The How-To Kitchen: Hard-Boiled Eggs

Casey Barber

by Casey Barber on August 27, 2012

You’re gonna think I’ve gone off the deep end when I say this, but sometimes a sandwich is too much to make. (Cue Cher in Moonstruck: “Snap out of it!”) Come on, in your heart of hearts, you know what I mean. Tell me you’ve never picked apart a lackluster club sandwich to nibble on the bacon by itself. Admit that you eat ham rolled up in a piece of Swiss cheese straight from the fridge. There are times when you just want to dig in and get to the good stuff.

fresh eggs
This summer, more often than not I’ve been dispensing with the bread, lettuce, tomatoes, or other sandwich bits and just make egg salad. Deviled egg salad, if we’re being exact, because all I really want to do is pop deviled eggs into my mouth one after the other, but most of the time I’m too lazy to pipe the filling back into the concave rounds of egg white. So I just chop everything up in a bowl, grab a spoon, and go to town.

The Lee Bros. add diced poached shrimp to their egg salad, which is gloriously highbrow, and the Atlanta gastropub Holeman & Finch mixes pimiento cheese with its deviled eggs for a one-two Southern punch. I’ve been known to beet-pickle my eggs in homage to my Pennsylvania upbringing.

But before any accoutrements can be added to the perfect, protein-packed spheres, they’ve got to be hard-boiled first. And lord knows why, but there’s a lot of debate on the subject of boiling an egg, to the point of it being a joke along the lines of learning to boil water.

beet pickled deviled eggs
There’s no magic, no mystery, no elusive “yellow thumb” that gives some cooks golden, sunny, firm eggs and leaves others with pale, watery, sickly green-tinged huevos. It’s all a matter of timing. Steeping the eggs in boiling water, then shocking them in an ice-cold water bath—and timing both steps with a basic kitchen timer—gives you pure yellow yolks with none of that nasty green discoloration that comes from overcooked eggs.

And the time—or rather, date—of the egg’s creation makes a difference as well. Fresher eggs will be harder to peel than older eggs because the membrane that attaches the shell to the white dissolves over time. Just-laid eggs have a healthy, sturdy membrane; old eggs have a weak one that offers no resistance and a smooth peeled egg.

Once and for all, here’s how I hard-boil my eggs. Boil one or boil a dozen, boil large eggs or extra large eggs, the same technique applies:

How to Hard-Boil Eggs

  • Place the eggs in a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover the eggs by two inches. Place a lid on the pan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  • As soon as the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and set a timer for 9 minutes. Keep the eggs covered and let them steep in the hot water for the allotted time.
  • While the eggs continue to cook off heat, prep your peeling station: fill a large bowl with an ice bath (cold water and ice cubes) and have a second bowl at the ready for peeled eggs.
  • When the timer announces that the 9 minutes are up, drain the hot water from the saucepan, leaving the eggs inside and shake the pan carefully but firmly from side to side to crack the eggshells. Don’t be afraid to get a little violent with the suckers.
  • Drop the cracked eggs into the ice bath and let them sit for 5 minutes. The cold water will seep between the cracks of the shell and loosen things up for easier peeling.
  • Peel away! I do it underwater to minimize mess: the shells sink to the bottom as they’re peeled off, and the water helps slough off that thin, translucent membrane as well as clean any tiny bits of shell off the peeled egg.
  • Oh, look, you’ve got a bowl of pristine, hard-boiled eggs. Slice and eat with a sprinkling of pepper and salt (lemon salt? Bloody Mary salt? smoked salt?), make egg salad, or a big batch of deviled eggs. Just don’t throw them at houses or passing cars; that would be a waste of hard work and tasty snacks, wouldn’t it?
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