Egg

The Best Way to Boil an Egg

March 19, 2013

Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.

Today: Never make a rubbery egg again.

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We've all had bad hard-boiled eggs. Rubbery whites, chalky yolks, sulfuric smells: they evoke painful memories of school lunches and sad buffets. But done right, they can be the perfect addition to your brown bag or a light breakfast, sprinkled simply with salt and pepper. 

Successfully boiling an egg is quite simple, really -- all you need is a pot of water and a timer, and you're on your way to creamy yolks and glistening whites. We've found that the easiest way is the best way, and it just requires a few steps.

First things first: the freshest eggs aren't best for boiling -- they're difficult to peel. If you get your eggs from a local farm, use week-old eggs. If you're buying from a regular grocer, boil away -- they've likely had a few days of rest on the shelf.

pour

Place your eggs in a pot with enough cold water to cover them by about one inch. Heat your pot on high, uncovered, and then turn off your heat just a second before your water reaches a boil. Cover your pot immediately and let the eggs sit for 6 to 10 minutes. Make sure to set a timer here -- an extra minute of cooking time can make a big difference.

egg compare

The yolk spectrum: eggs taken out at 6 minutes, 8 minutes, and 12 minutes.

After your chosen number of minutes have passed, run your eggs under cold water until they are cool to the touch. Alternately, you can transfer your eggs to a bowl filled with ice water. Cooling your eggs quickly will keep them from overcooking and save you from that unsettling (but harmless!) green ring that can form around the yolk.

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Set the bowl aside until the eggs cool completely, or peel immediately for instant gratification.

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Remember to be gentle when peeling your eggs -- it's easy to get aggressive, whacking them against the counter with reckless abandon. Instead, tap each egg gently on the counter all over to crack it. Roll the egg between your hands to loosen the shell, and then peel, starting at the large end. Peeling your egg while holding it under cold water will make the process easier and wash off any stray shell fragments. Finally, enjoy the fruits of your labor: bite right in, brown bag an egg salad sandwich, or whip up genius deviled eggs

deviled

Want to get even more scientific about your egg-boiling strategy? This post from the Serious Eats Food Lab is the most comprehensive resource for hard boiling eggs you'll find. And if you're not a fan of the hard boil, try mastering the art of frying, poaching, or sunny-side-upping. Your breakfast will thank you.

41 Comments

Chad R. April 8, 2015
<br /> <br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> I found the best peeling eggs are done by steaming. I boil inch of water in pot and put the steaming basket on pot and steam for 18 min. take basket and put straight into cold water after 18 min. Works great every time even with fresh eggs
 
Crowther A. January 4, 2015
All I see is bunch of undercooked yolks for truly hard booked eggs.
 
Gareth February 22, 2014
This method differs from the time-tested way we have done it for 30 years. As follows: Put eggs in pot cover with cold water. Cover the pot. Set timer to 20 minutes. Heat on high just until water boils then turn off the heat. Leave covered until the timer goes off. Drain off hot water, refill with cold water and add ice cubes. Refrigerate once cold.<br />
 
I have hens. I never fridge my eggs. For soft or hard boiled, eggs need to be at least two days old. Put eggs into cold or warm water, bring to boil and cook for 4 minutes and 5 seconds for soft boiled with solid white and soft yolk or cook for 7 minutes for hard boiled eggs that do not have seriously solid yolks. To peel, roll around on worksurface to shatter shell before removing shell with a teaspoon inserted upside down under shell.
 
SBMCW April 3, 2013
The problem with this method is identified in the text. "an extra minute of cooking time can make a big difference" Why this can be a problem is the time it takes to get the water reach a boil.<br /><br /> An inefficient stove or wrong burner will increase the time the eggs are cooking before reaching a simmer. If you start with boiling water you will always have the same starting water temperature. The time in the boiling water can be exact and when put into the next environment, iced water, the next environment is very defined (This assumes the same number of eggs). This on the face of it would be the better process or at least the better defined and repeatable process across any kitchen environment.
 
James T. July 2, 2014
Makes sense. Good tip.
 
joy J. April 3, 2013
I use eggs straight from the refrigerator, put them into boiling salted water, cook 7 and a half minutes to 8 minutes, take out and drain, add cold water, then drain again, add cold water again... then peel and wash off any bits of shell.I use salt because my mother did !!!
 
James T. July 2, 2014
Why not just add ice to the mix instead of adding cold water and draining twice?
 
Beth100 April 3, 2013
Do you start with refrigerator-temperature eggs, or do you let them come to room temp before covering with cold water?
 
darrell W. March 23, 2013
The best way to boil an egg, is no to boil it. Perfect every time. http://tiptomato.com/?p=166
 
joy J. March 22, 2013
I place my eggs in a pot of boiling salted water for seven and a half minutes (have tried 8 minutes and that is OK too), then drain them and add cold water... do that twice, then shell and wash broken pieces off... been doing that for many years...
 
Gret March 22, 2013
Guess I like my eggs a bit more hard boiled, especially when making egg salad. When I want a creamier yoke, I will do it for 7 t0 8 minutes. I also do carefully poke a tiny hole in bottom wide egg base to release the air, so egg doesn't crack & white doesn't leak out, while boiling.
 
Gret March 19, 2013
I put eggs in cold water, then bring to a boil. I do lightly boil them for 10 minutes (no longer) & they're perfect. Then into very cold water & peel under running cold water.<br />
 
Jennifer A. March 19, 2013
been doing this method for years but it doesn't work on an induction range.
 
RedPepper March 19, 2013
I've used the Julia Child method for 40 years. Eggs straight from the fridge into a pot of cold water, bring to a boil, turn off burner and cover pan. Let sit for 15 mins (used to do 17min, but 15 works for me). Drain and fill pot with really cold water. Drain again after 5 mins, fill with cold water again. When I peel them, I crack them on a flat surface and thoroughly crack the shell all over. It always comes off beautifully and the eggs are cooked perfectly. For some reason, the yolks are centered, too...
 
Fisher114 March 19, 2013
The way to get a perfectly centered yolk is to arrange the eggs in the carton so that they are lying on their sides for 12-24 hours before boiling.
 
AntoniaJames March 19, 2013
Lying on their sides in the carton? My egg cartons offer one option: stand them up and down. So, you remove some, and then set the remaining eggs horizontally so they are not actually sitting in the wells? Thanks! ;o)
 
thirschfeld March 19, 2013
Fat end up is how eggs should be stored. The air, which develops with age and as the moisture evaporates from the albumin, centers as does the yolk at the fat end.
 
Lesjaffe April 17, 2013
Why not just put the whole carton of eggs on its side?
 
James T. July 2, 2014
That sounds like a good tip, but do you have a source on that, thirschfeld?
 
Bunnee March 19, 2013
My biggest problem is having yolks that are centered. Frequently, my eggs will have a very thin white section at one end and then a much thicker white section at the other. Makes deviled eggs impossible. Any solutions?
 
Lusty D. March 19, 2013
But no mention of the peeling process which is where the trouble begins... A perfectly cooked egg is one of the hardest items to cook. I find that following the "specialized" instruction yields an egg that does not peel... Thus no longer a perfect egg.
 
vvvanessa March 19, 2013
My trick for peeling eggs is this: once the hot water is drained off, I shake (not too roughly) the eggs around in the pot to crack the shells (particularly the fat end), then I fill the pot with cold water and let them sit for a few minutes (changing the water out once). I peel them in the pot of water (kind of like the suggestion of peeling them under running water). When I'm patient enough to wait to peel the eggs, it almost always works perfectly.
 
Slimfender March 19, 2013
If you prick the fat end of the egg with a push pin before boiling, it makes them extremely easy to peel.
 
Author Comment
Marian B. March 19, 2013
Great tip! I'll have to try this.
 
AntoniaJames March 19, 2013
Even with eggs that are fresh? Will have to try this. ;o)
 
thirschfeld March 19, 2013
I haven't done this in a long time but I do remember trying it once. I will have to try it too. My guess is the little bit of water, or steam that gets in or gets out might separate the membrane from the shell. Which really is what we are trying to have happen when we peel the egg. If the membrane doesn't separate, well we all know what happens. The ice bath right out of the hot water works well with older eggs which really are the only eggs I like to hard boiling because I am just trying to extend shelf life, but I still run into problems peeling new eggs when I do use them.
 
CRussell March 19, 2013
I have chickens, so all of my eggs are always very fresh. I use the pin-prick method on them before I boil them, and it works every time!
 
richielj March 19, 2013
Great method I use every weekend to hb eggs for my salads during the week. Works with any number of eggs, too.
 
James T. July 2, 2014
yep.
 
Monica M. March 19, 2013
Just curious - do you start with cold eggs from the fridge or room temperature ones?
 
Author Comment
Marian B. March 19, 2013
I usually start with cold eggs.
 
thirschfeld March 19, 2013
I have found it important for each individual to do a three egg test with a variation in time for themselves. It is important because the starting temp of your egg(meaning fridge temp) will make a difference in cooking time as will your altitude. Also the condition of your egg. Older eggs will produce more sulfur but will peel easier. I tried all kinds of methods to produce properly cooked soft boiled to hard boiled in my kitchen and I really do think it is somewhat specific to your conditions. I also salt the water heavily. I do it because egg shells are porous so I figure seasoning the water has to season the egg.
 
Author Comment
Marian B. March 19, 2013
Agreed -- cooking eggs is so personal, that I think it's important for everyone to understand an easy technique, and then figure out their preferred time. I like to salt my water, too, but I still have had great results with unsalted water.
 
AntoniaJames March 19, 2013
These are excellent points, Mr H! Thank you for raising them. ;o)
 
thirschfeld March 19, 2013
Marian I have no idea if salt makes them better or not I just do it because I was always taught to season, season and season again. But you are absolutely right, everyone does need to know how to hard boil an egg.
 
AntoniaJames March 19, 2013
Curious title to this . . . the best way to hard cook (or soft cook) an egg is not to boil it at all, as you say in the text. ;o)
 
Kenzi W. March 19, 2013
I think it adds! The title draws on that common misconception exactly, as well as grabs those who might associate a hard cooked egg with a hard boiled egg. Even better, then, that we learn how not to boil as we read.
 
AntoniaJames March 19, 2013
Hmmm. I find the use of the following text, "[s]uccessfully boiling an egg is quite simple" and "the freshest eggs aren't best for boiling" and "[i]f you're buying from a regular grocer, boil away," troubling for the same reason. We don't actually learn *not* to boil in this post until, after seeing references to boiling three times in the text, we're told not to do so. I stand by my original objection. (But then, I write for a living in an industry where lack of precision can cost my clients millions (and, in the case of one rather well-known client, billions) of dollars, so I could see how others might think I'm overreacting. I have observed, however, that the way terms are used can affect behavior.) ;o)
 
Susige March 19, 2013
The Serious Eats "post" links to a Food 52 sunchokes recipe.
 
Author Comment
Marian B. March 19, 2013
Sorry about that! The link has been fixed.