Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How to make perfect hard boiled eggs

Behold, Excalibur!

 You will need: a stove, oven mitts, a pot with a lid, a spoon or egg transferring device, a timer that shows minutes, a mixing bowl, ice cubes, water and large eggs.

* Note, these instructions for perfect hard-boiled eggs work for me and my little steel pot on my gas stove. Your milage my vary. 

The key to making perfect hard-boiled eggs is to make them over and over, figuring out how your pot and stove cook eggs. I find that brand matters, at least to me. I find Egglands Best taste better than the supermarket brand. They don't pay me to say that but if they sent some eggs my way I wouldn't complain.


 "Geology is the study of pressure and time." So saith Morgan Freeman in The Shawshank Redemption. Perfect hard boiled eggs are a study in egg age and time. That is to say, eggs that were just delivered to the supermarket might not be the best. Neither are eggs that have been sitting in the refrigerator for a month. Good eggs are somewhere in-between. The time factor refers to boiling time, sitting time, and cool down time.

A word on size: I don't use jumbo or extra-large eggs. Large is the perfect size. Even in terms of shape, an egg that is closer to spherical is likely to turn out better than one that is longer and.or pointier.

Brown eggs? White eggs? It doesn't matter. Eggs is eggs. You can quote me on that. Wait, don't quote me on that, people will realize I have terrible grammar.

I put my eggs in my little steel pot and put in enough water so that they are submerged. If they float, that is okay. Floaters might be a little older and more air has permeated the egg's air cell. If your eggs are floating halfway out of the water, take a photo of that, send it to me and then throw your eggs in the garbage before the FDA finds out.

Don't crowd the pot too much. If its getting crowded, use a bigger pot, but I say this: perfect hard-boiled eggs are best eaten fresh. I eat mine within a half-hour of peeling. So unless your making them for a bunch of people, like on Passover, just make two or three.

Lid goes on the pot, pot goes on the stove, sharks in the stove, our shark. Wait, what? Oh, just put the lid on the pot and the pot on the stove, then turn the stove on to high. Check the pot frequently to see if the water is boiling. If you don't want to check the pot frequently, you lack the proper motivation to make perfect hard-boiled eggs. Anyway, when the water boils turn off the stove but DO NOTHING ELSE! Leave the lid on the pot and the pot on the stove (sharks in the stove, our shark) and set a timer for 18 minutes. This is the sitting time.

eggs in a pot

Don't do this
Don't do this, leave the pot lid on and turn off the stove.

When there is 1 minute left on the timer, take a mixing bowl and fill it with cold tap water. Put ice in it, but not too much ice, you're not transporting organ transplants, you just want the eggs to cool off so they stop cooking. I find that 1 to 3 ice cubes per egg is good, depending on the size of the ice cubes. Don't forget about water displacement, don't fill the bowl up all the way with water and ice.

Ice water

When the timer goes off, use a spoon or specialized egg handling device (my implement was bestowed upon me by my mother, like Excalibur) to transfer the hot eggs into the icy waters. This is the cooling time. Set the timer for 20 minutes.

The egg mover

I am convinced that during the boiling, sitting and cooling in water, some of the water has permeated the egg shell (though I don't know it for a fact). This will make it easier to peel the eggs, which you will do when the cooling time is up. Some people put unpeeled eggs in the fridge to eat at a later date, but this will dehydrate them as moisture diffuses out of the shell. Fresh eggs taste fresh; old eggs, not so much.

Cooling your eggs

My shiny huevos

Peeling. Some people find this to be the most irritating part of making herd-boiled eggs. It can be. It depends not only on how long they cooked and cooled, but on the eggs too. Some eggs just don't want to give up the shell. It's okay. Maybe the next batch you make will be better. If you make them enough you will eventually get some perfect ones. You will also learn finesse, which is what it really takes to peel an egg.

How the shell should peel off

Finesse that membrane!


To start the shell removal process, I put a paper towel down on the counter. I don't smack the egg straight down, I come at a slight angle and then turn the egg around while tapping it on the counter at an angle the whole way 'round (like a cork-screw) until I'm at the other end. Why not straight down? What I'm trying to do is to coax the membrane that is between the hard shell and the egg (but mostly attached to the hard shell) to slip away from the egg and glide on is shiny smooth surface. It does not always work, but that is my technique.

Next, look for any place where a bit of shell is sticking up. This is the only time you might use you finger nails, and only if you really have to. once I get a bit up, I try to slide the bottom of my thumb between the shell and the egg. This is the finesse part. If Zeus is pleased that day and the membrane is sticking to the shell and not the egg, it usually comes right off and I slide my thumb around the egg in a cork-screw pattern, or whatever it takes to knock the shell off. I'm describing a best-case scenario, of course. If it does't work, try another spot on the egg. I have shelled eggs in seconds with this method, but not every time.

If the peeling experience does not go that way at all, don't worry, the egg is still good. Throw finesse by the wayside and go to town. You may rip off some egg white, but it happens.

Peeled eggs

I don't care for that membrane I had mentioned. If your making egg salad its not as big a deal, but if you are eating the hard boiled egg as is, I suggest removing it. It can be very hard to see and there may be small bits that don't come off with the rest. Run the egg under cool tap water and slide the fleshy pad of your thumb around the egg. In places where it is smooth and slippery, the membrane has been removed. If you hit a spot that is not as smooth, you've got membrane. Use your fingers as pincers to find and edge of the membrane and pull it slowly, trying to get as much as possible.

Even if the shell came off easily, I always run them under cool water while rubbing them. This removes any tiny bits of membrane, or worse, shell.

Hot sauce and hard-boiled eggs

Now eat your eggs. The yolks should be perfect. If you used raw eggs that were a little too old, you might encounter some softer spots on the whites. I like to cut my eggs in half and pour Jalepeño hot sauce on them.


Also, read about the time I made hard-cooked eggs in the oven.

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