I swear by my Instant Pot now, whenever I need to meal-prep a bunch of eggs for the week.
 
Curly January 25, 2019
I have tried everything that has been mentioned I have found that my pressure cooker makes the best eggs I set the time for a minute let the pressure go off put in colder water when able to handle the shells fall off and you have a perfect egg I'm guessing this is how companies do there eggs they sell already peeled eggs cause they are perfect also but I have found some already peeled store eggs are a little rubbery I think from cooking a little to long my first time was that way try it you will like the results
 
Annie,Young January 25, 2019
By far the easiest way to cook steam (boiled) eggs to any doneness is in the Thermomix! Place 16 oz. of water in the bowl. Place eggs from the fridge in the basket. Set for 11 min. for runny, 12 min. for soft, 13 min. for medium and 14 min. for hard. Highest temperature setting Varoma, speed 2. The machine turns off and plays a song when done! Pm me with any questions.
 
LASGarcia January 29, 2019
TRUE!!!!!
 
Nannygoat January 25, 2019
I have to laugh every time I read one of these articles about the best way to hard boil, soft boil or poach an egg. Invariably, article writers think we all live at sea level. Cooking an egg is just plain different at my altitude, here in Denver, Colorado. 18 to 20 minutes to hard boil an egg. In Denver a 3-minute soft boiled egg takes 7 minutes. Only way I’ve found to get a perfect hard boiled egg that peels perfectly every time is using the instant pot.
 
Anita January 25, 2019
Absolutely no better perfect boiled eggs than cooking in an instant pot. Put a dozen eggs on a trivet, high pressure 2 minutes, then remove from IP 12 minutes later. No need for a soap in ice water because the shells peel off easily. I peel them while warm. Method derived from ThisOldGal.com