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How to hard boil eggs perfectly every time
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How to hard boil eggs perfectly every time

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The perfect hard-boiled egg has no green ring around the yolk and the innards are creamy and mellow.

One bad hard-boiled egg can ruin you for life. At least, that’s what I believed until I learned how to cook soft-boiled and hard-boiled eggs precisely how I wanted to eat them. The perfect hard-boiled egg has no green ring around the yolk and the innards are creamy and mellow. And if you’re in the mood, you can stop short of the hard-boil and make a gooey soft-boiled egg instead. This basic recipe let’s you choose the egg you want from softly boiled to hard-set and everywhere in between. It is the best way to make perfect boiled eggs every single time.

How long does it take to hard-boil an egg?

Our tried-and-true method for cooking eggs involves covering them with cold water, bringing the water to a boil, and then taking the pan off the heat to let the eggs finish cooking. This is how we hard-boil eggs for Easter or when we’re making deviled eggs for a party, but you can also pull the eggs from the hot water earlier if you’d like a softer yolk.

There are some suggested cooking times in the recipe below. You may need to tweak them slightly to get your very own “perfect egg,” but these times are a good place to start. Stop at 3 minutes for soft boiled eggs, a classic breakfast served with buttered toast or to add atop a veggie and grain bowl. Keep the eggs in the water for up to 15 minutes for creamy hard-boiled eggs for deviled eggs and cobb salads.

The best way to cool boiled eggs

Every minute counts when hard-boiling eggs to a specific degree of doneness. Evacuate eggs from hot water when the timer rings, but they will continue to cook unless you take steps to cook the eggs quickly. As the water heats to a boil, take time to prepare the ice bath. Simply fill a bowl halfway with ice cubes and add water to cover. Once the eggs are done, transfer them to the super chilled water. Leave them in the ice bath for at least one minute to cool the eggs and stop the cooking.

How to easily peel hard-boiled eggs

There are few kitchen tasks more frustrating than trying to peel the shell of an egg chip by chip (plucking thyme leaves tops the list for me). Far too often, the shell crumbles in a million pieces and the whites cling tenaciously, giving us a stubbled, unsightly egg. Make this job easier with three simple tips.

1. Choose older eggs. As eggs age, they gradually lose moisture through the pores in their shell and the air pocket at the tip expands. The pH of the whites also changes, going from a low pH to a relatively high pH, which makes them adhere less strongly to the shell. Farm-fresh eggs will always be tricky to age. Ideally, buy your eggs a week or two before you plan to boil them and let them age in the fridge.

2. Crack the eggs before chilling. Remove the eggs from the water and tap on the counter a few times before shocking in ice water. This loosens the membrane layer between the shell and egg white. It’s not always a guarantee, especially if your eggs are still fairly fresh, but it helps. Skip this step if preparing candy colored Easter eggs or soft-boiled eggs.

3. Cool the eggs completely. Chill eggs in the ice bath for at least one minute, but it’s best to cool them completely — about 15 minutes — before peeling. The temperature shock forces the egg white to contract, separating it from the shell. Quick cooling also firms the egg white making the eggs easier to peel.

Hard-Boiled Eggs

Makes 6 eggs

  • 6 large eggs
  • Cold water
  • Ice

1. Place 6 cold large eggs in a medium saucepan and fill with cold water, covering the eggs by an inch.

2. Place the pan over high heat and bring the water to a full, rolling boil uncovered. Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath.

3. Fill a large bowl halfway with ice and add water to cover.

4. As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from heat and cover the pan.

5. Leave the eggs in the covered pan for the right amount of time. How long? Depends on whether you want soft-boiled or hard-boiled eggs. Here’s how long each will take:

  • For runny soft-boiled eggs (barely set whites): 3 minutes.
  • For slightly runny soft-boiled eggs: 4 minutes.
  • For custardy yet firm soft-boiled eggs: 6 minutes.
  • For firm-yet-still-creamy hard-boiled eggs: 10 minutes.
  • For very firm hard-boiled eggs: 15 minutes.

6. After your selected time is up, remove the cooked eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and tap each gently on the countertop to crack the shell in a few places. Skip this step if your eggs are very soft-boiled with runny yolks.

7. Transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice water and leave them there for at least 1 minute.

8. When ready to eat, peel the eggs and enjoy.

Recipe notes: You can of course do fewer eggs (or more!), but we like to do six at once. Refrigerate any unused eggs, still in their shells, within 2 hours. They can be stored in the fridge for up to one week.

(Faith Durand is editor-in-chief of TheKitchn.com, a nationally known blog for people who love food and home cooking. Submit any comments or questions to editorial@thekitchn.com.)

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