Hard-boiled eggs are the gold standard of high protein ingredients. They’re simple and delicious—whether you eat them plain or sprinkled with salt—they can be made in large batches and stored in your fridge for up to a week, and you can serve them in everything from salads to sandwiches to soups. They also come in their own portable little eggshell containers, so just toss ’em in your lunch or gym bag for a super snack, and be on your merry way. Versatile, nutritious, delicious—there is literally nothing more you could want from a food.
I could wax poetic about hard-boiled eggs all day (seriously, I’m obsessed). But instead, I’m going to tell you exactly how to cook them perfectly every single time, because unless you have X-ray vision, it can be pretty tough to tell what’s going on under that shell. Indeed, there is a right way and a wrong way to hard boil, and, according to Nick Korbee, executive chef of the New York restaurant Egg Shop, and author of the forthcoming Egg Shop Cookbook, the wrong way will leave you with something chalky and grey—something that he says looks (and tastes) like the Death Star.
First things first: Here’s the wrong way to boil an egg.
As you could probably guess, the easiest way to do it is not the best. (Oh, if only life worked like that.) Korbee says the number-one no-no is when you put your eggs and water into a pot at the same time, and bring them to a boil together. Time-saver? Sure. Quality-maker? Nope. “I think that this sounds foolproof and tempting, but it’s the least effective way to get a good result,” he tells SELF. If your egg is in the water the entire time that it’s coming to a boil, odds are it’s going to end up overcooked and Death Star-y.
Now, here’s how to get a perfectly hard-boiled egg, every time.
For best results, Korbee he recommends adding the eggs after you’ve already boiled the water, and then submerging them in an ice bath right when they’re finished. With this method, he says that there’s really no magic to it. “You’ve got a hot egg, you’ve cooked it for this long, and you cool it down—you’re in control.”
Step 1: Boil and season your water.
Boil a pot of water. Korbee tells SELF you want the eggs submerged beneath 1 inch of water, so keep this in mind when you fill your pot. He also recommends seasoning the water with vinegar and salt. These ingredients will do little to the taste of the eggs, but they may make them easier to peel.
Step 2: Then, prepare an ice bath.
Korbee insists that this step is crucial. “Running eggs under cool water will never cool them down quick enough to get the internal temperature you need—an ice bath is the way to go.” Making an ice bath is easy: Just fill a bowl with ice, and top the ice off with tap water. It will be chilled just right by the time your eggs are finished boiling.
Step 3: Gently add your eggs to the pot and absolutely don’t forget to set a timer.
Once the water is fully boiling you can add your eggs. I recommend slowly dropping them in with a ladle or slotted spoon—this will ensure you don’t accidentally crack them.
Then, set your watch, because timing is everything. For that photogenic egg (you know, the one you see on Instagram all the time) Korbee says you’ll want to let it cook for 10 minutes—that’s going to give you the quintessential hard boiled taste and texture.
If you like a slightly softer medium boil, Korbee recommends cooking your egg for eight minutes; his perfect soft boil is six minutes. My favorite hard-boiled egg is finished in seven to nine minutes, and you may find you like something in that range, too. Part of the fun of hard-boiling is experimenting with the different cooking times. You may end up with a too soft or too hard egg now and then, but trial and error is what’s going to make you a hard-boiled master.
At the 11-minute mark you’re going to get a chalkier yolk, which is easier to grate if you’re making deviled eggs, but is riding the edge of Death Star territory. Definitely don’t go over 12 minutes if you can avoid it. Korbee tells SELF that’s when that icky grey color and chalky yolk is more likely to show up.
Step 4: Chill the eggs in the ice bath.
Remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place them immediately into your ice bath. This is important because it will prevent your eggs from cooking further. Korbee says that a nice bonus is that a good ice bath can salvage the flavor of a slightly overcooked (11-minute) egg. Leave the eggs in the bath until they’re cool to touch.
Et voila. Perfectly hard-boiled eggs. You can store them for up to a week or enjoy them right away.