Hard-boiled is a popular way to eat eggs and for some really great reasons:

  • They’re easy to make.
  • You can make them well in advance.
  • They’re easy to eat on the go.
  • You can use them in salads or other recipes like deviled eggs.

Hard-boiled eggs are one of those recipes that can be trickier than you would expect, though. Eggs can go from soft-boiled to hard-boiled to overboiled in a matter of minutes, giving your previously perfect eggs an odd color and taste. Is there a trick to making the perfect hard-boiled eggs each time?

The Differences Between Soft-Boiled, Hard-Boiled, and Overboiled

The ferocity of the boil, the intensity of the heat, and the length of time you boil the egg all determine what kind of eggy outcome you’ll get. To know how to boil eggs, it’s important to know first the difference between soft-boiled, hard-boiled, and overcooked eggs. Each qualifier refers to how cooked the eggs are but, more specifically, how firm the proteins within the egg whites and yolk have become.

Soft-boiled eggs refer to boiled eggs that are still firm enough to hold their shape (or set), but the yolks are still runny and golden. In some cases, the yolks may be a little more set, but they definitely shouldn’t be fully set. If they reach that point, you’ve made hard-boiled eggs, when the proteins have firmed but the yolk remains a bright yellow.

You can overcook hard-boiled eggs, even if you just left them in boiling water a little too long. This won’t ruin them; they just won’t be as good. So, how do you know if you’ve overcooked the eggs? The big sign is a sulfuric smell as soon as you begin peeling back the shell. Once you cut the egg open, you’ll notice a grey or greenish color to the yolk. This is caused by a reaction between the sulfur in the egg whites and other chemicals found in the yolk. The yolk will also appear dried and crumbly. You can still use overcooked hard-boiled eggs, but we suggest using them as part of a recipe like egg salad or deviled eggs so you can cover some of the changes in flavor.

Hard-Boiled Egg Cooking Method

It’s time to get cooking (or boiling in this case) our eggs. So, how do we get the perfect hard-boiled egg? Everyone swears by their method, but there are a few key similarities between the best that we’ve tested and personally use. The boiling time may vary based on your preference and the size of the egg (with about five minutes of extra boiling for extra large eggs compared to medium eggs), so keep that in mind while watching your own eggs boil. We suggest erring on the side of less boiled, since an underboiled hard-boiled egg is still a delicious soft-boiled egg.

  1. Place your eggs in an empty saucepan or pot.
  2. Fill the pot with cool water until covering the eggs by about an inch.
  3. Place the saucepan over high heat and bring the water to a rolling boil.
  4. Immediately turn the temperature to low and bring the water to a steady simmer.
  5. Allow to simmer for 9 minutes (for medium eggs) to 14 minutes (for extra large eggs).

After Cooking

Once you’ve reached this point in making the eggs, it’ll be time to remove them from the boiling water, but the cooking isn’t done. This is where a lot of people accidentally overcook their eggs. Removing the eggs from boiling water doesn’t immediately stop cooking. Eggs continue to cook while they remain hot.

Your first step once you remove the eggs from the hot water is to shock them, typically by submerging them into ice water. Alternatively, you could pour cold water over the eggs as you pour the hot water out. Once you allow the eggs to sit in the cold or ice water and cool fully, they’ll be ready to peel.

After giving your eggs a cold bath, gently crack the shell in a few different places on the egg. Next, gently roll the egg on your counter fully around a few times to disconnect the shell from the egg. You could also roll the egg between your hands. Under barely running water, begin peeling the shell back from the egg, starting with the wider end. Now, repeat the steps for all the eggs you made, and you’re all done!

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Hard-boiled eggs are such a great treat that seem so simple to make, but the reality is they’re surprisingly easy to overcook. With these tips, you can crack the code for the perfect hard-boiled egg.