How to boil eggs perfectly and specifically how long to boil eggs for soft-boiled eggs and how long for hard boiled eggs are some of the most often-asked questions of home cooks these days. It seemed like the perfect subject for our re-booted Weekend Eggs series.
This is my guide to how to boil eggs perfectly every time – whether you want to find out how long to boil eggs for soft boiled eggs or how long to boil eggs for hard-boiled eggs, we have the answers right here. It’s a post in our re-booted Weekend Eggs recipes series on breakfast eggs dishes from around the world.
Recently we posted the firstly Weekend Eggs recipe of the new re-launched series for the Calabrian rendition of a Southern Italian dish called Eggs in Purgatory – which incidentally contains ’nduja, the spicy spreadable sausage that is a Calabrian specialty and the focus on another ingredients-driven recipe series that we’ve launched. Other recipes since then have included Burmese egg curry, Thai son-in-law eggs, and our version of Scotch eggs – with a twist!
Every Friday morning – give or take – we’ll post a new Weekend Eggs recipe so you have time to pick up ingredients on Friday. But it’s only Thursday, I hear you say. Well, tomorrow’s recipe requires you to boil eggs first, and I’ve only just realised that after ten eleven years (damn you, pandemic!), I’ve never actually posted a guide to how to boil eggs perfectly.
But before I share my tips on how long to boil eggs for soft-boiled eggs and how long for perfect hard-boiled eggs, we have a favour to ask. Grantourismo is reader-supported, which means we rely on income generated from our readers to continue to publish recipes and food stories. If you’ve cooked our recipes and enjoyed them, please consider supporting Grantourismo.
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Now let me tell you how to boil eggs perfectly every time.
How to Boil Eggs Perfectly – How Long to Boil Eggs for Soft and Hard-Boiled Eggs
This is my guide to how to boil eggs perfectly every time – whether you want to find out how long to boil eggs for soft boiled eggs or how long to boil eggs for hard-boiled eggs, we have the answers right here.
Some people see making soft- and hard-boiled eggs as a bit of a lottery. Those who like soft-boiled eggs often end up with a runny mess and uncooked whites, while those who like hard-boiled eggs end up with an unattractive green ring around dry yolks.
Over the years, we’ve tried every method for boiling eggs perfectly, having scoured countless cookbooks and spent many hours dong internet research. We’ve marked up endless fresh eggs with cooking times and stuck myriad post-it notes to cutting boards. And, yes, we’ve eaten a lot of egg sandwiches during my research.
Even if you’re not a breakfast eggs person and prefer to slurp a noodle soup or tuck into a plate of pancakes, it’s still handy to learn how to boil eggs perfectly. We use soft-boiled eggs in our creamy curried egg sandwiches and semi hard-boiled eggs in our ohn no khao swe recipe for the wonderful Burmese chicken coconut noodle soup.
So, here’s my guide to how to boil eggs perfectly every time.
How to Boil Eggs Perfectly Every Time
Start with Room Temperature Eggs
One of my best tips to how to boil eggs perfectly every time is to start with room temperature eggs. Most people don’t refrigerate eggs here in Southeast Asia. In fact, many people here in Cambodia don’t even have refrigerators. For those who do, cartons of eggs are a waste of much-needed fridge real estate. Secondly, eggs get used so frequently that they are never around long enough to go bad. If you’re in a country that’s less crazy hot than Cambodia, you will not have a problem leaving eggs out on a bench.
If you do refrigerate your eggs, note that one of the keys to boiling eggs perfectly every time is the temperature of the eggs. Why is storing eggs in the fridge an issue? Because the temperature of the eggs will depend on how packed your fridge is and where you store the eggs. Storing them in those little trays in the door (which we do not recommend) can make the temperature of the eggs vary a lot depending how frequently the fridge door is opened and for how long.
So if you do refrigerate your eggs, just take them out an hour or so before boiling. Note that when we say room temperature we mean around 24°C or 75°F.
If you do want to start boiling your eggs straight from the fridge, you will need to adjust your timing and also note that eggs straight from the fridge have a greater chance of cracking when dunked into boiling water.
Begin Boiling Your Eggs with Boiling Water
One of my best tips to how to boil eggs perfectly every time is to begin boiling the eggs in boiling water. Boiling eggs in boiling water versus starting from cold water has been something that I’ve been to-ing and fro-ing on for a couple of years now!
Starting from cold water means there’s less of a chance of the eggs cracking after hitting the instantly high heat or from the eggs colliding in the bubbling water. But there are a couple of problems I’ve found with this method.
Firstly, the eggs tend not to peel as well as those started in (near) boiling water. It’s thought that the egg whites tend to adhere to the inner membrane of the eggshell while slow cooking. Placing the eggs into very hot or boiling water tends to see the egg white ‘shrink’ away from the inner membrane.
Secondly, the time to boiling – where you start the stopwatch – can vary wildly depending on the heat source and the vessel you are boiling the eggs in. Even when we take the saucepan off the heat to add the eggs to the water, the time it takes for the water to return to boiling is around 30 seconds on our stove – virtually every time I test the eggs, giving you a much more repeatable boiling time.
Use Old Eggs Rather Than Fresh Eggs
Another one of my best tips to how to boil eggs perfectly every time is to use old eggs. Of course, we appreciate that unless you’re lucky enough to be collecting freshly laid eggs from your own hens, it’s hard to know exactly how old your store-bought eggs are other than an expiry date. But they could very well be at least a couple of weeks old.
Another tip if you’re always making egg dishes for a large family or a cafe or restaurant and buy in bulk, is to date the eggs. This way you know which eggs are best suited for the cooking task at hand.
So why are farm fresh eggs not the best for boiled eggs? It’s simply that fresh egg whites bond more easily to the inner membrane than the whites of older eggs do. There is a great scientific explanation for this in Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking.
For this recipe we use large eggs, that means around 56 grams each egg.
If you do have access to freshly laid eggs, make an omelette or poached eggs with them instead!
Our Top Tips for Making Perfect Soft and Hard-Boiled Eggs
Get those egg yolks centred and the whites full
A tip that’s widely circulated on the interwebs is to poke a tiny pinhole in the wider end of the egg. The layman’s explanation is that this is where an air pocket within the egg will be positioned. As you boil the eggs, tiny bubbles will appear at the pinhole, which helps prevent the eggs cracking and hopefully stops the eggs having that ‘flattop’ appearance. This definitely works as I have not had a cracked shell in months and the eggs are definitely more ‘fuller’ if you make that tiny pinhole.
Unless you are using the eggs for a dish like creamy curried eggs on sourdough bread, you might want to try to centre the yolks for a more pleasing presentation for dishes like Thai son-in-law eggs where presentation is important.
There’s some very impractical advice out there to achieve this. One popular technique is to stir the eggs in the pot for a minute or so in one direction while boiling them and then then again in the ice water for 30 seconds or so once you’ve finished cooking them. I’ve now tested this over and over again and had very mixed results, with the non-stirred eggs being just as centred as the stirred ones 50% of the time.
So for me, it’s pinhole yes, stirring eggs, no.
Don’t Overcrowd Your Pot
We like to use a 22 cm stainless steel pot or saucepan for up to 6 eggs at time. Any more than that and you crowd the pan too much. Not only does it not get up to heat again quickly, the eggs can keep hitting each other as the water is bubbling away and this movement may break the shell.
Place Boiled Eggs in an Ice-Cold Water Bath
Many recipes say to place the boiled eggs in a water bath after cooking to cool them down. We go further to recommend an icy-cold water bath with ice cubes. This is the best way to stop the eggs from continuing to cook as it cools the eggs down a lot faster.
While this does not make much of a difference with hard-boiled eggs, it can make a big difference with soft-boiled eggs. Eggs shocked in very cold water, particularly soft-boiled eggs, have less of a chance of deforming in shape as those that cool more slowly.
Chill the eggs in ice water until they are stone cold then to peel the eggs crack them from the wider base and then all over and peel under cold water.
Crack and Leave the Eggs in the Water
Another tip I’ve found very useful is to crack the eggs at the base and then crack gently all over and keep in the water while starting to peel. This helps get water inside the membranes and allows the shell to come away more easily.
Best Kitchen Tools for Boiling Perfect Eggs Every Time
We find a 22 cm stainless steel saucepan is perfect for boiling up to 6 eggs at time.
I place a cotton kitchen towel, or tea towel as we call them in Australia, in the pot or saucepan to help stop the eggs from cracking. Note that if the eggs are going to be ‘for show’ and you need perfectly centred yolks, see above.
A large slotted spoon is perfect for gently placing the eggs in the pot and then carefully removing the boiled eggs.
You’ll need a large bowl for the iced water – we love our Pyrex glass mixing bowl.
And we recommend a classic set of egg cups to enjoy your soft-boiled eggs.
An egg topper is so you don’t knock pieces of shell into your perfect eggs.
A Recipe for How to Boil Eggs for Perfectly Soft and Hard-Boiled Eggs
- 6 Eggs large – around 56 grams
- Place a folded dish cloth (tea towel) into the bottom of a 22cm saucepan. Fill the pan with water and place on the stove over high heat.
- When you have a rolling boil, turn the heat down and using a slotted spoon, lower the eggs carefully into the water and immediately turn the heat up to stain a rolling boil again. Start a kitchen timer immediately.
- Prepare your ice bath filling a large bowl with water and ice.
- For soft-boiled eggs, remove the eggs at 6 minutes. For fully hard boiled eggs, take them out at 10 minutes.
- Allow the eggs to cool completely before peeling.
- Peel by cracking the base of the egg underwater in the ice-bath. Crack the egg all around and peel starting from the base of the egg where there should be a little indent that will allow you to peel back the inner membrane as well as the shell.
- Work your way around the base of the egg and then down towards the narrower end of the egg. Be careful not to try to take large sections of the eggshell off at this end as the egg white may tear.
Please do let us know how you went with our advice on how to boil eggs perfectly and specifically our tips to how long to boil eggs for soft-boiled eggs and how long for hard boiled eggs. We’d also love to hear any tips you might have.