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Cooking hard-boiled eggs is one of those kitchen basics that I’ve had the hardest time mastering. After extensive recipe testing, I’ve come to the conclusion that cooking the perfect hard-boiled egg is no simple task. As a matter of fact, there are way too many recipes on the Internet right now that make this task seem easier than it actually is. So today, I’m sharing a detailed process for preparing Foolproof Hard-Boiled Eggs. This process has made the act of boiling eggs 100 times more enjoyable for me, and I hope it does the same for you.
Before we get to all of that, let’s review some of the challenges associated with cooking a hard-boiled egg:
- It’s a proven fact that the moment you turn your back on a pot of hard-boiled eggs to-be, is the exact moment that the water will start boiling. So when you return from that quick trip to the bathroom or that short email break, you cry out, “Oh shit, the water is boiling.” And then you start to wonder, “How long has it been boiling? Just a minute? Two minutes? Should I turn the heat off now?” At that point, your timing is completely ruined, and all you can do is hope for the best.
- Let’s face it. Peeling hard-boiled eggs might be one of the worst kitchen tasks EVER. It’s up there with skimming fat off soup, and straining anything through a coffee filter. You stand at your kitchen sink for 5 minutes with the water running, carefully peeling the shell away from the egg. You peel a little, but then a chunk of the egg white comes off. You peel a little more, hoping that no egg will come off, but then more white breaks away. You repeat this process until your egg looks like it suffered a shotgun wound at nearly point blank. Then you look beside the sink to see you still have 11 more eggs to go. Womp womp.
- So finally you get to the point where you can eat one of your hard-boiled eggs, and you cut it open to find a powdery, grayish-yellow egg yolk. AND it smells like sulfur. YUM!
These challenges have kept me from cooking hard-boiled eggs over the years, only making an exception for the occasional deviled egg. But last year, I tackled these challenges with vigor, eventually leading to the process outlined below. Continue reading for more details.
Let’s start with the eggs. I’m using regular grocery store eggs here. No fancy organic ones. It’s best if your eggs are a week old. Why you ask? As time passes, the acidity level of the egg white decreases. If the acidity level of the egg white is high, it will bind with the surrounding skin during the cooking process, making it difficult to peel. If the acidity level of the egg white is low, the connection between the egg and the skin will be looser, making it easier to peel. It’s for this reason that I also add a little baking soda to the cooking water. Baking soda reduces acidity.
In addition to using week old eggs, I also poke a tiny hole in each egg to help with the shell-removing process at the end. I like to use a small T-pin that I’ve sterilized on the stove top, then cooled under running water. Using a pin, pierce the flatter part (the bottom) of each egg just through the shell (not all the way into the egg). I find that the eggs that have been pierced are easier to peel.
Next, the boiling process. Add the eggs to a medium-sized saucepan, and cover with cold water an inch above the eggs. Yes, I use a tape measure to figure this out. Put the saucepan over a medium-high flame, and place the tip of a probe thermometer into the water. Water boils at 212°F, so set your thermometer to sound the alarm at 209°F. I like to give myself a little time get to the kitchen, and prepare for the next step. As soon as the water starts to boil, set a timer for 1 minute. The moment that minute is up, take the saucepan off the heat, cover, and let sit for 8 to 10 minutes. Timing will depend on the type of pan you use. I’d recommend 8 minutes the first time you try this. If the yolks are still a little squishy, try 9 minutes on your next batch.
Using a probe thermometer to boil eggs may seem a bit over-the-top, but it completely eliminates challenges #1 and #3 above. You will never over-cook an egg again. If you don’t have a probe thermometer, you should just get one. They are also handy when trying to figure out the doneness of a piece of meat or when sous viding at home.
Once the 8 – 10 minutes are up, I quickly transfer the eggs to an ice bath to stop the cooking process. After a 5 minute wait, I am able to peel each egg quickly and with ease. No gash marks on the egg. No waterlogged, irritated finger tips. Just pure hard-boiled egg perfection.
Foolproof Hard-Boiled Eggs
- Eggs, preferably over a week old
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
While the eggs are still in the carton, pierce the flatter end of each egg (the bottom) with a sterilized pin. Only go through the shell, not into the center of the egg. Place eggs in a single layer at the bottom of a medium sized saucepan, and sprinkle with baking soda. Cover the eggs with cold water by an inch.
Insert the tip of a probe thermometer into the water, and set the alarm for 209°F. Bring the eggs to a boil over medium-high heat. The thermometer will sound the alarm when the water is about to come to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute, then immediately take the saucepan off the heat, cover, and let sit for 8 - 10 minutes.
While the eggs are resting, prepare an ice bath (a medium bowl filled with ice and water). Scoop the eggs from the saucepan into the ice bath, and let sit for 5 minutes. Peel eggs under cold running water, returning each peeled egg to the ice bath. Discard shells. Let eggs sit in the ice bath until completely chilled. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about 1 week.