Preparing hard boiled eggs might seem like the easiest thing to do. All you need is a few eggs, a saucepan, and some water, so how hard can it be? Place the eggs in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat. Cover the eggs and let them stand. After about 10 minutes, transfer the eggs to a bowl filled with cold water. After they have cooled, crack the eggs shells and peel. Sounds simple.
Yet, how many times have you had difficulties peeling your hard boiled eggs? The white comes out together with the shell, resulting in a shapeless used-to-be egg. Also, overcooked eggs have some greenish-gray color around the yolks, a slightly bitter-y taste and give out a somewhat sulfuric smell. All this is due to over-boiling. If eggs are cooked too long, the whites become rubbery and the yolks dehydrated. There is a science behind this – eggs are mostly built of water and protein. During the process of cooking, the water evaporates, whereas the proteins coagulate. High heat also causes the iron-sulfuric reaction, which produces the unwanted color and smell. Imagine this disaster happening to you at Easter when you need a large number of perfectly hard boiled eggs that are easy to peel and look great.
Another important thing to take into consideration is that high heat over a long time damages the proteins and destroys almost all vitamins, especially the B group vitamins. However, moderate heat over a shorter time does not alter the eggs’ nutritive values.
The task of boiling eggs involves making a number of right choices, but once you master it you will always get ideally cooked eggs with firm but not rubbery whites, as well as slightly creamy yolks, ready to be used in various egg salads and to be transformed into the best Devilled eggs.
This post suggests three different methods for hard boiling eggs, revealing all the secrets you need to know, as well as some gadgets that will make the process much easier. But first, let’s go through a few key issues.
Should you add salt to the water?
Half a teaspoon of salt will prevent the eggs from cracking. It is also useful in case the eggs crack while cooking. It will help the egg white solidify quicker and seal up the crack, thus minimizing the mess in the pot. Vinegar and baking soda added to the water have the same effect.
Is there any particular type of eggs you should use?
Yes, older eggs are best because they are easier to peel than the fresh ones. The secret is in the acidity – the fresher the eggs, the more acidic they are. As the time passes, the acidic content decreases, making the eggs easier to peel.
You can keep the eggs for two weeks in the fridge before boiling them. Don’t worry, they won’t spoil. In case you only have fresh eggs, the solution is to steam them in order to make them less acidic. Pour about an inch of water into a saucepan and insert a steamer basket. Bring to a boil, then place the eggs in the basket. Cover and steam for about 15 minutes. The steam penetrates the shell, causing the carbon dioxide to leak out through the shell pores.
Should you make a hole in the shell before cooking?
Some people make a small hole in the shell with a pin before they put the egg in water. If you are going for perfectly ellipsoidal eggs, pierce the large end of the egg. Piercing will allow some of the air to escape and some water to enter under the egg shell during cooking, which may make peeling easier and contribute for smoothly rounded ends.
However, there are some concerns that piercing can make the eggs more prone to cracking as they cook because it makes the shell weaker.
Should you use hot or cold water?
This question remains without a definite answer. Some of us put the eggs in cold water, others wait for the water to boil before adding the eggs. There is no right or wrong here; both methods have advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at them separately.
3 Best Methods How to Hard Boil Eggs
Method 1: Hard Boiling the Eggs in Cold Water
Advantages: Putting the eggs in cold water allows heating the eggs more slowly, which prevents the eggs from becoming rubbery. This method also gives the air in the egg more time to escape as the egg heats up.
Disadvantages: The cold-water method takes longer time and you don’t have as much control over the time of cooking, i.e. it is difficult to know the exact moment when the water comes to a boil. Unless you decide to watch over the saucepan.
Step 1: Arrange the eggs in a single layer at the bottom of a heavy medium saucepan (first the eggs, then the water because they might crack while falling to the bottom of the pan). Cover with 1-2 inches of cold water. The more eggs there are in the saucepan, the more water you should add.
Tip: Avoid overcrowding the saucepan with eggs because when the water starts boiling they will hit against each other and crack.
Step 2: Heat over high heat and bring the water to a boil (rolling boil, not a simmer).
Tip: Add ½ teaspoon of salt, baking soda, or vinegar before the water boils to prevent cracking.
Step 3: Turn off the heat, but don’t remove the saucepan from the hot burner. Cover and let it sit for 10-12 minutes. This period of 10-12 minutes is generally considered a timespan that yields perfectly boiled eggs every time.
Tip: Depending on numerous factors, including your personal preferences, this time may vary. I recommend adding an extra test-egg to the originally planned number of eggs to boil. This egg will be cracked to check if the doneness is to your taste. If you are going for eggs that are slightly soft in the center, crack the test-egg after 6 minutes, but, if you want harder boiled eggs, crack the test-egg at the 10th minute. If the test-egg is still too soft for you, keep the rest of the eggs in the water for a bit longer. The recommended maximum period for hard boiled eggs is 15-18 minutes, in order to avoid overcooking.
Step 4: Strain the water from the saucepan and “shock” the eggs with cold water to stop the process of cooking.
Tip: You can also just transfer the eggs into a bowl of cold water using a slotted spoon, especially if there is a larger number of eggs in the saucepan.
Method 2: Boiling the Eggs in Hot Water
Advantages: “Hard boiled eggs cook best if they are not boiled at all.” With this method, you have more control over the cooking process because you know the exact moment the eggs hit the boiling water and you can measure the time with confidence. The method ensures consistent results every time.
Disadvantages: The eggs are very likely to crack if you are not careful enough when dropping them into the saucepan.
- Step 1: Fill a heavy-bottom saucepan with water and heat it until it boils (rolling boil again).
- Step 2: Remove the boiled water from the hot burner.
- Step 3: Immediately drop the eggs one by one into the hot water. Do this gently, using a slotted spoon to avoid cracking as well as burning your hands with splashes of hot water.
Repeat steps 4 and 5 from the previous method.
Method 3: Baking the Eggs in the Oven
Advantages: This method is a minimum mess and minimum stress, no splashing hot water, no timers, no checking if the water is boiling.
Disadvantages: It takes more time than the boiling stovetop methods. Also, baked eggs might have small reddish-brown spots on the shell and on the egg white. Another possible downside is that the yolk might shift from the center. So, if you want your eggs to have the perfect appearance, this method is not for you.
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Tip: If your oven is a bit weaker or you are preparing a large number of eggs, you can increase the heat to 350 degrees F.
Step 2: Place the whole (unbroken) eggs in a muffin tin.
Tip: The smaller the muffin tin, the better. If you use mini tin cups, the eggs won’t roll around too much and the possibility of cracks will be reduced. If the tin is not completely filled with eggs, arrange them in the center so that you can easily balance it.
Step 3: Place the muffin tin into the oven and set bake for half an hour.
Step 4: When the eggs are done, don’t wait for them to cool, but place them at once in a previously prepared bowl filled with ice cold water. Let them there for 10 minutes.
Warning! The eggs will be very hot, so use tongs to avoid burning your fingers.
Tip: Baked eggs usually get brown dots. These dots will disappear when you soak them in ice water.
Tools that Will Facilitate the Process of Hard Boiling Eggs
Besides the basic kitchenware used to make the perfect hard boiled eggs, namely a heavy bottom saucepan or muffin tins, as well as a slotted spoon or tongs (depending on the method of preparation you choose), there are a few helpful egg-boiling toys and gadgets you can introduce to your kitchen.
– Egg cooker. This electric appliance is an alternative to all the above-mentioned methods of egg boiling. It uses steam to cook the eggs in their shells and it can be adjusted to the desired level of doneness, i.e. to yield soft, medium, or hard boiled eggs. Some cookers allow up to seven eggs at a time and many of them have an automatic shut-off option that saves energy. Another upside of these kitchen devices is that some versions include additional inserts for poaching and frying eggs, measuring cups, piercers, etc. Bonus: they will keep the eggs warm while you prepare the rest of the food.
– Applications for smartphones. Whether you have an iPhone or an Android phone, you can download these timer apps that will assist you in your cook-the-perfect-egg mission. These timers are based on scientific research and calculate the time needed for the egg to reach the desired doneness. The best part is – they are free.
– Timers. You can go for a standard timer that will be positioned anywhere in the house you want, but there is one timer that can be placed inside the saucepan, together with the eggs. The egg-shaped color-changing boiled egg timer is very convenient to use due to its size and material (it is plastic and easily hand-washed). It reacts to heat just as a regular egg does and darkens as it heats up, indicating the level of doneness.
How to Peel a Hard Boiled Egg
Now that you have mastered the art of how to make the perfect hard boiled eggs, the only thing to do is to peel them. But how do you peel a boiled egg quickly, without making a mess and mutilating them? Peeling perfection is a mix of the method of boiling the eggs, the manner of cooling them, and, finally, the way you crack the shell. Most people do this under a cold running water, but there are a few more methods you can deploy.
- Crack the egg, roll with one hand on the counter (use a paper towel to reduce the mess to a minimum), then remove the shell while the egg is submerged in cold water.
- Fill a smaller pot or a glass with just a little bit of water. Add the eggs one by one, cover the pot with a plate and shake. Only a small portion of the shell will remain on the egg and it will be removed easily. You can also use a glass jar with a lid, but this method is even faster and easier if you have a larger deli container with a lid. Fill the container with water, place several eggs, cover with the lid and shake.
- Crack the top and bottom, remove the shell at these points and then blow the egg out. Yes, blow with your mouth, just make sure the egg doesn’t fly away across the kitchen.
- Crack shell, then insert a teaspoon under it and rotate the egg to remove the shell (the teaspoon remains under the shell all the time, i.e. until the shell falls off).
One last tip: The best way to store hard boiled eggs is in a covered container in the fridge. Eggs tend to give out specific smells, that is why it is wise to cover them. They should be eaten within five days.