How to Boil an Egg
Sounds simple enough, right?
Eggs are probably at the top of the list of my favorite foods. Not just that I love them - but that they are so indispensable in the kitchen - especially if you bake. It's hard to imagine many cakes or cookies that don't use eggs in some form. They exist - sure - but just in any number.
Puddings and custards, vanilla cream, meringues, cakes and cookies are just the start - souffles, both savory and sweet, crepes, pancakes, waffles, omelets and any number of breads - all are dependant on the lovely little egg. Of course that is the merest scratching of the surface for the egg - there are plenty of beautiful dishes with egg taking the star role, not just serving as supporting actor. Eggs are perfect sources of high-quality protein, and the price can't be beat in comparison to other protein sources. In my area they come in at right around .10 a piece. With lots of little people to feed, that is a huge bang for my grocery buck.
My kiddos, especially my youngest, adore hard boiled eggs. As with other things, they've gotten a bit spoiled at always having it the 'right' way. Not long ago I started asking my oldest two to throw on some hard boiled eggs for me - and the results just weren't right. The whites were rubbery, the yolk was powder and sulphurous and smelled it, and they all had that nasty green ring around the yolk.
"Mom!" The oldest bellowed. "I think these eggs went bad"! Well - no. They were fine, except far over cooked. And so I broke down step-by-step the hows and whys of boiling an egg the right way. Tender, creamy whites, rich luscious yolks, easy to peel - and perfect for either eating out of hand, stuffing or deviling or adding to potato salad. Heck - these are good enough to stand as the main ingredient for egg salad. So scroll down and read through. The best part is that this is one of the easiest techniques you'll ever learn, and you'll use it forever. That's the best kind of Bombshell!
Great Tips before you Start!
The first thing you need to remember is that you are never going to actually boil the eggs. At most you'll bring the pan to a boil, but then immediately remove the pan from the heat source. Boiling the egg raising the temperature of the egg too high for too long - leading to overcooking too quickly.
1. Start with room temperature eggs - this helps gently raise the temperature of the eggs as they cook, and makes them less likely to crack. Room temperature eggs take about a minute less to come to the right doneness than cold ones. About half an hour on the counter is plenty to bring cold eggs to temperature - a few minutes under running warm water will do it.
2. Don't salt the water before boiling. This adds nothing to the flavor of the eggs, but it does raise the boiling temperature of the water and will lead to rubbery whites.
3. Don't pick the freshest eggs! Although with many egg dishes, you'll constantly be enjoynedto find the freshest eggs possible, in this case don't do it. I often shop once or twice a month at the big warehouse store - buying eggs in cases of from 5-15 dozen. I wait until I've reached the bottom layer, allowing time for the membrane enclosing the egg within the shell to shrink away from the shell wall - making peeling much easier. They're usually about two weeks old - still within the use-by date, but much easier to handle. Some will tell you that 3-5 days is old enough - but I like them older. Check the side text box for more info on checking your eggs.
For better deviled eggs:
When aging eggs (I set them aside for a week) place them in a carton and set the carton on its side for a day. The yolk will center and end up right smack in the middle of the white.
Doneness of Boiled Eggs...
- Soft cooked Eggs:
- A soft cooked egg has a firm white and very runny yolk - like in a fried egg. The white is barely set and opaque.
- Medium Cooked eggs:
- Medium eggs have a firm white and a slightly firm yolk - not quite as runny at this stage, but not fully set either.
- Hard Cooked Eggs:
- A hard cooked egg has both a white that is firm and a yolk that is completley solid.
For Perfect Peeling!
Crack eggs under water, to help loosen the membrane. Start with the 'fat' end - the air pocket most likely formed there. Remove the shell under running water, by getting your finger under the membrand right inside the shell. Remember to use older eggs - the fresher ones are just too hard to peel!
Storing hard boiled eggs...
If you aren't going to consume hard boiled eggs within just a few hours, they must be stored with in the refrigerator. If you keep them in the shells, they can stay in the fridge for up to a week. Try not to peel them until right when you're ready to use them in your recipe.
If you need to store them peeled (say as snacks for my youngest Precious Darling!), then cover them in a bowl of cold water, and change the water daily. They will keep this way for up to a week. Alternately you can use a sealed plasic container lined with damp towels. Any of these methods works well if prepping eggs ahead for special dishes - have a picnic!
It can be a tad tricky to know if your eggs are fresh, since different eggs in the same carton could have laid on different days. For eggs from large farms this is less a problem than for those of you lucky enough to have small local farms.
In a fresh egg, the yolk stands taller and the white is thick and cloudy. As the egg ages the yolk flattens out and the white becomes thin and water, less able to hold together say - if for a poached or fried egg.
To give a little test, put the egg in a bowl of water. Very fresh eggs will lay on their sides. Older eggs, that have formed an air pocket will 'stand up'. If the egg floats - carefully remove it as you would toxic waste.
And this works no matter the doneness you desire. You may have to experiment the first time or two with the times, but these times are pretty good. The differences are in the size of the eggs themselves - so a large egg will cook more quickly than a jumbo egg.
- Choose the right size pot - you don't want the eggs in more than one layer. If you need more than will fit in one layer, either use a second pot or save half the eggs you need for a second time around.
- Cover the single layer of eggs with fresh cold water, just to about an inch over the tops of the eggs. This is important - if you have too much water, the water takes too long to come to a boil and you've overcooked your eggs. If you have too little water and parts of the eggs are unexposed, then you're eggs are more likely to be undercooked in spots.
- Place the pan over high heat, and bring just barely to a rapid boiled. Immediately remove from heat, cover tightly and start the timer.
- At ten minutes, the white will be set and creamy, a 'traditional' hard boiled egg. This is for a large egg - jumbos take a bit more and medium eggs take a bit less. But in general, ten minutes is a hard set egg.
- Be careful not to overcook. This causes a green layer to form around the yolk, from a reaction of the iron in the yolk and the sulphur in the white. Heat speeds up this reaction, so the longer the eggs cook the greater the chance of this green layer forming.
- Once the timer goes off, immediately transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water. This stops any carryover cooking that can overcook the eggs. It also causes a layer of steam to form inside the eggshell, making them easier to peel. Let them cool for at least ten minutes, until chilled. They're ready to then peel or store!
It sounds like a lot to remember, especially when you're after such a simple dish. But think of the basics:
- older eggs
- don't boil
- remove from heat and cover
- start the timer
- plunge into cold water
Follow these steps - and keep the info in mind, and you'll have the basis for perfectly hard cooked eggs every single time.
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