Hard-Boiled Eggs: Why You Are Cooking Them Wrong

The perfect hard-boiled egg

Ahh spring, the season of daffodils and rubbery eggs with yolks the color of a mud puddle. Good luck getting the kids to eat them.

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When it comes to making hard-boiled eggs for the Seder plate or Easter basket, most people slide a dozen into boiling water, set the timer for 20 minutes or so, and walk away to let them jiggle around in the roiling depths of a metal pasta pot.

That's an excellent recipe for an unpalatable egg.

The tricky thing about cooking eggs is you are dealing with two different layers that cook unevenly: the white and the yolk. High, sustained heat toughens the proteins contained in the white. Overcooking on high also triggers the chemical reaction that causes that unappetizing greenish-grey film to appear around the yolk. Cooking for a shorter amount of time will allow the white to remain tender but yields a goopy yolk.

Furthermore, the feisty boiling water molecules that agitate eggs at the bottom of a hard pot may crack the shells as well. While commercial egg dyes claim to be non-toxic, there is something creepy about eating the turquoise or magenta veined eggs that emerge from broken shells.

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Slate points out that a better way to achieve the perfect hard-boiled egg is, in fact, to treat it softly. Place in cold water, gently bring to a low boil, and immediately turn off the heat and cover the pot tightly with a fitted lid. Let sit for 10-11 minutes, rinse with cold water, and voila, the perfect "hard-boiled" egg. Renowned food scientist Harold McGee even prefers to call them "hard-cooked eggs" because you aren't actually boiling them.

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If you've been butchering—I mean boiling—your eggs for years, you may feel skeptical. Try one egg, you'll be delighted with the toothsome white and firm, golden yolk.

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs

A dozen eggs

Large pot (eggs should not be crowded at the bottom)

Cold water

Cover eggs with cold water. Don't crowd—you may need to cook in two batches depending on the size of pot. Gently bring to a low boil. As soon as you see a few bubbles turn off the heat and cover the pot firmly. Let sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes. This method is forgiving, an extra minute or two won't ruin your holiday eggs. Rinse the eggs with cold water or place in an ice bath to stop cooking.

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