How to … cook a perfect boiled egg

We’ve hit the books to find out how to cook the perfect boiled egg.

A boiled egg. Should be simple right? But if you find it difficult to boil the egg just right for you, don’t worry, you’re not alone. We all get the basic concept – stove, pot, water, eggs – but why do they sometimes crack and other times not?

Once they’re in, how on earth can you tell what’s going on inside them? I find myself staring into a pot on the stove waiting for some higher being to tap me on the shoulder and tell me when to get the damn things out!

Recipes clutter the internet, some as simple at “five minutes” and some going as far as to describe the ideal altitude and millimetre thickness of your pot. I’m not joking.  

We’ve trawled through these conflicting recipes, spent hours fighting off chooks and getting steam burns (not really, but you get the point) to bring you this reliable but realistic recipe for the perfect boiled egg.

Egg health and safety
First of all, let’s get some housekeeping out of the way: How to tell if your eggs have gone bad.

Flashback to primary school science. Get a wide cup or a bowl and fill it to about three-quarters with water. Plonk the eggs in. If they sink, they’re good. If they float, it means gas has developed inside and I’m sorry to say … they’re bad.

Now for some real science
The setting temperature for different parts of the egg is different. The yolk will set at around 80°C, whereas the egg white will set at 70°C. Also, the white of the egg is closer to the boiling water, meaning it will cook faster than the inside. Luckily, this works well for those of us who prefer a hard white with a softer yolk.

Recipe:

  • Decide on how many eggs you plan to cook, then choose a pot that can house them all comfortably but allows a little space between them.
  • Make a small crack in the shell of each egg but don’t puncture the inner membrane that holds in the contents. It’s easiest to use a curved surface to achieve this. This will make the shell easier to peel away later.
  • Place your eggs in your pot and fill with cold water until the tops of the eggs sit about a centimetre below the surface.
  • Place the pot on the stovetop on high heat.
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Now turn off the heat and allow the eggs to cook in the boiled water. Count the minutes from this point onward following the guide below for the perfect boiled eggs your way!

The general rule for minutes-in-pot to what-my-egg-will-be-like is as follows:

Two minutes: the yolk is completely raw and the white isn’t set all the way through.
Four minutes: the yolk is gluggy and very runny but the white is fully set.
Six minutes: the yolk is cooked, but still a little runny in the centre and the white is fully set.
Eight minutes: the yolk is set but still quite soft, the white is fully set.
Ten minutes: both the yolk and the white are fully set.

Have a bowl of iced water ready to place the eggs in as soon as you take them out of the pot to make sure the cooking process stops immediately.  

Once the eggs have cooled enough to comfortably handle, voila! Knock the shell with a spoon to crack it and use the thumbs to peel the shell away.

Was this recipe useful? Are there any other so-called ‘simple’ recipes we can help you with? We’d like to thank Mark Matsumoto at norecipes.com for the science behind boiled eggs.

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    COMMENTS

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    norri
    3rd Feb 2019
    7:10am
    Just buy an egg cooker perfect every time.
    Bella54
    3rd Feb 2019
    8:25am
    Now I need a lesson on how to put a crack in the egg without the membrane being damaged and the raw egg escaping!
    Maggie
    3rd Feb 2019
    12:08pm
    Me too. I have been cooking eggs for 70 years and I couldn't do that!
    Kram
    3rd Feb 2019
    9:12am
    Just steam them, 8mins for soft & 11 for hard. No pricking, no burns & no worries
    ardnher
    3rd Feb 2019
    11:07am
    have been doing this for more years than I can remember.

    Recipe Supplied by: Microwave Technologies Association
    Serves: 1 People
    First and foremost - safety first:

    NEVER TRY TO COOK A WHOLE EGG IN IT'S SHELL IN THE MICROWAVE OVEN WITHOUT COVERING IT WITH BOILING WATER OR REMOVING IT FROM IT'S SHELL - IT WILL EXPLODE AND COULD CAUSE DAMAGE TO YOUR OVEN - NOT TO MENTION MAKE A TERRIBLE MESS THAT IS A NIGHTMARE TO CLEAN UP!
    So to do it properly:
    For each person wrap each egg in aluminium foil and set in a glass or microwave proof cooking container. Pour over enough boiling water to cover all the eggs. Carefully put bowl in the microwave oven, then cook on HIGH power for 3 - 6 minutes, according to how you like your eggs.
    After 30 seconds cooking, the water will return to a gentle boil, and cook the eggs, as they do conventionally. 3 minutes will cook the eggs to soft boil stage and 5 - 6 minutes ( according to their size) will cook to a hard boil.
    Remove dish from the oven, and quickly run cold water over the eggs, for 1 minute or so. This partially cools the eggs quickly and prevents a black layer from forming around the egg yolk if the eggs have been hard boiled.

    Serve immediately with toast for a quick breakfast or lunch, or leave to cool and serve chopped and mixed with mayonnaise for a great sandwich filling.
    Maggie
    3rd Feb 2019
    12:10pm
    Too much fuss for the busy I suspect.
    Will38
    3rd Feb 2019
    12:09pm
    More importantly - how to cook poached eggs so they look like restaurant ones.
    Arisaid
    3rd Feb 2019
    1:37pm
    Line a cup with plastic wrap. Break egg into it, twist the wrap to close and then put in your gently simmering water. Viola!!
    Rocket
    3rd Feb 2019
    10:25pm
    It isn't hard to do a boiled egg to your liking. Just prick the "not pointy" with a pin, being careful not to pierce the membrane, then lower it into a pot of boiling water. 6 minutes for a soft runny egg, 7 minutes for a firm white but runny yoke, progressing to 10 minutes for a hard boiled one. It ain't rocket science. None of this putting them in cold water and having to sit around checking if it has come to the boil to start your timing.
    TinTin
    4th Feb 2019
    5:41pm
    I have used this method for about a year now and it works. I like eggs soft boiled (but not too runny) so I leave them in the boiled water for six minutes and quickly take them out and chop the top off. I must try putting my second egg in icy water to stop it from cooking any longer than six mins.


    Tags: food, recipe, boiled, egg

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