I don’t know how to make a hard-boiled egg. There. I said it.
I know what you’re thinking because what you’re thinking right now is exactly what everyone says to me, “How can you not boil an egg? It’s soon easy.”
Well, it’s not.
It’s only easy if you’ve done it 100 times. For most people, it’s like riding a bike. For me, it’s like walking on a tightrope over the Amazon. So many things could go wrong.
Everyone says, “You just toss it in a pot and boil it for 10 minutes.” No you don’t.
There are 100 layers of detail behind those instructions that confuse the bejesus out of me.
- Do you put the egg in the water before or after you boil it?
- Do you put a lid on the pot or not?
- When you say 10 minutes, do you start counting when you put the pot on the stove or once the water starts boiling?
- What the heck do you do when it’s done? Run it under water? Refrigerate it?
These might sound like ridiculous questions, but they’re not. If you do any one of these things wrong, you get a runny, yucky egg. Trust me: I produced 162 of them last year.
And when I’m trying to run out the door with cranky, fussy kids and I have yet another #EggFail, it turns me into a runny, yucky person.
In all honesty, when I complain about how hard it is to boil an egg, I’m looking for sympathy. “You’re right, Katherine,” I expect you to say. “Eggs can be so tricky. Bravo for trying to be healthy in this crazy, busy world we live in. It’s not you; it’s the eggs.”
I’m exhausted by it. Not by the eggs (clearly it’s their fault), but by the response to my egg failures. It’s the “I’m-going-to-toss-my-head-back-and-chuckle-at-your-inability-to-perform-the-simplest-task-on-earth” look that I always get when I confess my deficiency.
Well, my friends, I would like to share Exhibit A (below) to prove my point—that it is, indeed, not easy to boil an egg.
This morning, with two kids running around like monkeys on crack (or sugar), fighting over the perfect show-and-tell trinket to take to school, I once again attempted to boil an egg.
With the world’s judgment spinning in my head, “It’s not that hard, blah, blah, blah,” I psyched myself up and told myself I could fight this egg battle and win between 8:10 and 8:25, when I needed to strap the kids and their trinkets into their car seats.
So, I googled it.
And the description below is what I clicked on first.
I give up.
For the love of Pete, someone please agree with me. It. Is. Not. Easy.
How To Correctly Cook Hard-Cooked (Hard-Boiled) Eggs:
Boiling an egg is really very simple! After reading many different opinions about the best method for making perfect hard-cooked (boiled) eggs, I have discovered, through my own personal testing, the following easy method which gives great results. This way of cooking is also known as “coddling.” It does not toughen the whites as boiling does. This will also assist with the peeling process, as the cold water creates steam between the egg white and the shell which makes the shell easier to remove.
1. For perfect cooking, start with eggs that don’t have any visible cracks:
There are two problems you’ll want to avoid: cracked shells and the ugly green layer that can form around the yolk.
Do not add salt to water. The salt will raise the boiling point of the water making the egg whites rubbery.
2. The best eggs for boiling are NOT the freshest eggs – use eggs that are at least 3 to 5 days:
Eggs that are too fresh are difficult to peel. The fresher the eggs, the harder it will be to peel them because the white membrane is just not mature enough. Hard boiling farm fresh eggs will invariably lead to eggs that are difficult to peel. Eggs need to be at least three (3) days old to peel well.
First, figure out if your eggs are fresh, because looking at the date on the carton is not always the best indicator of freshness, as eggs within the same carton with the same sell-by-date could have been laid on different days. Check out Sell Date of Eggs.
- In a fresh egg, the yolk stands tall and the white is thick and cloudy. In an older egg, the yolk looks flatter and breaks easily, and the white is thin and watery.
- The best eggs for boiling are the ones on their way to standing up because that extra air makes peeling easier. That’s why you should buy eggs for hard-cooking at least a week ahead of time.
- How To Test Freshness of Eggs: A simple test in water will answer the freshness question for you. Place the egg in a bowl of water; if it lies on its side, it is very fresh. As it ages, the air pocket inside the egg grows, which buoys the egg up so it stands on one end. If the egg floats to the top, it is ready for the trash.
Making Deviled Eggs: When making deviled eggs, place the carton of eggs on its side for a day. The yolk will then center itself so you have it directly in the middle of the white. No more off centered deviled eggs.
3. Bring your eggs to room temperature before cooking:
If the egg has been stored in the refrigerator, it can be warmed gently under a flowing hot tap water or sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes.
- By bringing the eggs to room temperature, they’re much less likely to crack in the hot water. Also the temperature of the egg at the start of the cooking process will affect the cooking time.
- An egg that is at room temperature at the start of the cooking process will require about 1 minute less cooking time than eggs taken directly from the refrigerator.
4. Technique for hard-cooking (boiled) eggs:
Use the following cooking times as a guide for the desired firmness for the yolk of each egg size (the whites will be firm). The timing begins once the pot of eggs is removed from the heat source.
Soft-cooked (boiled) eggs:
A soft-cooked egg has a firm white and runny yolk. To serve in egg cup, place egg in cup small end down, slice off large end of egg with knife or egg scissors and eat from shell with spoon. You can also buy a good egg topper from a kitchen store. They’re very quick and practical. I finally purchased one, and now my eggs look beautiful when I top them!
Medium-cooked (boiled) eggs:
A medium-cooked egg has a firm white and a slightly firm yolk. On the outside, medium-boiled eggs look exactly like hard-boiled egg – the whites are tender, yet cooked and hold their shape. Once you open the egg, you see creamy golden yolks which are neither liquid nor completely solid.
Choose the right size pot to cook your eggs in: The eggs must not be stacked but be in one (1) layer only. Gently place the eggs in a single layer in a pan with enough cold water to cover eggs completely (approximately by 1 inch of water over the top of the eggs).
- Too much water will take too long for the water to get boiling, which can throw off the timing and give you overcooked eggs. Too little water causes parts of the eggs to be exposed and end up undercooked.
- If you have 2 or 3 layers of eggs stacked up in a small pot, they may cook unevenly. Use a large pan and limit cooking to two (2) dozen eggs at a time only.
Over high heat, bring water JUST to a rapid boil.
- As soon as the water reaches a rapid boil, remove pan from heat and cover egg pan tightly with a lid.
Set timer for 17 minutes for large eggs or 20 minutes for jumbo eggs.
- After 17 or 20 minutes (depending on size of your eggs), remove lid and drain off water from the eggs.
- Watch the time when cooking the eggs carefully. Overcooking causes a green layer to form around the yolk. This layer is caused by a reaction between the iron in the yolk and the sulfur in the white. Heat speeds up this reaction, so the longer your eggs cook, the greater the chance of discoloration.
IMPORTANT – Stop the cooking process – Residual Heat or “Carry Over Heat.”
After the eggs are removed from the heat source, some cooking will continue, particularly the yolk of the egg. This is due to residual heat called “carry over cooking.” For this reason, transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and/or cold water after the cooking time is over. While they’re in the cold water, a layer of steam develops between the shell and the egg white. The steam helps make peeling an egg much easier.
- Let eggs cool at least 10 minutes in cold water, then drain. Either store in refrigerator or peel the eggs (see below for How To Peel Hard-Cooked Eggs Easily).
- A quick test to ensure that your eggs are hardboiled: When eggs have cooled, spin them on a hard surface (just like you would spin a top). If the eggs spins quickly without taking off or flying off in one direction, the egg is hard boiled and finished. Undercooked eggs (or uncooked eggs) will have a wobbly and unsteady spin.