One of the simplest things to cook is a boiled egg. A properly boiled egg is inexpensive, nutritious, versatile and exquisite. The concept is simple; cover the eggs with water in a pot and apply heat for just the right amount of time to cook the egg. The perfect hard boiled egg is completely cooked with tender whites and golden yellow yolks and not a trace of gray green around the yolk. This is very hard to achieve. So hard, in fact, that there is a company that mass produces perfect hard boiled eggs for the food service industry, at an inflated price of course, but they are perfect. A good chef in a good restaurant will always pay close attention to the eggs at the salad station knowing that this “simple thing” will make them look bad if it is not done correctly and still that perfect egg usually eludes them forcing them to toss the current batch shouting expletives at the cook in charge of that station. Why is it so hard to cook the perfect boiled egg?
There are certainly several reasons; not the least of which is forgetting about them and letting them boil until the water is almost gone…don’t laugh, I have seen this happen. There are several ways to achieve this almost impossible goal. Most of these methods start by placing the eggs in cold water, bringing them to a boil, letting them boil for a specific amount of time or rest in the hot water and then chilling them as fast as possible. One method I mention below even has you put the eggs in boiling water, boiling them for a time and then letting them rest in the hot water before finally chilling them. Each method has its advantages and its disadvantages; so why not just find one and stick with it? You could…but I have had the experience of finally finding a method that seemed to work for me and trying to use that method in a different kitchen and it did not work. Maybe it has something to do with the mineral content of the water or the altitude, which might affect the boiling point. Maybe it’s the pot, whether it is heavy bottomed or what material it is made of. Perhaps the eggs were colder to start with. No way to tell. That is why I offer these different methods…read them…one of them will grab you as a good way to go…and then try them…don’t be afraid to modify them or combine them to find the method that works for you.
… a barely cooked egg, where the whites are just coagulated but still a little runny and the yolks make a luxurious sauce that begs to be soaked up with toasted bread.
For coddled eggs plunge the eggs into boiling water, remove the pot from the heat, cover and let them rest in the hot water for 4-6 minutes depending on how firm you want the finished egg.
- Use older eggs. They are easier to peel.
- Do not season the water with salt or vinegar. Season the finished peeled eggs. Seasoning the water is just a waste of seasoning.
- For best results, don’t put too many eggs in a pot at one time, no more than 2 layers, to ensure even cooking.
- Cover the eggs by 1½ inches of water. There is no need to waste time, water, and fuel covering them with more than that.
- If you stir the eggs during cooking, it can help to keep the yolks centered. This is useful for deviled eggs.
- When the eggs are done, drain away the hot water and immerse in cold running water until most of the heat is dissipated and then add ice which will get the centers of the eggs cold much faster.
- Peel the eggs under running water. This will get under the thin membrane of the shell and make removal easier and wash away small pieces of shell that are left behind. What is worse than a piece of shell in the egg salad?
Most recipes for boiled eggs start with covering the eggs with cold water, bringing them to a rolling boil, simmering for a short period of time, removing the heat, and letting them sit in the hot water for a specific period, cooling them, peeling, and enjoying them. Here are a few schemes to pick from:
- Place the eggs in a pot, cover with cold water using the tip above, bring to a boil, maintain a rolling boil for 1 minute, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes before cooling in an ice bath.
- Place the eggs in the pot as above and after boiling starts, reduce the heat to low for 30 seconds, remove from heat, cover and let sit for 15 minutes before cooling in the ice bath.
- Do as above and boil for 3 minutes, remove from heat and allow to stand for 20 minutes, before cooling (James Beard method)
- Do as above, bring to rolling boil, reduce to simmer, and cook 10-12 minutes, then plunge into cold water at once (culinary school method)
- Use the coddled egg method, plunge the eggs into boiling water, allow to boil for 3 minutes, turn the heat off, and let the eggs rest for 9 minutes in the hot water.
There are a lot of things to do with hard boiled eggs; one of my favorite ways is to eat them seasoned with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper or just drizzled with soy sauce.