How to Boil Eggs--No, Really, There's a Trick

The secret to perfect boiled eggs? Don't boil them!

By Chef Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert at

Freshness is key, except when simmering eggs. OK, I can now hear everyone talking to their computers. "What? Is she crazy? What is a simmered egg, and why would a chef not want to use fresh eggs?"

Well, I'm not crazy, at least not at this moment, according to my family.

Boiled eggs is a misnomer; the best boiled eggs are simmered gently then steeped to keep them tender, not rubbery.

A simmered egg is what we know colloquially as a boiled egg. Do you often try to boil eggs and end up with cracked shells and a mess in your pot? Rapid boiling will crack the eggs in the cooking water before they are set. A simmer keeps the eggs in the shell until you're ready for the two to part ways.

Speaking of eggs and eggshells, a slightly older egg will peel much easier than its fresher counterpart.

Not only does boiling an egg often damage the shell, but it often causes that unsightly gray-green ring around the yolk from overcooking. The egg ends up tough and rubbery, too.

The best way to cook an egg in its shell is to place your eggs in a saucepan of cold water. The water should cover the eggs by one inch. Bring the water to a simmer over medium-high heat, cover and set the pot aside for 15 minutes. The eggs will love this moist sauna and give you a set yellow yolk without any green layer between the yolk and the white.

Prefer your yolks softer? Try the slow simmer method. Add enough water to a saucepan cover eggs by one inch, bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. The water should just be at a slow simmer, with tiny bubbles rising to the top of the water. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slide the eggs into the water. Cook 4-5 minutes for soft, runny yolks, or 7-8 minutes for a medium-set yolk. Drain the water from the saucepan, then shake the cooked eggs in the dry pan to crack the shell. Peel under running cold water.

This is where the "older" egg helps you. Really fresh eggs are harder to peel because the air pocket inside is smaller. That's why a fresh egg will sink, a still-OK-to-eat egg will hover in the middle, and an old egg will float in a glass of water--that air pocket increases as the egg ages.

How do you know if your eggs are set?

  • · Spin the cooked egg on its side on the countertop. If it spins fast it's done; if it wobbles it still needs some more time in the water.
  • · Shake it! If you hear liquid moving around on the inside, it's probably not set.

More from Chef Meg:

SparkPeople Healthy Cooking Expert Meg Galvin is a World Master Chef, culinary instructor, and the author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A farmer's daughter and marathon runner, she lives in northern Kentucky with her husband and three teenage sons.