How to Boil the Perfect Egg

Boiled EggBoiled Egg

I always thought that it was dead-simple to boil an egg. Just take as many eggs as you need, put them in a saucepan of cold water, bring to the boil and boil on low heat for 10-15 minutes. I thought boilng eggs was as simple as that.

But was I ever wrong. I could never understand why the eggs would crack, or why whenever I removed the shell, I removed most of the egg as well. Well, really, it's not that I didn't understand, I never gave it much thought. Not the perfect boiled egg, I grant you, but that's life. I found I could live with it.

Then one day, the subject came up while talking with a friend of mine who is a chef. Not your everyday subject, I agree, and I usually stick with the football results anyway, but then again, he's a chef. Long story short, it turned out I knew nothing about boiling eggs, and was in dire need of a refresher course entitled "how to boil the perfect egg".

Here's what I learned - the five steps necessary to boil the perfect egg:

Center the yolks. This is a great idea if you want to used the boiled eggs as wedges in a salad or for other decorative purposes, or if you're planning to make deviled eggs (See my best deviled eggs recipe here). The easiest way to do this is by simply rotating the eggs so they lie on their side in the carton they came in for about 8 hours or overnight.

Remove the eggs from the fridge about half an hour before you intend to prepare them, and allow them to gradually reach room temperature. This will reduce the amount of cracking of the shells due to extreme temperature changes.

Place the eggs in a saucepan or pot that will hold them comfortably, well spaced with plenty of room between each egg. I usually boil a few more eggs than I intend to use with my recipe - sometimes severe cracks that occur during boiling will make an egg unusable, or one will peel badly, and sometimes (frequently) I'll feel a little peckish, and have one of the eggs as a quick snack.

Fill the pot with cold water, covering the eggs completely. Cover the pot and place on your heat source. When the water starts boiling, remove the pot. If you keep it boiling for a length of time, the eggs will churn around and likely collide, cracking the shell. The churning also turns the egg white really hard. Eggs solidify at a much lower temperature than water boils, so to get a great boiled egg you should first let the water reach boiling point, then immediately remove the pot from the heat source.

Sprinkle a teaspoon or so of salt over the eggs, and leave them in the hot water for about 30 more minutes.

When the time is up, place the eggs in a bowl of ice-water. This rapid cooling prevents the chemical reaction that causes the greenish ring that forms around the yolk. It also makes the eggs easier to peel. Leave the eggs in the ice-water for about 20 minutes

To peel the egg, give it a few gentle taps on your working surface or other hard surface. When the shell is completely fractured, return the egg to the bowl of ice-water. Repeat the process with the rest of the eggs and leave them in the water for about 10 minutes.

To peel, take one of the eggs and roll it between your palms. If the shell is stubborn, roll the egg under cold running water. Removing a small portion of the shell will generally allow the rest to slide off easily.

Well, now you know how to boil the perfect egg. More of a hassle than just plunking the eggs into a saucepan? True, but I'm sure you'll appreciate the small extra effort when you see the results. And anyway, you have plenty else to do while the eggs are cooling, don't you?