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 hard boiled egg methods than there are eggs in my refrigerator. Some methods begin with eggs in cold water. Some use steam. 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 eggs cook, and how?
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 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 center of the yolk 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 eggs.
Peel, top with flaky sea salt, and eat.
PRO TIP: The best way to get the egg out of the shell is to not peel it at all! 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.