How to Hard Boil an Egg

Heather says:

It will be years before I run out of material for this site, namely because there are so many basic tutorials that need to be included. Last night as I was fixing myself a hard boiled egg for a salad, I remembered that I had never posted a tutorial for boiling an egg.

This morning I set about remedying my oversight.

 First of all, a hard boiled egg is somewhat of a misnomer. When making a hard boiled egg, you shouldn’t actually boil the egg, the water should be at a simmer. You do remember the difference between boiling and simmering, right? I’ll wait. Ready?

Well, no you aren’t, first you need your eggs. What kind of eggs work best for hard boiling? You want eggs that are several days old. Why? The shell is a semi-permeable membrane, meaning air can pass through and the older the egg, the larger the air sac, the easier it is to peel.

Ok, got your less than perfectly fresh eggs?

Great, bring them to room temperature. You can do this either by setting them out on the counter for one hour, not all day food shouldn’t be in the bacterial danger zone for more than two hours. The faster way is to set the eggs in a bowl of warm water for five minutes.

Bring a pot of water to a boil, you want just enough water in the pot cover the eggs.  Carefully lower the eggs into the water, reduce the heat to medium low, to keep the water at a simmer. Covering is optional.

Set a timer for 10 – 12 minutes. It varies a little depending on the size of the eggs. Large should be closer to 10, jumbo 12.

When the timer dings, run cold tap water into the pot.

As soon as the eggs are cool enough to handle. Tap the large end on a hard surface, this is usually where the air bubble likes to hang out. Peel under running water.

Admire your handiwork.

Two alternate methods for hard boiling an egg are:

 The cold water start:

  1. Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Peel as directed above

The I don’t want to pay attention method:

  1. Place the eggs in a pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring the water to a boil.
  3. Cover.
  4. Remove from heat and set a timer for 20 minutes.
  5. Peel.

Which method do you prefer?

Related:

How to fry an egg.

Send your questions to helpme@home-ec101.com.

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Comments

  1. I do the "don't want to pay attention" method.

    Shocker, I know.

    Also, love the Related: How to fry an egg. And love the misnomer quote!

  2. I prefer simmering the water and then dropping them in for 5 minute eggs, which cooks the whites and leaves the yolk runny. If I forget to remove them in time, it's no disaster; I like them cooked too.

  3. Don't you have problems with a green ring around the yolks sometimes, if you don't cool them more quickly? I keep a pan of ice water ready, and fish them out of the boiling water with a spoon to drop them in there.

  4. I use the lazy method, but I only let them sit for about 10 minutes. Unless I forget to set the timer.

    To me, there are few foods more unpleasant than overdone hard-cooked eggs. Chopped rubber-band salad anyone?

  5. Woosh! I just got whiplash from that backpedal. ;)

  6. fawnahareo says:

    I use your first method, but I don't bother warming the eggs to warm temperature; that never seems to have made a difference. I also usually poke a hole in the air sac end of the egg, which helps keep the egg from cracking, or so I'm told.

    My MIL adds a dash of vinegar to the water so that any cracks that might occur don't spread; as soon as the egg white encounters the vinegar, it coagulates. I find doing this makes the eggs harder to peel, so I add vinegar only if I was clumsy enough to crack an egg as I lowered it into the water.

    I also take the eggs out with a slotted spoon and then cool them with tap water, but I don't cool the pot along with them. I suppose it's not a really sudden temp change, but I'm afraid of damaging the pot.

    And simmering instead of boiling definitely helps prevent the "chopped rubber-band salad" effect. LOL

  7. I use the "no paying attention" method – put the eggs in cold water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and set a timer for roughly 15 minutes (a little longer if they are jumbo or extra large eggs). I have also read that salting the water before you boil it will help make the eggs easier to peel. That's related to the semi-permeable membrane, I imagine. Not sure how much salt to add, I usually just shake some until i get tired of it.

    For what it's worth, my husband has tried hard boiling eggs and failed miserably – he used your first method but put a cold egg into boiling water and it exploded. Might not have exploded if the egg was room temperature, I'm not sure if that was his problem. It's also possible that he's cursed. It's why I usually don't let him use the stove.

  8. Wow. I've been doing it wrong for 30 years. I put my eggs into water. Heat to boil. Turn to simmer and sit for 30 minutes. Yes, 30. I've never done less! So, I'm just cooking the crap outta my eyes, aren't I?

    Lori

  9. I do the "I don't want to pay attention method" and cook for 13 minutes – my husband likes a 15 min. cook for firmer crumbly yolks. Same as fawnahereo, I evacuate the eggs to a bowl of cold tap water using a slotted spoon. Jacques Pepin advocates poking a hole in the base of each egg with a push pin and adding a dash of vinegar in the cooking water, but I've never done this and been okay. Must be another french technique that is there for formality-sake.

  10. I do the “don’t want to pay attention” method but I turn off the (electric) burner and leave the pot on the still-hot burner. Eggs are ready in much less than 20 min.

  11. I do the 'not pay attention' method because my eggs NEVER GET DONE otherwise. Not sure why my simmering water is defective, but my yolks always end up runny. I finally got it to work with the 'no attention' method you listed.

    PS: I used to love runny yolks until I got salmonella once. You only need to get it once, I promise – it's a great deterrant from under-cooking eggs.

    • Usually the risk comes externally, most cases of salmonella involve the shell, so boiling would render even a soft boiled egg safe.
      That said some hens contract salmonella enteriditis the salmonella is actually inside the yolk. Oy.
      This is what triggered the recent recall from that Iowa farm.

    • Anna, amen. I got it from a salad that had lettuce (obviously) AND eggs. You are right. Once you get salmonella once, you NEVER get it again. Amen.

      • Salmonella isn't the only gastro bug to watch out for e. Coli can show up in improperly handled greens. Does anyone remember when Taco Bell quit using green onions? It had to do with an e coli outbreak from their supplier.

  12. I put cold eggs in cold water to cover, add a tablespoon of salt (no cracking!), bring to boil, shut off burner but leave pan on, cover, set timer for 10 to 12 minutes depending on egg size. Peel under cold running water. Firm but not rubbery, cooked all the way through, no green ring.

    LOL, remembering to set the timer is the hardest part for me.

  13. caryn verell says:

    i have used all of your methods as well as some of my own…the only thing i do that may be different is i do not peel my eggs under running water…that is wasteful…i fill the pan of eggs with cold water then add a few ice cubes as needed. works every time. i also make sure that the date on the egg carton is facing out where it can be seen…that way i know the eggs are old enough for easy peeling of the shells without wasting time in front of an open refrigerator door.

  14. My Dad taught me the lazy method, only I never take the pot off of the burner, and I cover, turn off stove, and let sit for 13-15 minutes, depending on large or jumbo. I then use the cold tap water over the pot, same as suggested. I've tried the simmer method but it's hard to maintain just a simmer sometimes on an electric stove. My lowest seems to boil the heck out of things when I want just a hint of heat. Oh what I wouldn't give for a gas stove!

  15. I've always done cold eggs in cold water, bring to boil, then COVER and simmer on low for 10 mins. I also keep the peeled eggs in the pot of cold water, as I peel the rest, to help them cool down for easier chopping. VERY important to use older eggs – bad experiences with trying to make deviled eggs using too-fresh eggs. Impossible to peel and have them look "pretty". And I don't live on a farm – I'm talking about eggs just bought at the grocery store, vs. eggs that have been sitting in the fridge for a while. (Did you notice the word "experiences"? I'm a slow learner…)

  16. A few questions… how old should the eggs be from the grocery store? And, I tried peeling and then storing eggs so I could just use them as I needed them, but them went bad really quickly as opposed to keeping them shelled. I eat A LOT of eggs (3 dozen per week, hard boiled), so answers to those questions will really help me!!! Thanks!:)

  17. HeatherSolos says:

    The eggs from the grocery store question is difficult. I don’t know where you live, how far you are from the distributor or your store’s stock rotation. :/ I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful there. Just know that if you’re torn between two cartons at the store and you want to hard boil the eggs, choose the carton with the closest sell by date. If you store your hard boiled eggs, they must be used within a week, whether they are peeled or not. Make sure to store peeled eggs in an air tight container to prevent their absorbing any odors from your fridge.