How to Make a Perfectly Boiled Egg Every Time

I don’t know about you, but I am always on the lookout for an easy-to-make, energy-dense, and easy-to-eat breakfast food. And I think I’ve found it in the simple boiled egg.

Boxed cereals are way overpriced (not to mention that most contain so much sugar that they make your mouth hurt). Oatmeal pretty much grosses me out. Fruit is great but by itself isn’t an energy-dense enough meal for me, leaving me a starving hypoglycemic shell of myself by 10am (Forgive a tangent: I’ll write an entire post at some point on the concept of the “energy density” of food because it plays such an important role in your energy levels, body weight, body fat, and overall health).

But eggs are pretty much the perfect food, not just because they meet all of these aforementioned requirements, but also because they are quite good for you too.

So today, I’m going to give a tutorial on how to make a perfectly boiled egg every time. You can benefit from my years of experience boiling and peeling eggs (okay, so maybe I haven't amounted to much in life...) and enjoy all the benefits of one of nature’s nearly perfect foods. :)

What Can Go Wrong?
These are the primary problems that crop up when boiling eggs:

1) The eggs crack and leak when you boil them, leaving white goo everywhere in the pan, or causing rubbery egg white to bulge and blob outside of the eggshell.
2) The fricking shells won’t peel off easily, and the egg white sticks to the shell as you peel it off.
3) Your eggs are under- or overdone relative to your tastes.

Avoiding Shell Crackage
Nobody wants an egg with rubbery white leaking outside the shell. Typically this problem occurs when you subject a refrigerated egg to a more massive temperature change than it can handle, causing the shell to break. It’s easy to avoid this:

1) First place your eggs in a pot of cool water and place on stove.
2) Then set burner to medium-low only for 3-4 minutes.
3) Only THEN do you turn the burner to medium high.
4) When water then reaches a rolling boil, turn the burner OFF and set the timer for 10 minutes.

Adding steps 1-3 will dramatically reduce the odds of a broken or cracked egg. These little guys are not lobsters, to be cruelly plopped into a pot of already boiling water. Treat them with care and gentleness!

Cooking Eggs to Perfection
Now this next bit of subtlety depends on what kind of eggs you are using. Are you using medium eggs? Large? Extra large? Jumbo? Ostrich? We will adjust the amount of time we set on the timer based on both the way you want your egg cooked AND the type of egg you are using.

Do you DEMAND your egg to be fully, solidly cooked through? If so, then add one minute to make it 11 minutes for large eggs and extra-large eggs. Add two minutes for jumbo eggs to make it 12 minutes. I was kidding about the ostrich eggs, but if you're dying to know, leave a comment below and I can look into it.

What if you want your eggs to be a little gooey in the center? Then set the timer for just 7-8 minutes for medium eggs (experiment with this a little to get the timing down exactly), with adding perhaps an extra minute for extra large or jumbo eggs to make it 8 or 9 minutes.

Shell Game
Finally, I’ll share with you a technique for cracking and peeling off the eggshell that works extremely consistently:

First drain the hot water out of the pan, and replace with a couple of inches of cold water (enough to mostly cover the eggs).

Then take an egg and crack it thoroughly on the edge of the pan, make sure all of the shell is nicely broken up all around the entire surface of the egg. (Note that it doesn’t HAVE to be the side of the pan. You can crack your egg on whatever you like: on the floor, on your rock hard abs, on the side of your head, etc. Go crazy. Just try and keep it out of your eyes).

Um, right. Okay... while you’re cracking the egg on whatever surface you’ve chosen, make sure the eggshell is thoroughly cracked all over the surface of the egg. Then--and here’s the important part--place the egg BACK into the water after you crack it. Let the egg sit there for 30 seconds to one minute, to let water seep into the cracks in the shell and around the inside of the shell. THEN peel off the shell. This is the critical step that will protect the white from sticking to the shell when you peel the shell off! The shell should come off quite easily.

How to Season a Boiled Egg?
Some people will put butter (or worse, margarine) on their eggs. I do not condone this. I also know that some misguided souls might shake a little salt onto their boiled egg. Some truly unethical souls might shake a LOT of salt onto their boiled egg. But readers of this blog all know that using salt = cheating.

I suggest you do this instead: shake a little cayenne pepper or chipotle pepper onto the egg and leave it at that. Try it! It’ll add a little fire to your morning.

A Final Note: Cholesterol
I know the primary objection most people have to eating eggs is their fear of cholesterol. Please don’t get wrapped around the axle on this issue. In my case, thanks to lots of long-distance running and a tendency to overindulge in red wine, I have great cholesterol numbers and ratios despite the fact that I eat boiled eggs for breakfast two to three times a week.

If you are dying to eat multiple boiled eggs every day, AND your cholesterol is high, then that’s a different story. In that case, I’d suggest you limit yourself to at most one egg maybe four or five times a week.

If you really can’t restrain yourself and simply must have multiple eggs every day (I secretly hope that my readership has more classic addictions like dark chocolate or pie or something... but hey, there are all kinds of people out there), at least skip the yolks and just eat the whites. Or barring that, pour yourself a little extra Chianti a few times a week with dinner, and then consider exercising a little bit every other day to get your HDL numbers a bit higher. :)



Anonymous said...

So what DO you do with an egg that cracks while boiling?

OK, I admit I like to keep the water boiling the whole time instead of turning off the burner once a rolling boil starts. Now I know this is why so many of my boiled eggs crack!

But what if all proper methods of boiling an egg are followed, yet an egg insists on breaking and leaking? Do you eat it anyway?


Daniel said...

Wow, great question.

Um, without going into too much detail, I usually give the cracked egg to my wife to eat. :)

Thanks for reading!


Carmen Forsman said...

The only way I know how to make sure that an eff won't crack when it boils is to poke a little pin whole on the end before cooking. I actually think that there are "tools" for doing so that are sold in fancy kitchen stores - but any old pin (or sewing needle) will work.
I make serveral hard boiled eggs a week for my four year old son, who perfers them straight - no salt, no tabasco...

Daniel said...

Eggs straight, no chaser... sounds like your son is my kinda guy! :)

Anonymous said...

If you want to avoid leaking, add a little salt to the water before putting the eggs in. Half a teaspoon tops. Even if they will break, they won't leak.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I'm enjoying your blog and your sense of humor, which is important both in and out of the kitchen! Be sure and thank your cousin Judy for sending me the link. I also turn off the stove as soon as the water boils and let the egg sit for 10 minutes. But then, I cover the pot and remove it from the burner. Very few cracks this way. Bet my average is better than yours! Could you write a little something about lima beans? They're quite nutritious and don't get the recognition they deserve. Plus, they're a lovely color!

Daniel said...

Thank you Kim!! Really appreciate the positive vibes.

Lima beans, eh? I will see what I can come up with. I might have a slight problem here however as my wife refuses to sit in the same room with a lima bean. But I'll think of something. :)

Anonymous said...

I look forward to reading about lima beans in a future post. Rather than locking your wife out of the kitchen in an attempt to save her from the limas, throw a little cash her way and send her shopping. That's what my husband does when he decides to cook squirrel meat. Works for him (and me) every time! Keep up the great work!

Anonymous said...

LIAR! LIAR! LIAR! I followed your instructions for the soft boiled eggs, and now I'm stuck with soldier strips with nothing to dip them in. I'm heart broken.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! Entertaining and informative blog. :) Can't wait to try peeling the little darlings the easy way! Do you know what causes the greyish colour around the surface of the yolk in some eggs???

Daniel said...

Hi Anon, thanks for your question. From what I understand, that greyish film is just a mild chemical reaction that occurs between the white and the yolk. It's nothing to worry about and the only problem it presents is it makes the egg a bit less aesthetically pleasing to eat. Also, you'll find that this film is usually more prominent the longer you cook your eggs.


Anna said...

I'm lazy. Instead of cracking the shell of each egg individually, I just drain the water from the pot, put on the lid, and violently shake the pot for a few seconds. That breaks the shells really nicely. Then add the cold water. Other than that, my method is pretty much the same.

Noelle said...

Wow! I followed your instructions exactly and this is the first time I have ever made perfectly peel-able hard boiled eggs! Thank you!! I did two eggs your way and one egg without cracking and putting back in water, that one was horrible to peel, with white chunks coming off, the other two just peeled right away from the egg.

Anonymous said...

Another trick to make them easy to peel is to remove them from the hot water and cool in an ice bath for a few minutes. While they're cooling re-heat the hot water to a gentle boil. Return the eggs to the hot water for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Then return them to the ice bath until completely cool. The cold-hot-cold again process loosens the shells.

Daniel said...

Great tip Anon. Thanks for sharing!