Jason Best

8 Things You Didn’t Know About…Boiling an Egg


There’s something profound about the elegant simplicity of a good hard-boiled egg. Yes, you can certainly mash them into a creamy egg salad or serve them up deviled as the quintessential hors d’oeuvre. But really, they’re just about perfect almost as they are: peeled, with just a pinch of salt.


It’s interesting that the ability to boil an egg (or lack thereof) long ago became the means by which we disparage someone’s skill as a cook (e.g., “She can’t even boil an egg!”). While it’s true that “boiling” an egg is probably one of the easiest things you’ll ever do in the kitchen (after making toast), getting a good “hard-boiled” egg isn’t as simple as tossing it into a pot of boiling water. (Why am I suddenly putting quotes around “hard-boiled”? See item #1 below.) Done right, the ideal hard-cooked egg has a silky white and a moist, creamy yolk. Is it hard to do, though? Hardly.










Hard-boiled eggs should not, in fact, be boiled. The roiling water can cause the shell to crack, and the high temperature can make for rubbery eggs. They should be “hard cooked” instead.




To wit, famed food-science writer Harold McGee recommends hard-cooking eggs at a “bubble-less simmer,” between 180 and 190 degrees F, for 10–15 minutes.




Like many gourmands, renowned San Francisco chef Alice Waters essentially follows McGee’s approach — sans the thermometer. Here’s how she describes her method of hard cooking eggs in The Art of Simple Food: “Let the eggs sit at room temperature while bringing a pot of water to a boil. Turn the water down to a simmer and gently lower the eggs into the water with a slotted spoon. Adjust the temperature so the water stays just below a simmer, and cook for 9 minutes. Lift the eggs out of the water and plunge them immediately into ice water.”




If your shells tend to stick to your eggs when you hard cook them, your eggs might actually be too fresh. Try using eggs that have been in your fridge for several days.




Why do the yolks of hard-cooked eggs sometimes get an ugly greenish-gray patina? That’s ferrous sulfide, formed by a chemical reaction during cooking between the sulfur in the egg white and the iron in the yolk. It’s harmless, but you can minimize it by reducing cooking time to the bare minimum and by submerging hard-cooked eggs into cold water or an ice bath right out of the pot.




People have been eating hard-cooked eggs (of all sorts, from chickens to geese—even pelicans) at least since the days of the Egyptian Pharaohs. Ancient Greeks ate them for dessert, while during the Renaissance, Italians garnished their salads with them.




Aside from the egg’s obvious symbolism in relation to spring (fertility, new life), the practice of eating hard-cooked eggs at Easter likely originated for more practical reasons. Eggs were forbidden during Lent, so any that were laid during that time needed to be preserved. Hard cooking was one way to do that.




If the Easter Bunny visits your house and you plan on eating the hard-cooked eggs he hides, ask him to hide the eggs within 2 hours of the hunt — if they’re left out longer at room temperature, they’re liable to go bad. Hard-cooked eggs keep in the fridge about a week.




Love a good hard-cooked egg? Try one of our delicious egg salad or deviled egg recipes!


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32 Responses to “8 Things You Didn’t Know About…Boiling an Egg”

  • Cheri says:

    Frightening now i will never ever acquire just one all over again

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  • davies says:

    What’s the white guide after you pill the shell called?

  • Alison says:

    How long do eggs really stay good for??

  • Pat says:

    Trisha Yearwood showed on her show how to get centered yolks in a hardboiled egg for making nice looking deviled eggs. The night before she turns them upside down in their container. Has anyone tried this?
    My eggs go into boiling water and the heat is turned off. After12 minutes Ipour off the water and add icy cold to the pot. When cooled off to a degree I crack each egg and put back in cold water. Peel when cooled off all the way.

    • FRANK says:

      I have the best luck for centering the yolks by stirring the eggs in a circle in the pot for 5 or 6 revoluition about a minute aft I put them into the water.

  • Mika says:

    Bring a non-boiled egg 90′ below when scuba diving & it will be “boiled” too. Pressure cooked. Not practical…but interesting.

  • Jill says:

    Hi Fellow egg lover’s, wether it’s salt or vinegar that works for you that’s great. But it is all a matter of the time and temperature. Never put cold eggs in hot water, they will crack, room temp is best. Also upon removing from stove top, remove from cooking pot completely as the bottom of pot is still hot and cooking continuing to heat your fresh chilled water. So best to prepare ahead with a separate pot of cold water, removing cooked eggs with a slotted spoon. Remember cold retracks and will crack hot egg shells. I also like to boil a few a head for low cal snacks, ready for quick breakfast and toast,egg salads, or pickling. You can pickle eggs a couple of ways old fashioned, hot, beets,my favorite is with hot peppers. Any way you like, just enjoy.

  • Betty says:

    Fresh eggs are nearly impossible to peel; a few days old are much easier. Put in cold water, bring to boil, and simmer for 10 minutes. Immediately pour off hot water and plunge eggs into ice water. The inside of the egg contracts away from the shell. Heat expands, cold contracts. Stir eggs around for about a minute to keep contact with ice water. Leave in ice water for a good 15 minutes until eggs are chilled throughout. Peeling is simple.

  • Or…you could bake the eggs to hard cook them. Here is a link to the instructions. http://greetingsfromtheasylum.blogspot.com/2011/05/got-eggs.html

  • Or…you could bake them. 325* for 30 min. Here is a link to complete instructions. http://greetingsfromtheasylum.blogspot.com/2011/05/got-eggs.html

  • Judy Barber says:


  • Sherian says:

    I also put vinegar in water to make shells harder for Easter eggs

  • Sherian says:

    A friend of mine taught me long ago to put my eggs in cold water, place a lid on the pot. When the water gets to full boil turn heat off and leave the lid on for 10 to 15 minutes and the eggs are done with out the shell cracking. Start peeling on the end of egg

    • Kelli says:

      I use the same method as Sherian, and the eggs come out beautifully each time, with a non-rubbery white and not grayish ring (as long as you plunge them into cold water at the end of their standing time).

      Also no worrying that the shells will crack before they’re done with this method (I’ve had eggs crack when putting them in hot water even after sitting out at room temp while heating the water.)

    • Wendie says:

      Does it matter how many eggs are in the pan?

  • PAT MAYS says:


  • Mike says:

    Also, how come every conversation about hard cooked eggs never includes pickled eggs? I love those as a treat. Doesn’t any one else??
    Has anyone made Chinese Tea Eggs? I have and they are so cool and decorative when done.

    • Debbie Hale says:

      I love pickled eggs! I’m always up for something new, I think I’ll also check out the Chinese Tea Egg recipe. Thanks!

  • Mike says:

    I can not peel all the hard eggs I make most times, the unpeeled ones go in the fridge. To make them easy to peel when taken from the fridge, I heat a pan of water on med low and put the eggs in there for about 10 minutes. This makes the shell membrane separate from the egg and peeling is easy.

    • gina says:

      When you put your eggs in the ice water after about 2 minutes crack them in the ice water let them sit it separates the egg from the membrane,
      they peel easy …try it you’ll be happy peeling

  • debbie says:

    I bring my eggs to a boil, then turn off the heat, and put a lid on it. They’re ready in 10 minutes. No need to waste gas or electricity.

  • Sarah says:

    I only recently discovered a video clip from Alton Brown about hard-cooked eggs. He doesn’t even put them in water, he has a steam method that is pretty amazing. Since I found it, I haven’t made eggs any other way, and I crave them all the time – they come out absolutely perfect.

    Search for “Hard-Cooked Heaven-Food Network” in youtube. You won’t regret it.

  • Debbie V says:

    I put mine in when I put cool water in pot. When starting to boil, turn down heat to simmer for 5 minutes and then into ice water bath.
    What I want to know is the secret to PEELING!

    • alw says:

      Salt the water really good and the shells usually come off quite simply – peel immediately after taking off of the stove…I use kosher salt

    • Sandy says:

      I tried this method that someone posted on Pinterest. It worked great. Sounds strange, but it really worked.

    • maryb says:

      Carefully pour off the hot water. Holding pan by handle jerk the pan around so that eggs hit each other and sides of pan. do not have too many eggs in the pan or they will not have room to hit one another and/or sides of pan. Been doing this for years – hint from my grandmother.

    • Martha High says:

      A lot of salt in the water! About 2 T. & they need to be put in ice water right after cooking, then they peel good! Rolling on the counter, pressing mildly with your hand, also helps the shell come off good.

    • Carol says:

      The EASIEST way to peel hard boiled eggs: Remove pan from stove and drain off hot water. Shake pan vigorously to crack eggs all over completely, but not so vigorous as to break them into pieces. Now do 1 of the following; 1 pour ice water in pan and let eggs sit till cool then peel or, 2 set pan in sink and run cold water over eggs til cool (2-3 minutes) then peel.
      When you crack the eggs then submerge them in water, it allows the water to get between egg, shell, and membrane. Shell practically falls off.offering

  • A says:

    Yeah… I already knew all of that…

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