image courtesy of Bella Irae
- Soft-boiled, sunny-side up, over-easy, gently poached.
- Uh uh. Not these days. Runny yolks are out. Hard-boiled is the safest way to go.
- And you think you know how to boil an egg, but I’m here to tell you that you can do better.
- Eggs, water, pan, heat.
- It’s not exactly rocket science. But we want the perfect hard-cooked egg. We want shells that don’t crack, firm but tender whites, the barest hint of a moist sheen at the center of a bright yellow yolk. We want shells that peel off easily and a kitchen free of sulfur smells.
- How fresh are they? Older eggs are easier to peel because there has been some evaporation of the whites creating a little air pocket between the egg and the shell.
- How cold are they? Room temperature eggs are less likely to crack.
- How large are they? Size, along with the starting temperature, will help determine cooking time.
Don’t worry about the pH of the water. It’s true that a little acid in the water will hold a cracked egg together, and a lot of cookbooks tell you to add some vinegar. But we won’t be letting our shells crack. A more alkaline water makes it easier to peel the eggs, but it also boosts the sulfur smell, so hold the baking soda.
- Since we will be cooking the eggs at a temperature below that of a boil, the pan needs to hold enough water (at least 6 cups even for just one egg) that it can reasonably retain heat. Leave the lid off.
- Drop an egg into boiling water and you’re sure to end up with a tough, rubbery white. The outer layers of the egg will be hopelessly overcooked before the heat makes it to the yolk at the center. Start the egg in cool water and the interior and exterior will both heat up slowly and cook more evenly. Once the water reaches the boiling point, you can turn off the heat and leave the eggs in the water for about 12 minutes (plus or minus time to account for size and temperature variables). Since the eggs roll around a lot less than they would at a hard boil, the shells are unlikely to crack.
- Consult the food science experts at Khymos to calculate precise cooking times. You’ll find formulas that account for factors like egg circumference in centimeters and the temperature of the yolk-white boundary. Plug in your own variables for egg size, temperature, and your location’s altitude, and the Art of Cooking an Egg application will calculate cooking times for you.