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How to hard boil and soft boil eggs perfectly (without turning the yolk green)

by Marge Perry on July 31, 2011

The other day, a student in one of my ICE (Institute of Culinary Education) classes asked me how long it takes to cook a soft-boiled egg. Actually, she may have said it correctly and asked for how long she should soft-cook an egg.

It is an important distinction. You don’t want to actually boil an egg– regardless of whether you want it soft, medium or hard. Unless, that is, you are having a Dr. Seuss party and want to make green eggs. Boiling eggs or cooking them for too long  turns the surface of the yolk green, thanks to a reaction between the sulfur in the white and the iron in the yolk.

The method for cooking eggs soft, medium or hard is the same; only the time changes. But before I describe the method, I want to tell you about the draw-backs to a couple of common methods.

Egg Cooking Don’ts

* Don’t bring water to a boil before adding eggs: placing an egg in boiling water changes the temperature of the egg too quickly and can result in cracked, leaking shells.

* Don’t boil eggs: As discussed above, this can lead to green-rimmed yolks. Vigorous boiling can also cause the shells to crack and the eggs to leak.

To choose how long you want your egg cooked, see the pictures below the recipe.

“Cooking time” below refers to the amount of time the egg sits in the covered pot.

Soft-boiled Egg

Cooked 3 minutes

Yolk is a thick liquid; white is mostly solid with some soft areas near the center

Soft Boiled Egg (3 minutes)


Medium-boiled egg

Cooked 12 minutes

This is my “hard-boiled egg” of choice. The white is firm; the yolk is firm but not dry. Note the slightly darker areas of the yolk: it is not wet, but it is not completely dry, either.

Lightly hard-boiled egg (12 minutes): Firm but not dry

Hard-boiled egg

Cooked 15 minutes

No moisture in the yolk; slightly dusty quality. White is firm throughout, again with no sign of moisture– but not rubbery.

Hard-boiled egg (15-minutes): firm and dry throughout

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. August 1, 2011 at 5:33 am

Great one! More people can’t get this right at all. Thanks for sharing

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Lauren, PurcellSisters.com August 1, 2011 at 6:55 am

So helpful. And great visual aids!

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VIVIEN August 1, 2011 at 7:19 am

VERY INTERESTING AND USEFUL INFORMATION. I NEVER KNEW THAT THE GREEN RIM CAME FROM BOILING THE EGGS. I’LL LOOK FORWARD TO YELLOW YOKES IN MY FUTURE!

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Robin Mather August 1, 2011 at 11:32 am

The photos are an excellent aid, Marge. Just wish you had included one that showed an overcooked egg as well.

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Marge August 1, 2011 at 11:37 am

You are so right– that would have helped! Thanks for the suggestion, Robin.

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JANICE GRAVEES November 6, 2011 at 10:52 am

ONE MORE THING TO ADD TO GETTING A PERFECT EGG…AFTER EGGS HAVE COOKED THEIR TIME, EMPTY HOT WATER AND THEN SHAKE THE EGGS AGAINST THE SIDES OF THE PAN TO MAKE THE EGGS CRACK THEN PUT THEM IN TO A DISH FULL OF ICE CUBES, LET SET TEN MINUTES AT LEAST, MIX THEM AROUND IN THE ICE BEFORE PEELING, THEY PEEL SO EASY….AND THEY ARE SO COLD YOU CAN USE THEM RIGHT AWAY .

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Seth Martin May 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Just to say that one can avoid the shells cracking by puncturing it with a pin designed for just the purpose. This then allows for the egg(s) to be placed directly into boiling water. 6 minutes to soft boil then immediately shock with cold water, which they do all the time in Germany. I’ve never encountered any green discoloration this way.

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Marge May 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm

How interesting, Seth. You cook it in already boiled water for six minutes, i let it warm up as the water comes to a boil and then allow it to sit another 3 minutes and we end up in the same place. The pin hole is probably important in your method to keep the shell from cracking, and I assume that somehow no egg leaks out when you put it in the boiling water.
In all likelihood, both take about the same amount of time for the cook, I would guess. Thanks for sharing this method!

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Liz July 19, 2012 at 12:13 pm

I have used this method, however, I forget if you remove the pot from the heat of an electric stove before the 12-15 minute “cook” in covered pot?

Also, what temp do you start the water at?

Thanks,

Liz

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Marge July 19, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Hi Liz– You bring the water and eggs to a boil together, which means you likely have your pot set over high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, remove the pan from the burner, cover the pot and let it sit, off the heat and covered. It doesn’t matter whether you are cooking over gas or electric heat (or even an open fire if you are camping!). The method is always the same.
Enjoy your eggs!

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sharon July 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm

I was so thrilled to find this site…my sister just gave me a recipe, same method but at 20 min., hers do come out like your 12 min. egg..Nice moist yolk…I do NOT like dry yolks so I thought I would try your 12 min. method…no clue what is going on but I ended up with Dry yolk???? Is it suppose to be a gentle boil or rolling? I did in between..just starting to roll?? any clue?

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sharon July 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm

* per last post I did NOT remove from heat…should I have??

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Marge July 22, 2012 at 1:08 pm

You want to remove the pot from the heat, cover it and set your timer. You are timing how long you leave the eggs in the covered pot off the heat. Enjoy!

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