How to hard “boil” an egg

Boiling an egg is reputedly easy. It’s not. It’s ridiculously easy to get wrong and to end up with eggs which are under or over cooked, or which break the shell while cooking, or are mangled when you peel. Also you’re not actually supposed to boil the water the egg is in – it results in a sulphurous yolk and a rubbery egg. Apparently about 80C is the right temperature for hard cooking an egg.

The internet is full of advice on how to do it right, as is basically every cookbook. I’ve found a lot of the proper ways are very hard to get consistent, depending on cooling rates or the age of the eggs you’re cooking. Here’s what I’ve found works:

  1. Cover the eggs with cold water. There should be quite a depth of water above the eggs – at least an inch, preferably two
  2. Add a heaped spoon of baking soda. Don’t skip this step. It makes the eggs dramatically easier to peel (apparently because it changes the pH of the water)
  3. Put the pan on high heat until the water just starts to boil – it shouldn’t be boiling violently, it should have just started to bubble slightly
  4. Turn the heat way down to its lowest setting. You want the temperature to drop but not too rapidly (standard advice seems to be to turn the heat off at this point, but I’ve found the results of doing that incredibly variable)
  5. Leave it for about ten minutes on the low heat
  6. Pour out the water and replace it with cold water. Leave it a few minutes
  7. Your hard boiled eggs should now be warm but not hot and perfectly cooked. If you want to keep any you should pour the water out again and replace it with more cold water. Any you want to eat now should be cool enough to touch and easy to peel

(Hat tip to Tim Ferris for the baking soda trick. I can’t make the egg blowing work but they’re so easy to peel with the baking soda it hardly matters)

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  1. Pingback: How to hard “boil” an egg, redux | David R. MacIver

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