How to Cook It: Hard-Boiled Eggs
The saying goes, “There’s more than one way to crack an egg.”? Well, there’s also more than one way to boil one.
Hard-boiling eggs in their shell is a popular and relatively easy way to prepare this versatile protein source as a convenient snack, fun appetizer, or tasty salad topper — among many, many other uses.
Eggs are a smart addition to a healthy diet for several reasons. They’re a good source of protein, and at just 78 calories per large egg, per the?U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), they qualify as lean protein. Egg yolks are a top source of essential nutrients, including choline, a compound that plays a role in memory, mood, and muscle control, according to the?National Institutes of Health, and they have every vitamin except C, according to a?study published in the journal?Nutrients?in March 2019.?Although eggs were once criticized for their cholesterol content, they’ve been redeemed by research that found that dietary cholesterol (the kind in food) has little if any effect on blood cholesterol levels in most people.
Hard-boiling makes eggs more portable (they come in their own carrying case) and less messy to eat, and appeals to people who aren’t fans of runny yolks. While it sounds straightforward, even a brief internet search yields plenty of variations on this technique, such as baking soda added to the water for easy-to-peel shells, and a mason jar egg hack.
We took a closer look at popular hard-boiling hacks to see which are all they’re cracked up to be, and found the best method.
How to Hard-Boil the Perfect Egg
What to Put in the Water
Should you add anything to the cooking water when making hard-boiled eggs? Some sources, such as the blog Wholesome Yum, recommend adding vinegar to the cooking water. The theory is that the vinegar permeates the shell and makes the eggs easier to peel after cooking. Some vinegar advocates believe it may also help prevent the still-liquid contents from spreading into the water in the event an eggshell cracks during cooking. Another idea,?recommended by the?Food Network, is that a small amount of baking soda added to the boiling water?raises the pH of the eggs, making them easier to peel once cooked. You could try one or the other of these tricks, but not both at the same time, as the acidic vinegar and basic baking soda cancel each other out pH-wise.
Believe it or not, the temperature of the eggs and the temperature of the water before they go in are the two most important factors in determining how easy the eggs will be to peel. Start with cold eggs, straight from the refrigerator, advises Smithsonian Magazine. While some people start with the eggs in cold water and let the entire pot come to a boil, it’s actually better to place the eggs directly into or over water that is already boiling. The heat from the water (especially contrasted with the cold egg) causes the egg protein to coagulate immediately, pulling away from the eggshell. This action is what makes eggs cooked in this way significantly easier to peel. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then lower the temperature to a simmer just before using a spoon to carefully add the eggs.
While “boiled” is there in the name, eggs can also be hard-cooked with steam or even sous vide (a method in which food vacuum-sealed in a bag is immersed in heated water). Steaming the eggs is the clear winner, according to America’s Test Kitchen, because adding cold eggs to a pot of boiling water lowers the water temperature initially, preventing the eggs from cooking quickly and evenly. You won’t have this issue when using a steamer insert.
Age of the Eggs
While the shell color doesn’t matter, when it comes to easy-to-peel hard-boiled eggs, older eggs are the way to go! As it turns out, the egg white naturally pulls away from the membrane as eggs age, which means that farm-fresh eggs are actually harder to peel. So, while fresh eggs are delicious, they’re best used in other ways. Opt for store-bought (aka older) eggs if you’ll be making a batch of hard-boiled eggs. While the ideal time from laying to hard-boiling is debated, the general consensus is that older is better. Serious Eats recommends buying eggs that are close to their expiration date or letting your farm-fresh eggs sit in your fridge for at least two weeks.
How long you cook the eggs is another critical factor in determining the quality of the end product. Start the timer as soon as you add the eggs, and aim for 10 to 11 minutes for creamy yolks and 12 to 13 minutes for perfectly cooked-through yolks. Of course, don’t forget to add more cooking time if you’re using extra-large or jumbo eggs —?Savory Experiments recommends an additional 1 to 2 minutes. In general, you’ll want to cook only as many eggs at a time as will fit in a single layer in your steamer insert or pot. If you need to cook a large number of eggs, cook them in batches rather than overcrowding your pot.
This simple step is too important to skip! Once the timer goes off, use a spoon (steam is hot!) to carefully remove the eggs from the steamer insert and transfer them to a bowl filled with ice water (an ice bath). Allow the eggs to sit in the ice bath for several minutes until they can be easily handled. The ice water stops the eggs from continuing to cook past your desired doneness. Some suggest this polar plunge also makes them easier to peel because it shocks the egg and causes it to shrink away from the shell.
How to Peel
You may feel like the tough part is over, but peeling the egg can be the most frustrating step. If you have successfully cooked your egg over boiling water and then immediately cooled it in an ice bath, you’ll be in good shape for an egg that peels quickly and easily. In general, gently tapping the egg on a flat surface and then removing the eggshell piece by piece is what’s recommended. If, however, you’ll be shelling several eggs, this can be time consuming, and you'll likely make divots in your eggs if you rush.
If you’re feeling adventuresome, there are egg-peeling “hacks” you can try. Several YouTube videos?show how to blow an egg out of its shell. To do it, you crack and peel a small circle from the top and bottom of the egg, roll it on a flat surface to loosen the shell, then blow on one end. While this may be a good party trick, it’s not the most efficient or hygienic method.
Another option: Peel eggs underwater. One TikTok trend recommends doing this in a mason jar. Fill the jar one-quarter full with water and place a hard-boiled egg inside. Cover the jar tightly, shake it gently a few times, and the shell will slip right off. You can then retrieve the egg with a spoon. We tried it and it works!
However you peel ’em, perfect hard-boiled eggs are sure to enhance your day. Give our favorite recipe a try!
Best Hard-Boiled Eggs
- 6 large eggs, preferably cold
- Fill a medium saucepan with about 1 inch of water and place the pan over medium-high heat. Bring the water to a boil and turn off the heat.
- Add a steamer basket to the saucepan and gently place eggs into the steamer basket in a single layer. Return the heat to medium, cover the pot and steamer insert, and simmer for 12 minutes.
- While the eggs are cooking, prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside. Once the eggs are done, immediately remove them and place them in the ice bath until they are completely cool. Store in the refrigerator until serving.
Nutrition per egg: 78 calories, 5g total fat (1.6g saturated fat), 6g protein, 1g carbohydrates, 0g fiber, 0.6g sugar (0g added sugar), 62mg sodium