Living Well: 5 Secrets to Perfectly Hard-Boiled Eggs

March 20, 2013

How to Perfectly Boil an Egg

Text and photos by Lindsey Johnson for Design Mom.

In March and April, eggs go on sale at the market, so this is an ideal time to learn, or improve, our egg boiling skills. You may have big plans to dye some Easter eggs, or maybe you’re just craving an egg salad sandwich. Either way, knowing how to perfectly hard-boil an egg is a skill everyone should have.

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Do you ever peel and cut open an hard-boiled egg only to find a pesky grey-green ring around the yolk, or that the yolk is still a little raw? I’m here to help!  And soon you’ll be an egg-spert and be able to show all your friends how easy it is to hard-boil eggs.

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Put the eggs into a deep pot in a single layer. Secret #1: Fill the pan with cold, not hot, water. The goal here is to bring the eggs up to boiling temperature along with the water, which will also help prevent cracking and promote even cooking. The eggs should be covered by 1-2 inches of water. To measure, dip your finger in and touch an egg. If the water reaches anywhere between your first and second knuckle, you’re probably good to go. If not, add a little more.

Bring the water up to a boil. Secret #2: Let the eggs boil for one minute, then cover and remove from heat. The heat in the water will continue to cook the eggs after they are off the burner. If you have an electric stove with coil burners, you can skip boiling the eggs for one minute because the burner will retain heat. Let the eggs sit in the covered pot for 12- 15 minutes.

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Secret #3: The actual time is going to vary a bit due to the size of the eggs. Medium eggs will take less time, about 9 minutes, and extra large eggs will take more time, about 15 minutes. The altitude where you live will affect the cooking time as well. I live at about 5,000 ft. above sea level, so I keep the eggs cooking in the covered pot a few minutes longer so the yolks aren’t too raw. Plan on practicing with a few small batches till you get the timing just right.

If you’re boiling a lot of eggs at one time, sometimes it’s worth sacrificing one egg to ensure the others are properly cooked. Remove one egg from the pan, cool it as quickly as you can in ice water, peel it and cut it open to see if it’s cooked all the way. Undercooked yolks are almost as bad as overcooked ones! They will be darker yellow and look raw.  If your tester egg isn’t cooked through yet, keep the rest of the eggs cooking in the hot water for a few minutes longer. (Alas, there’s no going back once the yolk is overcooked.)

boiled eggs in cold water

Next step is Secret #4: To stop the cooking (and avoid over-cooking) you’ll need to cool the eggs quickly. There are two options. You can gently drain off the hot cooking water and add cool water to the pan. Or, you can remove the eggs from the hot water with a slotted spoon and carefully transfer to a bowl of cool water. As I mentioned, this stops the cooking process, so be sure not to skip this step.

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Now we’ve come to the funnest part: peeling. Secret #5: Cold eggs peel much more easily than warm or room temperature eggs. Begin cracking the cooled egg by rolling it gently against a flat surface, like a counter or cutting board. Go ahead and roll until the entire shell is covered in cracks. Then carefully peel the shell off. If the shell sticks to the egg white, help things along by either peeling under cold running water or in a bowl of water. I have also found that cracking the larger bottom end first, then rolling can help the shell come away more easily. Be sure not to crack it too hard or you’ll chance breaking the egg white right in half!

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Peeled eggs should be used very soon after peeling. Unpeeled eggs should be kept in a container with a lid (to prevent odors) in the fridge for up to a week.

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TROUBLESHOOTING

Peeling
Have you followed all the tips and you’re still having a hard time peeling the egg? It might be because your eggs are too fresh. (Too fresh? Who knew that being fresh could be a problem?) Fresh eggs are known to be harder to peel, and that includes those fresh from the farm. Eggs in the store are typically about a week old, so plan ahead. The fix: Let your eggs sit in the fridge for a few days or even two weeks before you boil them. Or try the pin trick I mention in a bit…

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Cracking
If your eggs are cracking during the boiling process, try this: add a little vinegar or salt to the water. The vinegar/salt will help any escaping egg whites coagulate and stop leaking out of the crack.

Or, you can follow my Mother’s tip: prick the bottom of the egg, where there’s a tiny space between the membrane and the shell. The idea is to release a little bit of air. It’s supposed to help prevent cracking — and some people swear it makes peeling easier too!

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Grey-Green Ring on the Yolk
Found a grey-green ring? Don’t worry it’s not dangerous and doesn’t affect the taste of the egg. It’s just a little unappealing. That dark colored ring is a natural reaction between sulfur and iron reacting at the surface of the yolk and the egg white. It does mean that your hard-boiled eggs cooked for too long. Make a note of how long the eggs cooked and cook them for a few minutes less the next time.

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And that’s it! Now those hard-boiled eggs are ready for Grandma’s Deviled Eggs, dyeing with the kids, or eating as a quick snack or breakfast on the run.

Now, please tell me, do you have any tips you’d add to mine? Have you ever tested and timed your eggs so that you know the exact amount of cooking time for your stove and elevation? I’d love to hear.

P.S. — Save those shells! They can add extra calcium and other nutrients to your garden.

P.P.S. — Love secrets? Find all the posts in this series here.

How to Perfectly Boil an Egg

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{ 39 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Elizabeth March 20, 2013 at 9:17 am

I actually boil the water before I even drop in the eggs I also put just a teeny bit of salt in the water right after I put the water in the pot

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2 Lisette Wolter-McKinley March 20, 2013 at 9:52 am

Great tips on a skill everyone should have.

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3 Valerie March 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

Like clockwork, my brother used to call me every year the Saturday before Easter to ask how to hard boil eggs (my technique is very similar to this). His kids are grown now so it’s been a few years since I got the call but he has a grandson that is almost a year old so I expect the “call” tradition to return in a few years.

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4 Christa the BabbyMama March 20, 2013 at 11:57 am

I’m excited to try this, considering Easter is around the corner and I’m the only one in my house who eats hard boiled eggs!

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5 Hanna March 20, 2013 at 2:21 pm

That’s true – do not boil really fresh eggs – you’ll go crazy peeling them!

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6 Raylene November 23, 2013 at 1:15 am

When peeling very fresh egg crack the large end first and pierce the membrane. Then leave in a bowl of water for 5-10 minutes. The water seeps in between the white and the membrane, making the membrane (and shell) peel off easier.

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7 Jenny March 20, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Peeling can be my nemesis. Blah. Thanks for the tip. I just learned it takes 3 years for the eggshells to break down and release nutrients into the garden. So that’s a bummer.

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8 Hayley March 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

I have a bag of them saving in the freezer for my tomatoes. That’s a bummer to hear! :(

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9 Heather December 24, 2013 at 8:22 am

put the shells in a glass jar with a lid tightly closed under the sink. in about a week it will turn into black liquid it smells but it works a lot faster & is very rich.

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10 Jess. May 10, 2013 at 11:03 am

I think, though, there is the immediate benefit of the sharp shells keeping garden pests (like slugs) at bay. That’s what I’ve heard, at least. Don’t despair! xox

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11 Gail July 24, 2013 at 1:10 pm

It’s difficult to save the shells from hard-boiled eggs–they’re usually not clean enough to grind, an essential step in breaking them down in small enough pieces for the garden.

For all the other kinds of eggs–scrambled, over-easy, etc.–I usually quickly rinse the shells, then let them accumulate in a basket with a fairly open weave. When I have enough, (lots), and they’re all dry, I smush them with a potato masher, then run them through the Cuisinart. From here I add them to the compost, but they’re also fine enough to be added directly to the garden. I’ve never had a bit of luck deterring slugs using eggshells, though…….

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12 Amy M August 5, 2013 at 10:19 am

Haven’t tried it yet (though I’m set to tomorrow), but you can use the half shells for nursery purposes. Plant your seeds in the shell and then just drop into the garden.

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13 Angela March 20, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Just read new issue of Cooking Light & it recommended STEAMING eggs for easier peeling: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/deviled-eggs-pickled-onions-50400000126776/ Haven’t tried it, but I will – peeling is my problem!!

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14 Robyn March 21, 2013 at 2:23 am

My trick is to just use this egg timer… Works every time, I love it!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Egg-Perfect-Colour-Changing-Timer/dp/B0000CFGB5

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15 Lucy Mitchell March 21, 2013 at 4:21 am

use the egg shells around plants in the garden that slugs like to eat. It will keep them away! Also, save those little sachets of MacDonalds salt and use them in lunchboxes with a boiled egg for kids lunches. (for kids who eat eggs, I have two who do and two who won’t!)

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16 Corina March 21, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I have the same egg timer as Robyn (I get them at Crate & Barrel) – I always buy a few because they are inexpensive and invariably someone says “where did you get that?” and I can give them one. As my kids like softboiled eggs for breakfast this is a really helpful gadget to have. I did appreciate all the extra tips about peeling and the idea for steamimg! I have tried the Japanese egg shapers (with varied results) which you have to peel the eggs whilst hot- ouch!

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17 Dee June 22, 2013 at 12:04 am

You DO NOT have to peel while hot! Just peel the egg cool like you normally would, then sit the peeled egg in HOT, not boiling, water for 1 minute. Then egg-shape the heck out of it! Square, bunny, fish, star…it ALL works!

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18 Kelly March 22, 2013 at 4:58 pm

As my eggs are boiling, I am putsing around on Pinterest, and come across this! I went right over and shut off the boil lol!

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19 Amanda March 25, 2013 at 2:24 pm

I was told that the vinegar helps with the peeling. I prefer white vinegar as apple cider will darken your eggs.

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20 Trina March 28, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I didn’t have much choice but to boil fresh eggs this year – but I read adding baking soda to the water when you boil them is supposed to help with the peeling…. We’ll see how it goes!

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21 Krista Hansen March 28, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Worked like a charm! We colored them for Easter but I made an extra one to eat. Yummy! Thanks for the how-to!

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22 Erin April 17, 2013 at 9:26 pm

I know that I’m late to this party, but another way to check if your eggs are done but without sacrificing an egg, just spin your egg on the counter. If it’s hard boiled it will spin perfectly, if not it will be wobbly.

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23 Lynn April 20, 2013 at 6:02 pm

Thank you for this easy step-by-step guide. I’ve been hardboiling eggs for years, but I’ve never tried this method. Tomorrow morning we’ll give it a go!

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24 PARIS BEE kids blog May 3, 2013 at 5:38 am

This makes me smile, because of course, the French would say that this is not a perfectly cooked egg but a perfectly over-cooked one! I guess after over 10 years of living in France I’m used to that ooey-gooey egg center and wouldn’t trade it for a North American style hard-boiled egg ever again. That said, it did take me a while to adjust ;-)

xoxo PARIS BEE kids blog

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25 Erin May 3, 2013 at 7:55 am

I am very lucky that my 4-year-old son is much less picky than I was at his age (or at 16 for that matter). He LOVES hard boiled eggs and I can’t stand them. Still, I felt I owed it to him to learn to make them correctly. This came just in time for Easter and yours tips worked perfectly. Thank you!

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26 John Watson May 12, 2013 at 4:44 am

Great advice. Thanks

Can you suggest a cheap pan that could be used exclusively for boiling eggs?

Best wishes

John Watson

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27 christy June 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm

My secret to perfectly peeled eggs is to use a porridge spoon, sliding it gently under the membrane of the boiled egg. Fast and easy and you can still use fresh eggs, which taste much better. Organic free run eggs are the way to go flavor-wise and health-wise, plus I find they don’t have that annoying sulfur smell. And yes, a dark ring DOES indicate an over cooked egg, in my experience.
Thanks for the great post!

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28 Elise June 26, 2013 at 8:59 am

Great tips! Hard-boiled eggs are one of my weekly staples – I love them smeared with a little spicy mustard for an afternoon snack: http://www.plinnovations.com/weekday-meal-survival-skills/

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29 Jenna August 18, 2013 at 9:32 am

This was my first time making hard-boiled eggs! I was looking around the internet for perfect hard-boiled eggs, and I came across this. It is great! The one thing I can say is that if you leave the pot uncovered while boiling, it takes a lot longer. I ended up covering the pot and checking on the eggs every few minutes.

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30 Kevin August 27, 2013 at 6:52 am

Here is a tip I use to peel the shell off my eggs. Once you get the eggs out of the boiling pot, place them in a cold water bath for 1 minute. You want them to be cool enough to handle them shell-wise but still medium hot on the inside. Find a hard edge surface and crack the egg in the middle going around in a circumference of the egg. Once you get the crack started, take your finger and continue digging the crack until the whole circumference of the egg in the middle is showing egg white. Now it is really easy just to pull the whole top side of the shell off in one piece and the bottom side of the shell as well.

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31 Kelly October 6, 2013 at 6:46 am

I love hard boiled eggs. They’re wonderful convenience food – you can eat them on the run. They’re healthy and cheap and satisfying. And love your suggestion of turning off the heat and letting sit in the heated water – energy efficient! Thanks for the tips.

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32 Emmy November 7, 2013 at 9:08 am

Just made perfect hard boiled eggs! Yummy thanks!

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33 Lauren March 25, 2014 at 2:17 pm

I’ve been wondering how to the boil the perfect egg for years! Thank you so much. I boiled some tonight and they turned out perfectly!

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34 Katie Harding March 27, 2014 at 1:53 pm

We always try to keep some hard boiled eggs around the house for egg salad or just as a snack and I’m always trying to perfect my technique, this looks pretty fail safe!

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35 Susan April 2, 2014 at 10:08 pm

STEAM eggs for 20 minuets. Put in cold water. Use now or refrigerate. This will give no green rings and EASY TO PEEL eggs every time. Even fresh eggs peel easily after being refrigerated.
Don’t have a steamer – no worries. A pot, stainless colander & lid work just fine.
I have never layered the eggs in the colander, but I can do enough for our needs at one time.

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36 Thasni May 23, 2014 at 3:44 pm

Hi,
Another trick I learned from http://www.cheenachatti.com/recipe/hard-boil-eggs/ is to add little baking soda to the water while boiling. This will help in easy peeling. You can also try it next time, it worked for me.

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37 Greg June 22, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Thanks! worked perfectly, used a little rice vinegar in the pot and let sit 13 min. Eggs came out of the shell quite easily. I am going to try the steam method next.

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38 Nikita K July 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

I still struggle so hard with boiling eggs so I’ll definitely try this method! Thanks!

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39 Joseph Chaiwhan Kim August 8, 2014 at 7:11 pm

I love eating boiled eggs every day and I could never figure out how to boil them without breaking the shells. Your tips have saved me. Thank you again!

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