Egg

The Best Way to Make Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs Every Time, According to Waaayyy Too Many Tests

My kitchen will never, ever smell the same.

June 19, 2019
Photo by Ella Quittner

Humans have been boiling eggs for a very long time.

By some accounts, it all began with egg roasting about a million years ago. This likely evolved into egg boiling around 5000 B.C., thanks to the invention of pottery. And more recently than that, boiled eggs are thought to have cropped up in Ancient Rome, where wealthy patricians served as an appetizer course called gustatio. (Apicius, a collection of Roman recipes compiled sometime between the first and fifth century A.D., corroborates this with recipes for seasoning and topping boiled eggs.)

So it's no surprise that when one Googles "best way to boil an egg” in 2019, one must contend with a cool 65 million results.

On the first page alone, certain guides would have you lower your eggs into simmering water, to cook for eight minutes. Others would like you to steam them in a basket several inches above the water line. Some sites make chimerical promises like, "perfectly, every time," while many get straight into the mechanics: the equipment, the slotted support paraphernalia, the ice bath of it all.

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Top Comment:
“They have told me the the reason eggs are easier to peel or harder to peel when hard boiled is based on the freshness of the egg. The fresher the egg, the harder to peel. I am not sure that the way it is boiled has that much to do with it. It would be a great experiment to test this theory. Now that you have your best way to boil them, try using eggs from different dates. You may have some eggs in there that are just easier to peel because they were older. Thanks again, great job!”
— SV
Comment

The official recommendation of the American Egg Board—known beyond its eponymous cause for a rabble-rousing role in the "Just Mayo" labelling scandal—is to bring the eggs and water to a boil, then remove the pot from heat and cover to let steep for 9 to 15 minutes, depending on egg size.

Food52's own endorsements have ranged from the "bring to a boil then cut heat and cover" method to "10-minute boil + ice bath" to "c'mon, just use an Instant Pot."

Which brings us to 5:45 a.m. a few Fridays ago, when I found myself standing in front of eight cartons of eggs and every slotted spoon in my home. In the freezer lay two XXXL bags of ice. On my countertop was an Instant Pot, one of those nefarious-looking sous vide wands, a whole bunch of stockpots, and, for reasons not germane to this blog post, a breakfast cookie.

I knew what I had to do: Spend an ungodly amount of time boiling egg after egg, according to the Internet's most-touted methods, all in pursuit of the truth. What is the best way to boil an egg?

And while the results were far from fully conclusive, one thing's for certain: My apartment hasn't smelled the same, since.

Photo by Ella Quittner

The Setup

In a world where so very much is out of my control, I relished in exercising a few simple constancy factors for these experiments:

  • Size and brand: I purchased dozens and dozens of the same generic-brand, large eggs from the supermarket below my apartment.
  • Age: I used eggs that were all roughly the same “age”—as in, they were all purchased the same day (with a few weeks to go on their expiration date) and left to sit in the refrigerator for a week.
  • Temperature: For each boiling test, the egg-subject was at room temperature. (Dropping cold eggs into hot water can make them crack.)
  • No funny business: I skipped baking soda and vinegar in the water, based on Sarah Jampel's prior tests.
  • Ice bath for peeling: Each egg was transferred immediately from its cook method to a large ice bath, where it sat a full five minutes before I peeled it under water.

Method #1: Standard Boil

Method:

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Use a slotted wooden spoon to gently lower in an egg. Boil, uncovered, then immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

Let cook in boiling water for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 minutes.

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

Eggs should get a hot start (whether boiling, steaming, or pressure cooking) because "slow-cooked egg whites bond more strongly with the membrane on the inside of an eggshell"—aka, they're easier to peel—according to Serious Eats.

Ease of Method:

Straightforward to execute. Very no-fuss, requiring no special equipment. At one point, I did need to fiddle with the flame to maintain a boil.

Ease of Peel:

Encountered almost no peeling issues. "These tests'll be a breeze," I thought, giddily—hours later, fingertips raw and somehow simultaneously burning and icy, I looked back on this moment and laughed darkly.

Egg Results:

In all eggs, the whites and yolks had a pleasant texture—no rubbery whites, here. The six-minute egg was an especially creamy specimen, if you're into a soft-boil. In one (the eight-minuter), the yolk weirdly sank down to the bottom of the white, though this didn’t affect anything other than appearance. Overall, this was the most straightforward method with the best bang-for-your-effort-buck results.


Method #2: Standard Simmer

Method:

Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil. Turn down heat until water is at a rolling simmer. Use a slotted wooden spoon to gently lower in an egg. Simmer, uncovered, then immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

Let cook in simmering water for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 minutes.

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

You want to keep egg temperatures lower than what a full-on boil for the whole cook would produce (rubbery whites, chalky yolks)—Serious Eats swears by a hybrid version of the simmer and the standard boil, where eggs are lowered into boiling water and left for 30 seconds, before the temperature is turned down and eggs are cooked, covered, at a low simmer for 11 minutes.

Ease of Method:

Easier said than done. Maintaining a "rolling simmer"—at least, in the uncovered way I was testing—is a hands-on endeavor. That said, no special equipment is needed.

Ease of Peel:

Peeling was breezy, as with the standard boil set. The only exception was the six-minute egg, which was of course less cooked than its standard-boil counterpart, and required a very delicate hand to avoid jabbing a thumb into its tender white.

Egg Results:

No immediately discernible difference in texture or flavor of eggs than with the standard boil set—except that, like the aforementioned six-minute guy, each egg was of course slightly less cooked than its standard-boil counterpart. The 13-minute egg had a strangely shaped air pocket dent at its base.


Method #3: Steam

Method:

Add a couple inches of water to a large pot. Place steamer insert inside, well above the water line. Cover. Bring water to a boil over high heat. Remove cover, add egg, cover, and steam. Immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

Steam for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 minutes.

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

Steam supposedly cooks the eggs more gently, yielding a creamier texture. There's less risk of cracking since cold eggs never hit hot water, and they're apparently easier to peel because they avoid a big temperature jump.

Ease of Method:

Straightforward to execute. Requires a steamer insert (or tight-fitting colander) and a fitted lid, though unlike the boil-and-steep method, does not require transferring a heavy, hot pot.

Ease of Peel:

Overall, the most difficult test batches to peel. Had to wrestle with lots of shell bits stuck stubbornly to tender whites, ultimately resulting in torn whites during the final extrications.

Egg Results:

Despite peel-stage drama, these were the Platonic ideal of a boiled egg: the whites silky as pudding, the yolks luxuriant and velvety as a Laura Ashley Christmas dress.


Method #4: Bring to a Boil, Turn Off & Steep

Method:

Add eggs and cold water to a pot—have at least an inch of water above the eggs. Bring water to a rolling boil, uncovered. Once a boil is achieved, cut the heat, cover the pot, and move off of the hot burner. Let egg steep in water for prescribed time, then immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

Let steep for 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, or 13 minutes.

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

"Starting with cold water lets you heat the egg more slowly, which keeps the whites from getting rubbery," says the Exploratorium.

Ease of Method:

Straightforward to execute. Only slightly fussier than the standard boil and standard simmer, as it requires a fitted lid, and movement of a hot and potentially heavy pot mid-process.

Ease of Peel:

Peeling these test batches was an emotional roller coaster. Some were perfectly fine (my note on the eight-minute egg reads, insanely, "a true pleasure to peel—like slipping off your jacket in the park on the first sunny day of the season"), and others, like the 11-minute egg, were a nightmare.

Egg Results:

The eggs themselves had a wonderfully consistent texture throughout the whites of each. The longer-steeped yolks got chalky-tasting after the 10-minute steep mark. The eight- and nine-minute eggs were oddly misshapen, which is a purely aesthetic criticism.

Photo by Ella Quittner

Method #5: Instant Pot

Method:

Pour one cup of room temperature water into an Instant Pot. Set the egg on a steamer insert. Seal and cook on low or high pressure for specific increment of time, at specific pressure level. Immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

  • Low pressure for four minutes, instant release
  • Low pressure for seven minutes, instant release
  • High pressure for eight minutes, instant release
  • Low pressure for 10 minutes, instant release
  • Low pressure for five minutes, five minutes natural release
  • High pressure for five minutes, five minutes natural release
  • Low pressure for 12 minutes, instant release
  • High pressure for two minutes, 12 minutes natural release

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

Because using an Instant Pot has the benefits of steaming, minus the guesswork.

Ease of Method:

Second-least straightforward to execute, after sous vide. Owning an Instant Pot is a large barrier to entry. Plus, it takes a while for the Instant Pot to come to pressure, so not a great method if you're pressed for time.

Ease of Peel:

All of these eggs were slightly tricky to peel, but only a few (the high pressure for two minutes + 12 minute natural release, and the low pressure for five minutes + five minute natural release) were a real pain. The eggs for which I'd used the instant release function were more seamless to peel.

Egg Results:

The texture of the eggs was surprisingly more like the standard-boil batch than like the steamed batch. I had no material shape or yolk-sinking issues. For a soft-boil, I'd advocate for low pressure for four minutes + instant release, and for a classic hard-boil, high pressure for five minutes + five minutes natural release (or, if you're worried about peeling, perhaps test low pressure for eight minutes + instant release).

Photo by Rocky Luten

Method #6: Sous Vide

Method:

Use a Joule Sous Vide to bring a vessel of water to 194°F. Cook egg. Immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

Cook for 9, 12, 16, 20, and 24 minutes.

Note: There are many ways to sous vide eggs, including the 63°F poached/soft-boil, and the 75°F version. Due to a dwindling supply of eggs, I went with just the 194°F method, which was recommended by Joule's app.

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

Precise temperature control should theoretically enable the perfect textures for egg white and yolk.

Ease of Method:

Straightforward to execute if you have an app that correlates to your sous vide tool. As with the Instant Pot, owning the tool itself is a large barrier to entry.

Ease of Peel:

No notable issues.

Egg Results:

In the eggs cooked for a shorter time, the yolks were noticeably richer in texture than most other batches, with the exception of the steamed eggs. That said, not sure it was worth the trouble of procuring and assembling equipment, and waiting for water to come to temperature.


Method #7: Bake

Method:

Dampen a kitchen towel and lay it on the center oven rack. Preheat oven to 325°F. Once preheated, nestle egg onto towel so it rests between the rack's rods in a taut towel hammock. Bake. Immediately transfer to an ice bath to cool before peeling.

Variables:

Bake for 30 and 35 minutes.

Why Science (Okay, the Internet) Says It's Best:

The oven-baked method has been touted on this very site as, "How to Hard Cook Lots of Eggs at Once." (It comes courtesy of Alton Brown.)

Ease of Method:

Deceptively easy to set up, but long to execute, and painful in the end. (See below.)

Ease of Peel:

I debated changing this header to "Debacle of Peel," but I'm a stickler for consistency. I went through so, so many eggs to get to a batch that was actually cooked through enough on all sides to peel. Many earlier tests resulted in big wet spots randomly found in the whites, throughout the peeling process (even if the yolks had already gone chalky). My guess is that my wonky oven environment created too much variability in the temperature to cook the eggs through uniformly.

Egg Results:

The eggs' textures were inconsistent and unpleasant. This method is not worth the trouble.


TL;DR

  • The lowest-maintenance method: the standard boil, which produced delicious, consistent, aesthetically-pleasing eggs.
  • The method yielding the best texture: the steam (perfect peel-ability be damned!).
  • A method that's totally solid and consistent, and great if the only thing in the world you don't own is a timer or watch with second hands: the Instant Pot.
  • The worst method: the oven-bake. (But you knew that, right?)

And one more word of advice: Do not attempt this experiment at home unless you find the idea of eating only gribiche for weeks after to be wildly exciting.


What method do you swear by for the best hard-boiled or soft-boiled eggs? Let us know in the comments. This post contains products that are independently selected by our editors, and Food52 may earn an affiliate commission.

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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.

43 Comments

Claire L. June 24, 2019
Thanks for the exhaustive review of boiling egg techniques. You'd think by age 62 one would know how to boil an egg, right? But no, I always seem to forget and then get it wrong. So your article is perfectly timed for summer travel, picnics at the beach, manic gardening, and in my case, a week without hubby. I am looking forward to the ice bath peeling as therapy for my achey outdoor work hands.
 
W J. June 23, 2019
Now this article made me laugh. I suspect it will bring almost as many comments as the article on the "Absolute Best Way to Cook Bacon," which AFAIK is still going on and on and on with comments.



But before I comment, I want to ask, how do you "unpeel" an egg? You mention this in the introduction to your article: "Each egg was transferred immediately from its cook method to a large ice bath, where it sat a full five minutes before I unpeeled it under water." Gee, I was picturing you holding a peeled egg underwater and trying to stick the shell back on! LOL!



There are as you said a gazillion ways to cook an egg, and everyone has their own variations, all of which get the job done, more or less. But in the comments (so far), one of the most interesting ways (posted by henandchicks), I saw was to crack 45 eggs in a baking pan, add two cups of water, seal tightly, and bake 350-375°F for ~40 minutes. Wow! Sounds like a winner for a busy, no nonsense restaurant. Not only that, this method avoids the peeling issue altogether and the dreaded green yolk of overcooked, not rapidly cooled eggs, which I absolutely hate when I see "abused" (think rubbery and green) hard boiled eggs so often displayed in salad bars. That alone makes me think that the chef and the line cooks in that place don't know what they are doing. Also overcooking makes for smellier eggs owing to breakdown of some of the sulfur containing proteins, which ultimately end up as hydrogen sulfide and is detectable by the human nose in absurdly small quantities in the air. I am going to have to try something like that but with fewer eggs, of course. Thanks henandchicks.



I have read Kenji Lopez-Alt's description of his efforts to investigate how to cook eggs, which are described in his book, "The Food Lab." His treatment therein is rather extensive, and more technically grounded in egg biochemistry than your treatment here, Ms. Quitter, particularly with respect to the methodology for making the result easier to peel.



You did not mention the America's Test Kitchen or Cook's Illustrated technique which was once featured on one of their videos and developed by Andrea Geary. If you have an ATK subscription, you can find it here: https://www.americastestkitchen.com/recipes/7279-soft-cooked-eggs and on Cook's Illustrated here, https://www.cooksillustrated.com/articles/77-foolproof-soft-cooked-eggs , if you don't have a subscription. I have since adopted this technique which was featured on the ATK show before Christopher Kimball left.



It is sort of a hybrid method between boiling and steaming and was touted especially for soft-boiled eggs. In this method, which is super easy, quick, and simple, one puts a half inch of water into a pot fitted with a lid, and bring that to a boil. The eggs are then inserted into the water and covered. In this method, the eggs were taken direct from the fridge to the pot and cooked for exactly 6.5 minutes. During this process, the eggs are half in and half out of the water, but it was said that it is the steam that cooks the top of the egg. The eggs are then briefly cooled and the tops cracked (with an egg shell top cracker gadget) and placed in egg cups for "perfect soft-boiled eggs."



Kimball added (ad libbed?) at the time, that this works because steam gets considerably hotter than water! As a scientist (retired), I found that both wrong and irritating as he is usually better than that. Sure steam can get considerably hotter than water, but only under pressure. That is the way a pressure cooker or an Instant Cooker (just a fancy term for a modernized pressure cooker/multi-cooker developed in Canada) work.



Nonetheless, this 1/2 inch water boil-steam method works fairly well. I modify it for all boiled eggs, soft or hard, by first warming the eggs a bit in warm water in the sink, while filling and heating my 1/2 inch of water. This additional step helps to eliminate cracked eggs in the cook. I cook for 6 min, 30 sec for soft boiled and for 10-11 minutes for hard boiled.



This technique takes the least amount of time as one does not have to wait for a pot of water to boil, nor drag out, and set up some fancy gadgets (we have them all, btw) or even a steamer basket arrangement. But one does have to be mindful of time, for overcooking of the eggs, if soft boiled, results in not-soft boiled, and, if hard boiled, rubbery whites and dry, chalky yolks.



Works for me.



For the serious cook, I recommend J. Kenji Lopez-Alt's book, The Food Lab: Better Home Cooking Through Science," (2015), in which he goes into considerable detail on his exhaustive research on this and many other topics.

 
Marianne June 23, 2019
After the water has come to a boil, I steam large eggs for 14 minutes and they always come out perfectly. They are easy to peel and are cooked perfectly.
 
Claire R. June 25, 2019
After experimentation, I do the exact same thing. Day-old eggs were impossible to peel until I discovered steaming, per J Kenji Lopez.
 
Aleyeh June 23, 2019
Which method yielded the best results? Unsure after reading the entire article.
 
rosecedar June 23, 2019
I have found that white-shelled eggs are easier to peel than brown. I often refrigerate unpeeled white-shelled eggs after cooking them, and they still peel easily with the right peeling method in the days afterward. They keep better in the fridge cooked and unpeeled.
 
LUX June 22, 2019
Dear "stickler for consistency", Ella,

Please correct the order of Method #4 sub-categories. I wasn't going to say anything, but then you said you were a stickler for consistency, and it is driving me nuts (only because I thought you were writing about two different methods because the order was messed up--and it took me awhile to figure out, lol).

In any case, I was a firm believer in let the eggs cook starting in cold water to a boil for however long (depending on the cook required) after culinary school, and have recently found that just adding room temp eggs to boiling water to be significantly easier and less time-consuming. Thanks for all the test and clarification. I'll be trying steamed ones tomorrow, because your description is ALWAYS my goal for a soft- or hard-cooked egg.
 
henandchicks June 21, 2019
We cook a jillion eggs for egg salad in the cafe where I work. We crack about 45 eggs into a roasting pan , add 2 cups hot water, seal tightly, and bake at 350-375 for about 40 minutes, until firm and done. Drain off excess water, cool, smash. Lemon squeezy.
 
Cherri V. June 20, 2019
Used to dump eggs straight from the fridge into a pot of boiling water for 15 minutes, then I acquired an Instant Pot. Straight from the fridge to 5 minutes high pressure, then 5 minutes natural release, then ice bath. Rarely have a peeling problem now.
 
heather S. June 20, 2019
My go-to method, that results in perfect boiled eggs every time: pot of cold water. Add 1/8-1/4 cup salt and eggs. Bring to a boil uncovered. Turn off heat. Leave eggs to cool to room temp, no lid. Easy leafy and works every time! Even on freshly laid farm eggs!!
 
Carla B. June 20, 2019
I have found the best way for me is to add eggs to cold water then bring to boil. Immediately remove from heat and cover pan for 20 min then put in ice bath for 10 min. The yolk comes out perfectly yellow. The peeling process is more dependent on the eggs themselves like freshness. Sometimes they peel great other times not so much.
 
Gina A. June 20, 2019
Steaming for 14 minutes with a 10 min dip in an ice bath has worked perfectly for me. Ninety percent of the time no issues with peeling. The shell peels off easily.
 
Your O. June 20, 2019
Steam/Ice Bath as per Alton Brown years ago. As per Beth 100: never fails. Always beautiful. Secret to peeling: under water in a bowl. Toss water and egg shells in the garden. Done & done!
 
Mike June 20, 2019
My egg cooker yields perfectly cooked eggs that peel flawlessly every time. There are several brands of these cookers...I use the Cuisinart Egg Central.
 
Ashley T. June 20, 2019
I do somewhat of a modified method that has never failed me: bring warm water to a boil with the egg(s) in it, once the water has reached a rolling boil, let it go for 6-7 minutes, then immediately take off heat, gently poor boiling water down the sink, and run eggs under cold water for one minute to stop the cooking. This creates eggs with firm but gentle whites and slightly creamy yolks- perfect for mashing up with butter, salt, and pepper. Peelability with this method is okay, but depends on the egg's freshness and chicken's healthiness (healthier chickens seem to lay eggs with more of those layers), although I've never tried the ice bath peeling method!
 
Paula B. June 20, 2019
I usually cook about 3 dozen eggs at a time. I put them in a 6qt slow cooker, cover with water, cook on high 3 1/2 hours. Then drain, rinse and refrigerate. No problems, and equals happy kids.
 
SV June 20, 2019
Thanks for sharing. I wanted to make an observation about "Peeling the Eggs". I live where many people have their own chickens so they have their own eggs (not store bought). They have told me the the reason eggs are easier to peel or harder to peel when hard boiled is based on the freshness of the egg. The fresher the egg, the harder to peel. I am not sure that the way it is boiled has that much to do with it.
It would be a great experiment to test this theory. Now that you have your best way to boil them, try using eggs from different dates. You may have some eggs in there that are just easier to peel because they were older.
Thanks again, great job!
 
Adrienne June 20, 2019
I get my eggs from my food coop and from a farm so they’re as fresh as if I had the chickens so I know about fresh eggs and hard peeling—then I discovered pressure cooking eggs for hard boiled eggs! Perfection in peeling after a cold water bath. I now use sous vide for the same reason and it takes less attention than my pressure cooker on the stove. (Yes, I have an Instant Pot type cooker but it’s a bigger deal to get out and set up than my sous vide or even my Fissler.)

I just noticed....replies is spelled incorrectly below.
 
Brendan S. June 20, 2019
Wow Ella thats alot of work...and eggs LOL i use the cold start, boil 2mins the rest in water till cool enough for handling, peel under cold water. the freshness of the egg make a difference to peeling ease. I only use this method for eggs in a potato salad say, I taught my kids to eat with a teaspoon and egg cup for breakfast cooked straight boiled method 5-7 mins just keeping it simple, thanks for the eggsellent post
 
Beth100 June 19, 2019
Steamer basket over boiling water. Place eggs, straight from the fridge, in steamer basket, not touching each other. Lid on pan. Set timer for 11 minutes. When timer goes off, slip eggs into ice water bath for about 10 minutes. Perfectly cooked and peel like a dream, every single time. Have used only this method for many years and it’s never once failed me.
 
Bryeny June 19, 2019
Why the ice? Cold, or even cool, water is essential, but I’ve been boiling eggs (hard, soft, and in between) since the ’70s, always followed by a bath in the sink under cold tapwater, and it works really well — they peel beautifully. Possibly there are parts of the world where the tapwater isn’t cold enough? But I bet for most food52 readers, ice isn’t necessary. Give it a try without.
 
Fred R. June 19, 2019
Various water cooking methods depend on water temperature/timing, and water temperature depends on elevation. At 6600 ft, our water boils at about 200 F/93C; absolute times are irrelevant. This piece is a starter, now go do a little work on your own.