The definitive method for perfect hard-boiled eggs.
There are about one trillion ways to make hard-boiled eggs. But there are far fewer ways to make perfect hard-boiled eggs.
A study of some cookbooks (Alice Waters’s The Art of Simple Food, a.k.a. the one cookbook I would bring to a deserted island; Michael Ruhlman’s Egg; J. Kenji López-Alt’s The Food Lab) and the internet revealed more methods for boiling eggs than there are eggs in my refrigerator. Some methods begin with eggs in cold water. Some use steam. Some boil eggs enough for the egg yolks to be done. And on and on.
What Makes a Good Hard-Boiled Egg Method?
The two things I want in a perfect hard-boiled egg are: 1) consistently firm yolks that are cooked through, but not dry; and 2) ease — especially when peeling. To accomplish this, you need the right method.
Of all the methods, the debate basically boils down to this, no pun intended (well, maybe):
- Should we add the eggs to cold water and then boil; or, boil water and then put the eggs in? And,
- How long should the boiling eggs cook, and how should we boil eggs?
Here are the answers.
1. Boil the water first.
Hat tip to Kenji’s book The Food Lab –and more recently, his amazing New York Times article — for making a detailed study of this. According to Kenji, for ease of peeling — which can be the most annoying task in all of the cooking — it is essential to lower eggs into boiling water.
Do not start the eggs off in cold water and then bring it to a boil. Lowering eggs into boiling water does something magical with the release of the egg white proteins from the shell membrane.
There is an argument to be made for starting the eggs in cold water, then bringing them to a boil (at which point, the eggs are taken off the heat and sit for 15 minutes): The eggs heat more evenly through, so there is less chance of the white being overcooked with the egg yolks undercooked.
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However, if the boil-water-first method is done correctly, the difference in cooking was negligible. The photo below shows the eggs-in-cold-water method on the left and the lower-into-boiling-water method on the right. Doneness is the same, but peeling is noticeably better on the right.
2. Cook the eggs for exactly 11 minutes at a low simmer.
When the eggs are added to boiling water, lower the heat to a very low simmer. There should be some little bubbles happening. Set a timer. When 11 minutes is up, drain the water and cool the boiled eggs.
Peel, top with flaky sea salt, and eat.
There you go, that’s how to make hard-boiled eggs in boiling water.
PRO TIP: The best way to get boiled eggs out of the shell is to not peel them! Instead, take a sharp knife and cut through the center of the egg. Then, using a spoon, scoop the egg from the shell as you would avocado.
Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs
- 1 quart water
- 6 large, room-temperature eggs
- flaky sea salt, such as Maldon, to garnish
- Bring the water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
- Gently lower the eggs into the boiling water, and reduce the heat to a low simmer. There should just be small bubbles. Let simmer, covered, for exactly 11 minutes, or 12 minutes if you are starting with cold eggs.PRO TIP: To quickly bring whole eggs to room temperature, place them in a bowl of warm water for about 10 minutes.
- Remove the eggs from the water using a slotted spoon or small strainer and let cool. Peel, top with flaky garnishing salt, and eat.