Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kitchen Basics - Hard-Boiled Eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are the foundation to many great dishes, from Cobb salads to that great Southern picnic/holiday classic, deviled eggs. Of course, they're great on their own as a snack, sprinkled with some coarse salt or maybe a few drops of a good hot sauce. Hard-BOILED is a bit of a misnomer, since you don't actually want to boil the eggs - unless rubbery whites and a dusty green yolk is what you're after.

Creamy yellow yolk; not dry, greenish & mealy...

So many people don't know how to correctly boil eggs; do a simple online search and you'll find millions of results on how to perfectly cook a hard-boiled egg. This method is the one I have been using for years, and have always had great results. 

First, only use older eggs (about a week old). Fresher eggs are much harder to peel, and, honestly, deserve to be poached or served over-easy as the centerpiece of a hearty breakfast.

These are about a week old.
Next, make sure the eggs are at room temperature (leave them out of the fridge for 30 minutes or so). Cold eggs are more likely to crack while cooking. 

Place all of the eggs in a SINGLE layer in a pot or saucepan; do not stack the eggs. Add enough COLD water to cover the eggs by 1". Do NOT salt the water - this raises the boiling point of the water and results in rubbery egg whites. 

Bring the water to a rapid boil over HIGH heat. Just as the water comes to a rapid boil, cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Set a timer for 17 minutes (this is for large eggs - I never buy jumbo or medium eggs, so I'm not sure of the cooking time for those sizes). 

Almost there....

This guy suffered a blowout...


Note: If you prefer a soft-boiled egg, with a firm white and a runny yolk, set the timer for 4-5 minutes. For a medium-boiled egg, with a firm white and a slightly firm yolk, set the timer for 6-7 minutes. 

Meanwhile, prepare a bowl of cold iced water. Once the 17 minutes have elapsed, carefully transfer the eggs into the iced water to immediately stop the cooking process. Let the eggs sit for 10 minutes, then drain.

To peel the eggs, gently tap the larger, "flat" end of the egg against the counter to crack the shell. From there, roll the egg around to crack the entire shell, then peel off the shell either under cold running water, or while the egg is submerged in cold water. 

Only peel the eggs if you're planning to use them immediately. Hard-boiled eggs (unpeeled) will keep well in the refrigerator until needed. 

A little salt, and this is a perfect midday snack for me.


  1. My technique is a bit different but this tutorial is very nice. I just recently learned that older eggs work better for boiling so kind of neat to see it restated here.

  2. Thanks! Another thing I didn't mention in the post is that, if you are planning to make deviled eggs, place the carton of eggs on its side overnight - this way the yolks will be perfectly centered!!

  3. it's really surprising (kind of) how many people don't know how to boil an egg. for years i was letting the cold eggs sit in a roiling boil for 10 minutes, ignoring the fact that one or two would inevitably crack and spill their guts, and the rest of the eggs would be rubbery, just because no one i knew knew any better either.

    anyway, this is basically how i do it, though i find that room temp eggs can be finished off in a little less time (depending on how firm i want the yolk, 5-10 mins).

    a great way to eat them that not many people know about is to slice the egg in half and put a dollop of butter on the yolk, along with the usual salt and pepper. the butter adds an extra level of richness and complexity that i find puts me in a food coma of hollandaise-y decadence.

  4. Hmmm, the butter DOES sound really good - I'll have to try that!

    I felt I needed to make this post after visiting a local kitchen store and seeing 4 different "egg cooking" appliances. I then realized that WAY too many people can't do something as simple as boiling eggs.

  5. oooh good deviled egg tip, thanks! I hate not getting comments in email. I just stopped by again and noticed your response.

  6. I also like to spoon my deviled egg filling into a bag and pipe it into the egg halves. It's a lot prettier and easy than just plopping it in with a spoon!

  7. I'm 33 and finally trying to teach myself how to cook. I just followed these instructions and made hard boiled eggs for the first time! They're much moister than any others I've had! Thank you so much for including basics for novices such as myself!

    1. You're welcome, Heidi! Glad your eggs turned out well! :)