How to Boil an Egg

In cooking, as in life, sometimes the simplest things can be the most vexing. Take the perfect boiled egg. If you have not quite mastered this skill, you know how unappealing a pitted, rubbery, sulphuric, green-yolked egg can be.

With Easter on the horizon, a lesson in how to boil eggs seems in order.

First off, the egg isn’t really boiled–or shouldn’t be. Briskly boiling water will crack the egg and toughen it. It’s more accurate to refer to it as a hard-cooked egg, but since just about everyone calls them boiled eggs, I will too.

The perfect hard boiled egg has a firm but not rubbery white, a velvety yolk, and an uncracked shell that doesn’t cling to the egg white with the stubbornness of glue when you try to peel it.

As for technique, the most foolproof I’ve found is this:

  1. Place the eggs in a heavy-bottomed pan with enough cool water to completely cover them.
  2. Place on medium-high heat.
  3. As soon as the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat.
  4. Cover the pan and let the eggs stand for 15 minutes. Subtract 5 minutes if you like your yolks softer. Add 1 to 2 minutes if you like the yolks harder or if you’re cooking jumbo eggs.
  5. Drain the eggs and rinse under cold water. (I fill the cooking pan with cold water and ice to immediately cool down the eggs.)

Starting the eggs in cold water and heating them gradually makes the egg shells less likely to crack. Turning off the heat allows them to cook without overcooking. And putting them under cold water stops the cooking and makes the shells easier to remove.

It’s important to pay attention so you know when the water begins to boil. When you hear the eggs begin to rock in the pan, it’s time to turn off the heat.

If you plan to dye the eggs for Easter, be sure to add vinegar to the dye-water mixture (most dye packets will instruct you to do this). The acid helps dissolve the eggshell’s natural waxy coating so the dye can permeate the shell.

Have a bunch of Easter eggs to use up? Try using them in my recipe for a rich, buttery cookie.

Note: Eggs that are too fresh can be hard to peel after cooking. If you’ve just bought eggs from the store, it’s best to wait at least three or four days before boiling them.