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The right way to boil an egg

By Hilary Meyer, November 29, 2011 - 12:47pm

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The right way to boil an egg

Hard-boiled eggs seem simple, but they’re one of the hardest things to cook—or to cook right, anyway. I know it sounds hard to believe, but they’re ridiculously easy to screw up.

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Think about the last hard-boiled egg you had. Chances are it wasn’t perfect. Maybe it had a rubbery texture. Maybe the yolk was a little green around the edges or the egg white was filled with pockmarks from the shell sticking to the surface of the white when it was peeled. Maybe it broke open while it was cooking. Maybe it smelled like sulfur. You probably ate it anyway—it’s not the end of the world—but a perfectly cooked hard-boiled egg is a treat. How do you avoid these pitfalls and end up with the perfect hard-boiled egg? Here are four tips on how to cook a perfect hard boiled egg.

1) Don’t boil your eggs.
“Hard-boiled egg” is a misnomer—you should never actually boil an egg at all, for two reasons. One, the boiling action of the water tosses eggs around the pan, causing them to crash into each other and possibly split open. If they crack open right away, the white seeps out of the shell and that spells disaster. The second reason is that the protein in the egg whites firms up, or coagulates, at a much lower temperature than you might expect—around 140 to 190 degrees F. (Water boils at 212 degrees F.) Although the yolk may be cooked perfectly, the whites have spent too much time in the heat and turn rubbery. They should cook at the barest simmer (or 180-190°F) to avoid these issues.

2) Don’t cook your eggs too long.
Plenty of people just let their eggs cook to oblivion to ensure the yolk is hard. But 10 minutes is really all you need for a light-textured white and a fully cooked yolk. If you want a soft-cooked egg (hard white, soft yolk), subtract 4 minutes from that. Take it longer than that and you may end up with an unpleasant (but harmless) sulfur smell. And just because they’re out of the hot water doesn’t mean they’re done cooking. Eggs can overcook if you don’t cool them down properly in ice-cold water when the cooking time is up.
Related: How to Break Your Bad Cooking Habits

3) Don’t insist upon the freshest eggs.
When it comes to what you’re eating, fresh is almost always best, but this may not be the case for hard-boiled eggs. It’s a fact that older eggs are easier to peel. If you keep your eggs in the refrigerator for several days before you cook them, the pH will increase slightly, making the white less prone to sticking stubbornly to the inner shell. You can also cook fresh eggs longer if you don’t mind the firmer texture.

4) Don't worry about the green around your yolk.
No one really wants to eat green eggs, but it’s commonplace for hard-boiled eggs to have a thin green coating around the yolk. It’s a harmless reaction between sulfur from the white and iron from the yolk. You can avoid this simply by using fresher eggs (older eggs are more prone to this) and by not overcooking them.
Related: 6 Simple Secrets for Perfect, Velvety Deviled Eggs

So what is the right way to boil an egg? Here is what we recommend:
Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low and cook at the barest simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, pour out hot water and cover the eggs with ice-cold water. Let stand until cool enough to handle before peeling.
Recipes to Try: EatingWell Cobb Salad and More Recipes with Hard-Boiled Eggs
Italian Egg Drop Soup and More Egg Recipes for $2 or Less

What’s your secret for a perfectly cooked egg? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Hilary Meyer, Food Blog, Cooking tips

Hilary Meyer
EatingWell Associate Food Editor Hilary Meyer spends much of her time in the EatingWell Test Kitchen, testing and developing healthy recipes. She is a graduate of New England Culinary Institute.

Hilary asks: What’s your secret for a perfectly cooked egg?

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