This is the best way to boil an egg
In the middle of a busy day of cooking here in the Epicurious Test Kitchen I often forget to actually eat, and a boiled egg "protein snack" can be a life saver. I'll make a batch for everyone in the kitchen when I sense blood sugar levels and moods dropping.
The other day my colleague Kat was watching as I whipped up one of those emergency protein snacks, and I could tell she thought something was wrong. Finally she asked why I was starting my eggs in boiling water rather than bringing them up to a boil along with the water, the way she's always done.
And so we launched into the debate that many people have had before: Is it better to boil an egg with a hot start or a cold start?
Almost every cook has their own version of how to get the perfect boiled egg. Honestly, if you have a method that works for you, that you know you can rely on to get consistent results every time, feel free to stick with it. Reliability is the most important factor of an egg boiling technique.
But to solve the disagreement between Kat and myself, I did a series of side-by-side tests of cold start vs. hot start for soft, medium, and hard boiled eggs.
PUTTING IT TO THE TEST
To boil eggs with a cold start, I took eggs straight out of the fridge, set them in a pot of cold water, brought them to a boil, then turned them down to the lowest possible setting on the stove. I pulled them out at varying times for soft, medium, and hard boiled (see chart below).
To boil eggs with a hot start, I brought a pot of water to a boil, lowered cold eggs straight from the fridge into the boiling water, immediately turned it down to a simmer. I pulled them out at varying times, for soft, medium, and hard boiled.
In both cases, I put the eggs straight into an ice bath after cooking, cracked them up a bit by tapping them against each other or the edge of the bowl, and let them sit for at least one minute before peeling.
THE HOT START WINS
In each stage of doneness, I found that the eggs which started in boiling water were easier to peel. Above all else, this, for me, was the deal breaker. Boiled eggs that are hard to peel are the worst. The ice bath and the cracking of the shell to let a bit of water sneak in around the egg are key parts of the process—our food director Rhoda can peel a whole dozen eggs in 104 seconds using this technique.
How long you simmer your eggs after placing them in boiling water all depends on how soft or hard you want them. Me, I like a yolk that's quite runny, while Rhoda likes hers just barely set but still soft and glossy, and Kat likes hers even firmer, with just a bit of golden goo.
Once you know the time for your personal perfect style of boiled eggs, you can get the same result using any size pot in any kitchen with any number of eggs in it, as long as you bring water to a boil, lower cold eggs straight into the water, turn it down to a simmer, and start a timer as soon as your eggs are in the hot water.
KNOW YOUR TIMES:
The good news? The hot start method works however you like your eggs. Refer to the table below and experiment to find your favorite.
4 minutes: eat-it-with-a-spoon-out-of-the-shell soft
5 minutes: firm white, runny yolk (my favorite)
6 minutes: nice and gooey yolk, starting to set (Rhoda's favorite)
8 minutes: fully set yolk, but still sort of gooey and golden
10 minutes: firmer pale yolk, a bit soft in the middle (Kat's favorite)
12 minutes: almost completely hard-boiled yolk, with a touch of golden goo still in the middle
14 minutes: completely hard-boiled crumbly dry pale yolk
Don't forget to shock the eggs in ice water after your desired time, and you're good to go!
Click through the slideshow below to learn more great ways to cook eggs: