The humble hard-boiled egg may just be nature’s perfect food. Naturally high in protein, and full of healthy fats, eggs are an inexpensive and convenient way to round out a meal or quiet an afternoon hunger pang. Eggs are full of vitamins A (for your eyes) and D (to build strong bones) and at just 80 calories each, they’ll satisfy without leaving you stuffed. Hard-boiling eggs makes them tidy and portable, perfect as a grab-n-go breakfast or for tucking into lunch boxes. And while they may seem simple to make, hard-boiling eggs can pose some tricky problems. Maybe you started with old eggs, or you walked away from the pot. As easy as it may seem we’ve all struggled to nail our ideal egg. Even when we do get the timing right, then peeling can pose a challenge. We’ve rounded up our best egg tips and tricks to help you cook, peel, slice, and eat perfect hard-boiled eggs every time.
Old School: Boiling
Poke around the internet for 15 minutes and you’ll find lots of suggestions about how to cook a hard-boiled egg. Let us warn you right now, those new-fangled, head-scratching methods that don’t involve a pot and the stovetop? They’re not to be trusted. The best, most reliable method is boiling, in a pot, on the stove. Why do you think they call them hard-boiled anyway? Yes, there is one other method we can get behind (more on that below), but it’s the old-school approach that we like best. Our only update? Instead of bringing the eggs and water up to a boil together, and covering, we like to lower our eggs into already boiling water. That way you never miss the moment when the boiling starts and can set your timer with precision. Here’s how to nail it:
Fill a medium pot about ⅔ of the way with water. Six eggs fit comfortably in a medium pot, so if you want to boil more than a half dozen, you’re gonna need a bigger boat. If you’re nervous about your pot overflowing, place the eggs in the pot and cover with an inch of water. Remove the eggs, cover the pot, and then bring to a boil. (That simple test of the laws of displacement ensures you’ll have enough water to cover the eggs the whole time they’re under water.)
Once the water is boiling, gently lower eggs into the pool. We like to use a small strainer or spider for the job. Lower the eggs all the way to the bottom of the pot so they roll quietly off the strainer (otherwise they could crack when they hit the floor).
Immediately set a timer for 10 minutes. This is classic hard-boiled egg range and will be perfect for deviled eggs, egg salad, or snacking out of hand. Turn down your heat slightly so that the water is simmering vigorously but not boiling like crazy—that can cause the eggs to bump into one another and causing fissures and cracks.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. When the timer goes off, use your spider or strainer to lift the eggs out of the boiling water and immediately transfer to the ice bath. Let cool until easy to handle. This also helps to prevent that flat-bottomed divot that can form in a slowly cooling egg.
RELATED: How to Cook Hard-Boiled Eggs
New School: Steaming
As we mentioned above, most of those internet-bait ways to hard-boil an egg—baking, microwaving, dishwashing—are, well, a waste of a perfectly good egg if you ask us. Fun for science class, but not worth the time or the hassle. Our favorite method by far is stovetop boiling but there’s one other way that offers the same amount of control with little fuss or fright: steaming. All it requires is your same trusty medium pot and a steamer basket. We’ve been known to rig up our own make-shift steamer with some aluminum foil and a plate, but we recommend using the real thing here. Steamer baskets are inexpensive and reliable so go ahead and put that in the Amazon cart now. Here’s how to do it.
Fill a medium pot with an inch or two of water. Lower in the steamer basket to be sure that the water doesn’t come up through the holes. If it does, pour off a little until the basket is just clear of the water. Cover and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low depending on your stove, so that water is just simmering and lower in the eggs.
Cover and steam to desired doneness, 10 minutes for hard-boiled.
Fill a large bowl with ice water. When the timer goes off, carefully lift the eggs out of the basket and immediately transfer to the ice bath. Let cool until easy to handle.
We realize that hard-boiled is not always the end goal but the method is the same for soft boiled and everything in between, simply adjust your timer accordingly.
Soft Boiled: 4 minutes—ideal for eating out of the shell with toast sticks
Medium boiled: 6 minutes—float on top of noodle soups like ramen or add to a frisee salad
Hard-boiled: 10 minutes—ready to be deviled, smashed into egg salad, or eaten out of hand
There are two secrets to easily peeling a hard boiled egg. One you can control and one you can’t, or at least one that’s a lot harder to control unless you have a coop full of chickens out back. Instinct might lead you to believe that using the freshest farm eggs you can find is always a good idea. But super fresh eggs are best used for scrambling, frying, or poaching. The fresher the egg, the harder it will be to peel after boiling due to a bunch of science-y reasons I won’t bore you with here (but if you’re curious, more here). The other trick is chilling your eggs thoroughly before peeling. This gives the eggs time to firm up inside making it stronger and more resistant to the picking and peeling.
Let eggs cool completely in an ice bath, at least 15 minutes.
Working one at a time, crack an egg in several places on the counter. If the egg is chilled thoroughly, you can do this pretty assertively by rolling along the counter.
If you still have the ice bath on hand, lower the cracked egg under the surface and peel the egg under water. Alternatively, peel the egg under cool running water.
Why go to all this trouble boiling an egg to your exact specifications if you’re just going to mess it up with a messy cutting job? Hard boiled egg slicers are an option but not necessary. If you’re presenting the eggs cut, you’ll want to use a clean dry knife. Rinse and wipe off the knife between each slice (just like if you were cutting brownies for a tidy edge). Repeat.