How to Boil Eggs

Five Methods:Soft-boiled egg - cold water to boilingSoft-boiled egg - plungingHard boiled eggs - cold water to boilingHard boiled eggs - adding to boiling and simmeringPeeling or slicing hard boiled eggs

Eggs are good for you – they contain vitamins A, D, and E, all the fats (especially lecithin), iron, sulfur, and proteins.[1] Boiling eggs is a great way to create an instant meal without too much ado – all you need to do is choose whether you like them soft or hard.

Boiling eggs can be tricky because you do not find out whether you have done it correctly until you cut open the product. The underlying process is a little more complicated than many people suspect, with a wide variety of factors influencing how the finished egg turns out. The good news is there are methods for nearly ensuring the right result each time, and just by following the steps here, you will get the results you are looking for.


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    Choose your preferred style of boiled eggs. Are you someone who prefers a soft-boiled egg or a hard-boiled egg? Occasionally, you might even have to make different levels of boiled egg just to please every member of the household! The times suggested throughout this article are dependent on personal preference, so some experimenting should take place. The types of boiled egg are:
    • Coddled, or soft-boiled – very gooey yolk.
    • Mollet eggs – these will have a semi-liquid yolk; outer white is firm enough for shell to be peeled.
    • Hard-boiled – yolk is cooked to firmness.
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    Choose your method. As you will see from the following various suggested methods, making boiled eggs is something of an art form that has arisen through trial and error for many centuries. If you don't already have a preferred method, perhaps try out each method to achieve the desired result before choosing one that you intend to rely on.
    • For soft boiled eggs, the rule of thumb is to use the shorter cooking times for softly set whites and runny yolks. Increase the cooking time for firmly set whites and slightly set yolks.[2]
    • For hard-boiled eggs, bear in mind that cooking the eggs any longer than 12 minutes should not be done because this risks turning the whites rubbery and the yolks crumbly.[3]
    • If you want the egg yolk to remain centered (often important for appearance when using a hard-boiled egg for a special dish), cook the eggs in cold water from the start and slowly bring to the boil. Stir gently using a wooden spoon as this happens, until they're boiling, and you'll find that the yolks stay centered.[4][5]
    • Note that when a method suggests boiling once the eggs are in the water, that this means simmering. Rapid boiling will cause the eggs to turn rubbery and tough. [6] High cooking temperatures toughen the protein in eggs, and since eggs coagulate with heat, the best cooking methods will always involve cooking slowly at a low temperature.[7]
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    Prepare the egg. Eggs that have been refrigerated for several days have a higher pH and are more likely to crack, but they are easier to peel. Cooking expert Rose Elliot recommends pricking the egg at its rounded end prior to boiling.[8] She suggests that doing this helps the air to escape and prevents the egg from bursting or cracking.[9][10] Special egg-prickers can be purchased, or you can use a needle. Alternatively, if you've never found this to be an issue with the eggs you use because you've kept them at room temperature or they're fresh from the hens, then you probably don't need to worry about it.
    • In each case, you can boil more than one egg at a time; just be sure there is sufficient room. It is possible to purchase special egg holders for more than one egg boiling – speak to a kitchen retailer for more details.
    • If the eggs do crack, a few drops of vinegar will stop leakage from the shell.[11]
    • A cracked egg can also be wrapped in aluminum foil and boiled.[12]
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    Remove hot eggs with care. Use a slotted spoon to remove eggs from boiling water and take the usual precautions around hot water.

Method 1
Soft-boiled egg - cold water to boiling

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    Choose room temperature eggs.[13]
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    Lay the eggs gently in an empty pot.
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    Cover the eggs with about 1" or 2.5cm of water. Use room temperature water. If the water is cold, the eggs will take longer to cook. If the water is hot, though, you may risk the water getting too hot too early and overcooking the eggs (that is, exposing the eggs to boiling temperature for too long).
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    Add one tablespoon of salt or vinegar to the water. This helps the proteins in the white coagulate faster so any cracks in the shell quickly get plugged.[14]
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    Cover the pot.
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    Bring the water to a boil. Stay close and listen; you should be able to hear the water come to a boil. Do not remove the lid to check. Remove the pot from heat as soon as the water is boiling. The eggs will not overcook. Keep the lid on so the water remains at slightly below boiling point. At this stage, decide about how long you want to leave the eggs in for:
    • Let the eggs sit for 3 to 5 minutes for coddled or "soft-boiled" eggs - runny yolk.
    • Let the eggs sit for 5-6 minutes for Mollet eggs - slightly runny yolk.
    • Remove the eggs as soon as the water boils. This is one method suggested by the Larousse Gastronomique for the cold water to boiling method.[15]

Method 2
Soft-boiled egg - plunging

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    Bring the water to the boil in the pot.
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    Select room temperature eggs.[16]
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    Add the eggs to the boiling water. Decide how long to plunge the eggs for:
    • Plunge the eggs into the boiling water and boil for three minutes.[17] Remove after the time is up.
    • Plunge the eggs into boiling water and boil for one minute only. Remove the pot from the heat and leave the eggs to stand for 3 minutes before removing them from the hot water with a slotted spoon.[18]

Method 3
Hard boiled eggs - cold water to boiling

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    Choose the eggs. The best eggs for hard-boiling are eggs that are several days old. [19] A fresh egg will be much harder to peel as the white still sticks to the shell. If you are planning on peeling the hard-boiled egg for other uses, keep this in mind if boiling eggs freshly collected from your hens.
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    Place the eggs into the empty pot. Add salt or vinegar to the water if you accidentally crack an egg. It may help the proteins in the egg white thicken faster to plug the cracks in the shell.[20]
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    Fill the pot with enough cold tap water to cover the eggs. Leave about 1 inch (3 cm) of water over them. Use cold water to help keep the eggs from overcooking, although doing this increases the cooking time.
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    Add just enough salt to make the water taste salty. This can make the eggs easier to peel because, as mentioned earlier, the proteins coagulate and firm up, making the white easier to separate from the shell. Also, eggs that are less fresh are easier to peel because their higher pH strengthens the membrane. (This can be simulated by making the cooking water more alkaline with a half teaspoon of baking soda per quart of water.)[21]
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    Put on the lid. Bring the water to the point of boiling, over high heat. From here, there are different approaches to the boiling times and methods:
    • This following method assumes you started with cold, refrigerated eggs. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat, but keep the pot on the warm stove. Do not remove the lid. Leave the eggs in the hot water for ten to fifteen minutes.[22] It is important you do not start the timer until the water starts boiling, and that you turn off the heat. Too much time will make the eggs discolored and smelly, while too little time will cause them to be runny.
    • The Larousse Gastronomique recommends that eggs (room temperature) should be cooked for 10-12 minutes and then plunged into cold water for 7-8 minutes. This will allow them to cool prior to shelling.[23]
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    Stop the cooking process. Chill the eggs by placing them under cold running water or in a bowl of ice water. Let them sit for a few minutes until the eggs are cool.

Method 4
Hard boiled eggs - adding to boiling and simmering[24]

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    Fill a small saucepan three quarters of the way with water. Bring the water to the boil.
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    Place the egg(s) into the boiling water. Start timing from this point.
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    Keep the water at a steady simmer. The hard boiled stage is reached at:
    • 8 minutes for a lightly hard boiled egg
    • 10 minutes for a dark yellow moist dry yolk and a set white
    • 15 minutes for a light yellow, dry, and granular yolk.
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    Plunge the boiled egg into cold water once sufficient cooking time is over. Doing this stops any further cooking and stops the development of a gray line between the yolk and the egg white.[25] Peeling is easier under cold water, or cold running water (see next).

Method 5
Peeling or slicing hard boiled eggs

Many hard-boiled eggs go on to star in other dishes, and they need to be peeled. This part is easy, just take care not to burn yourself.

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    Peel the eggs when they are cool enough to handle. There are two possible ways:
    • Peel them under cold running water. This method works if you don't want to plunge them in cold water.
    • Try to crack the shells when they're cooling in water. This makes them easier to peel cleanly. When the eggs are done cooking, pour off the hot water and replace with cold. Pick up each egg (be careful, they'll still be hot), and drop it back into the pot of cold water so the shell cracks. As they cool, water pulls into the shells. It will be easier for the shell removal without the egg itself. This is especially useful for dishes where appearance is important, such as with deviled eggs.
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    Roll the egg. If you're not using water, another method for peeling the egg is to roll it on a hard surface.[26] This will crack the shell and loosen the membrane. Only do this with eggs cool enough to handle, or use silicon mitts.
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    Slice hard-boiled eggs. If you intend on slicing boiled eggs, do as follows:[27]
    • Rinse a knife in hot water.
    • Wipe the knife dry every few cuts to remove sticking yolk from the knife.
    • Repeat as much as needed.
    • If you need to chop hard boiled eggs for a salad, mash them using a potato masher.[28]
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    Eat and enjoy!


  • Fresh eggs are less prone to cracking because they have a low pH in the white, causing it to adhere to the inner shell membrane, essentially "sealing" it together. However, this also makes fresh eggs more difficult to peel. To correct this, you can add a teaspoon of baking soda to a quart of water when cooking (which raises the pH and reduces adhering) but it might make the eggs taste slightly more sulfuric.
  • If you want French oeuf a la coque ("from the shell"), where the inside remains semi-liquid throughout, let the eggs sit for only 2-3 minutes.
  • The egg will take longer to reach the desired state if you are at a high altitude, use larger eggs, boil several eggs at once, use cold eggs, or use cold water.
  • Soft-boiled eggs aren't peeled. An opening is made on one end and the inside is spooned out while leaving the rest of the shell intact.
  • Alternatively, you can steam eggs. Lay them gently in 1cm of water in a pan with a close-fitting lid and apply heat.[29]
  • Some sources recommend making a shallow hole with a pin at the flatter end of the egg before boiling so that it'll let the expanding air escape thus reducing the chance of cracking[30] but studies have shown this isn't a reliable technique.[31]
  • If using an aluminum pot to boil eggs (something many people don't recommend these days for health reasons), add 1 teaspoon salt to the boiling water and there won't be any stains.[32]
  • Boiled eggs can be made by steaming. Bring water to a boil under the steamer, add 1 to 7 eggs, put on a tight-fitting lid and switch off the heat. Time the eggs from this point.[33]
  • If you are going to be cutting the boiled eggs in half, you might want to use the freshest eggs you can find. They tend to have a more centered yolk and less likelihood of greening.[34]
  • You can prolong hard-boiling for hours to enhance color and flavor, but only if you strictly control the temperature. Chinese tea eggs are simmered (not boiled) until set, gently cracked, and simmered for another hour or two with tea, salt, sugar and other flavorings mixed into the water. Middle Eastern hamindas are eggs cooked 6-18 hours in alkaline conditions and at controlled temperature (160-165F, 71-74C) for browned flavor, tender whites, and a creamy yolk.[35]


  • Using too much vinegar will cause your eggs to smell bad and taste like vinegar. You need a few drops of vinegar.
  • If you leave the eggs in the almost-boiling water for more than 15 minutes, they will come out with discolored yolks and an unpleasant, sulfuric smell. Few people find this a tasty morsel!
  • Allowing egg shells in kitchen sink drains when using running water may cause drains to plug up. It is very difficult to remove eggshells from your pipes since they are relatively heavy and tend to sink, getting caught on debris stuck to the inside walls of your sewer pipes. Always put a plug in place or a shield of some sort.
  • If you forget to remove the pot from heat when the water is boiling, you risk overcooking the eggs and getting rubbery whites and dry yolks.[36]

Sources and Citations

  1. Larousse Gastronomique, Egg, p. 396, (2009), ISBN 978-0-600-62042-6
  2. Larousse Gastronomique, Egg, p. 403, (2009), ISBN 978-0-600-62042-6
  3. Larousse Gastronomique, Egg, p. 401, (2009), ISBN 978-0-600-62042-6
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