Hard Boiling Eggs

This is one area where you don’t want much room for things to move around in your pan. The more closely the eggs are packed together, the less likely they’ll be to break as they cook.

Put the eggs into a pot just large enough to hold them in a single layer. Because the large end of the egg will float once the eggs are submersed (because that’s where the pocket of air is), you’ll actually want a pot that is just a tad bit too small to fit them all without water in it. When I put these fifteen eggs in the pan, originally there were twelve on the bottom and three more on top.

Cover the eggs with cold water. Add some salt or some vinegar to the water to help any whites that do escape from cracked shells to set more quickly.

Put over a high flame and bring the water to a boil. At this point there are several schools of thought about how to handle the eggs.

One theory is that you barely let the eggs boil, turn the heat off, cover the pan, and let the eggs sit in the water for twenty minutes, then drain them. This method works well if you’re cooking on an electric stove, because the heating coil takes so long to cool down, its reserved heat continues adding energy to the water, even though there’s no power running through it.

It doesn’t work so well with gas heat, because there’s no continuing heat being added and the eggs just don’t cook all the way through. If you’re cooking on gas, it’s probably best to let the eggs boil simmer just below a boil for about five minutes or so, then turn off the heat, cover them, and let them sit for about twenty minutes before you drain them.

If you’re in a bit more of a hurry, boil the eggs for twelve minutes and then shock them in ice water immediately. This will halt the cooking process and your egg will be perfect. It’s a rather energy-intensive method, though, requiring an expenditure of resources both to heat water and to freeze it, thus I recommend against using it unless time is of the essence.

Overcooking eggs by boiling them longer than the times recommended above will dry them out, resulting in a chewy white, a yolk that zaps moisture from your mouth, and a green color around the outside of the yolk that results from iron in the yolk reacting with sulfur in the egg white. It’s not an appetizing hue, and it carries a rather sulfurous odor with it. If you see it in your hard boiled eggs, it means you’re cooking them too long.

As far as peeling the eggs goes, I have my best luck when I break the big end of the egg first and expose the air pocket. Then, if I can separate the membrane from the body of the eggg, the shell comes with it in a hassle-free process. Sometimes, though, the membrane just won’t cooperate. Usually, the fresher the egg is, the more likely it is to give you a hard time when you’re peeling it. The older an egg gets, the less cohesive its cellular structure (and remember, the egg is a single cell).

11 Responses to “Hard Boiling Eggs”

  1. Troy Says:

    Now that you have hard boiled eggs, do you have any good recipes for Deviled Eggs?

  2. Pesto Says:

    Olney has great advice and photos on this in his old Time/Life cookbook series volume on eggs and cheese. His method for hard-boiling eggs is to put the eggs in the pot with cold water, turn the stove to medium-high heat, wait until large bubbles form on the bottom of the pot, then set the timer to 20 minutes and keep the water just below a boil. Remove the eggs from the pot (one of those Chinese brass basket-scoops works great for this) and put them in cold water, or water + ice.

    To peel, put an egg on your counter and sort of roll it gently to crush the shell — then peel (BTW, you can always use the bowl of cold water to rinse tiny specks of shell off your fingers or an egg if you need to ). Doing so reduces the chance of a big section of peel pulling off some of the white.

    This is one of Olney’s few recipes that does not involve a stick or two of butter (his delicious omelette recipe involves cubing cold butter into the eggs before pouring them into a buttered omelette pan — yum!).

  3. Adam Fields Says:

    I’ve always cooked hard boiled eggs by starting them in cold water, bringing it to a boil, covering, and letting sit for 13 minutes off the heat, followed by a shock in cold water. This method gives perfectly cooked hard eggs. I think if you let them sit for 20 minutes, they’re going to be on the overcooked side, and you run the risk of developing the dreaded green yolk.

    Perhaps it depends on the size of your eggs (I almost always use large ones).

  4. Diana Watson Says:

    I learned a trick for making eggs easier go peel. (I learned it from a show on the Food Network, I think it was Emeril.) After draining the eggs, put them in ice water for a few minutes, until the eggs are ice cold. (When I am out of ice, I just put the eggs in the freezer for awhile.) Then store as usual. The shells come right off.

  5. Corduroy Orange » Blog Archive » Roasted Broccoli & Cauliflower Salad with Hard Boiled Egg Vinaigrette Says:

    [...] I hope you have perhaps already tried roasting broccoli and cauliflower because it really does produce a better result than boiling or steaming it. And I’m sure you have experience hard boiling eggs. When you take the two dishes and combine them creatively, you wind up with a darned tasty salad. [...]

  6. Sheila Says:

    I was wondering how long can boiled eggs be kept in the fridge?
    Is it unhealthy eat eggs that have been boiled, cooled and kept refridgerated for a few days?

  7. jwsharrard Says:

    Generally, no–unless the eggs were already bad before they were boiled. A boiled egg can be expected to have a shelf life of at least a few days. Eggs are kind enough to signal odiferously when they’re no longer safe to eat, so when in doubt, just follow your nose.

  8. rachel penders Says:

    Boiled eggs should be consumed within 3 days. It’s not safe to eat peeled eggs though. Here are a few good articles on cooking / boiling eggs:


  9. LManby Says:

    Here’s the real and only 100% way to get your boiled eggs perfectly. I boild eggs at least 3 times a week and when I follow below exactly, they always come out perfectly:

    1) Place eggs in pan with cold water 1″ over the tip of the eggs. Don’t stack them, the eggs should be one layer only. You want the eggs to fill the pot so they don’t go floating around when they begin boiling.

    2) Place pot on stove and bring water to a vigorous boil. Once that happens, turn the heat down to a medium setting, but maintains a “rolling boil”. Allow this boil to happen for for 10 minutes (no more than 12 minutes - based on how you like your yokes).

    3) IMMEDIATLY place eggs in ICE COLD water. Keep them there until there is absolutly no warmth to the egg. (You won’t hurt them by leaving them in longer if you aren’t sure). This keeps the yoke from becoming green and aids in the peeling process.

    4) Remove and place in fridge, eggs last up to 1 week once boiled when left in the shell.

    5) Place egg on counter with a bit of force to begin cracking the egg. Once cracked, rolld the egg around with your palm until the shell is cracked around most or all of the egg. Remove the shell, rise to get any tiny shell bits off and ENJOY!

  10. Deninova Says:

    How long can hardboiled eggs be left unrefrigerated?

  11. Liza @ Chef Basket Says:

    I’ve been put on a new diet from my nutritionist. He recommends eating boiled eggs for breakfast. Since then i’ve learned new recipes to be creative in making healthy breakfasts with hard boiled eggs.

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