As simple a food as they are, hard-boiled eggs are in fact a little tricky to get right. If you cook them too long, they’ll get that unappetizing green ring around the yolk. Start with them too fresh and they’ll be impossible to peel. If you’re looking to make a quick egg salad for lunch, this can put a real snag in your plans.
It’s time to reconsider how you cook the hard-boiled egg. In fact, it’s time you give up the boiling entirely and welcome the steamed, hard-cooked egg into your life.
If you steam instead of boil your eggs, you’ll end up with a more tender egg because it’s been cooked more gently. The eggs are also less likely to crack during the cooking process because they haven’t been banged about in a pot of bubbling water. And, since the eggs are added to the pot when it’s already steaming ― with no risk of lowering the temperature, like when you add eggs to a boiling pot ― they can be easier to peel, too. (For reasons science can explain, eggs cooked at very high temperatures are easiest to peel.) Bonus, the eggs will cook faster since you don’t have to boil a whole pot of water: just heat a bit of water in the bottom of the pot.
To steam eggs, just add about an inch of water to the bottom of a pot. Insert a steamer, cover the pot and put it on the heat. Once the water has heated enough to start steaming, gently add the eggs using tongs and recover. (Careful, the steam will be hot.) Cook for about six minutes for soft eggs and 11-12 minutes for hard eggs. (Times will vary depending on how many eggs you have in the pot.) Then plunge them in cold water to stop them from cooking further.
The correct way to make hard-boiled eggs is much more pleasant: Put your eggs in a pot with water, and partially cover the pot. Bring the water just to a boil over high heat. This is the hardest part, both because of watched pots’ notorious stubbornness, and because it can be difficult to judge what degree of steaming and frothing actually constitutes “a boil.” To be safe, wait for three large bubbles to burst on the surface of the water. Turn off the heat immediately, and cover the pot fully. Let the eggs rest, silently and peacefully, in the water for 10 minutes. Finally, transfer them to a bowl of cold water to cool them down and make them easier to peel (although ease of peeling, as the Food Explainer has Explained, has more to do with egg age than with egg-cooling technique).
Some controversy surrounds the proper amount of time to let the eggs bathe in the hot water after you’ve turned off the heat; I’ve seen recommendations ranging from 9 minutes to 13 minutes. But 9-minute eggs are too loose and woozy to qualify as hard-boiled, while 13-minute eggs suffer from the same rubbery-white problem as eggs that have been boiled—with mildly chalky yolks to boot. Ten minutes gives you the best of both worlds: firm but tender whites, soft but thoroughly pale yolks.
Of course, if you’re boiling eggs for purely decorative or symbolic purposes, you may not care what they look or taste like within, and you’re within your rights to let them steep as long as you like. But if there’s any chance anyone will nosh on your ovoid holiday trimmings, keep your eye on the clock.
Yield: 12 eggs
Time: About 30 minutes, largely unattended
12 large eggs
Put the eggs in a large pot, and add enough water to cover them by 2 inches. Partially cover the pot, and put it over high heat. When the water comes to a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pot fully, and let the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. Carefully drain the eggs, and transfer them to the ice bath. Let them cool in the ice water for 5 minutes, then dry them with a paper towel or cloth towel, and serve. (Store hard-boiled eggs in an egg carton in the refrigerator for up to several days.)