There’s nothing quite like a perfectly cooked boiled egg. Whether you enjoy dipping your toast in a runny yolk, the ‘jammy’ soft-boiled eggs they put in the ramen at your favorite Japanese restaurant, or the hard-boiled egg in your lunchtime Niçoise salad, there’s a perfect egg for everyone. Follow our ultimate guide to boiled eggs to get yours just right every time.
Boiling eggs is easy if you know how, but scientists at California University Irvine performed the seemingly impossible back in 2015, when they discovered a way to unboil an egg.
Ingredients and equipment
To boil the perfect batch of eggs, you will need:
6 large eggs
A saucepan and lid
A large slotted spoon
A bowl with water and ice - don’t overfill the bowl, you’ll be dunking eggs in it later.
Steps and instructions
- Place the eggs in the saucepan and add cold water, making sure the eggs are covered by at least an inch of water.
- Place the saucepan on the stove, uncovered, and bring to the boil.
- Once the water has reached a full, rolling boil, turn off the heat, leaving the pan on the still-warm burner, and cover with the lid.
- For firm hard-boiled eggs, set your timer for 12 minutes.
- When the time has elapsed, remove the eggs from the pan with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of icy water to stop them cooking.
If you like your eggs a little runnier, all you need to do is alter the cooking time. This handy infographic lets you know all the timings at a glance, whether you prefer your eggs hard boiled, soft and runny, or somewhere in between.
How to peel a boiled egg
One of the worst parts of cooking boiled eggs is trying to peel them. Get it wrong and you can end up with bits of shell everywhere or chunks gouged out of your egg. New eggs are the hardest of all to peel, so you can make things a little easier for yourself by buying them a few days before you want to cook them. Otherwise, there are several different techniques you can use to peel an egg - some of them time-saving, and one cool party trick.
Use a spoon:
Tap the wide end of your egg on the counter and remove a piece of shell, then take a teaspoon and slide it between the shell and the white, moving down and around the egg until the shell comes off in one piece. There is a knack to this method, and once you’ve got it, you can remove eggshells in seconds. You do run the risk of gouging chunks out of your eggs if you hold the spoon at the wrong angle, though.
Store them in water:
Place your eggs in cold water and store in the fridge for at least 1 hour. After this, the shells should be looser, and will come away easily when you try to peel them.
Crack and roll:
Tap one end of your egg against the counter to crack it, then roll it around, applying gentle pressure with the palm of your hand, until the shell is covered in cracks. This helps loosen the membrane that holds the shell to the egg, as well as providing lots of entry points for easy removal.
Peel them under water:
Take a bowl full of room-temperature water and submerge your egg, cracking one end against the side to provide an entry point. Once the water gets under the shell, it will loosen the membrane that holds the shell to the egg, and the shells should come away easily.
Blow it out:
Our last method is more of a party trick than a serious way to peel an egg, but it does look pretty cool when it works.
Tap your egg on the counter at both ends, removing a piece of shell from both the top and the bottom. Next, hold your hand around the egg and put your mouth to the top of the gap in the middle of your hand. Blow into the gap - you might have to blow quite hard - and you will hear a whistling sound as the egg detaches from its shell and drops out of the bottom of your hand.
Conservation and alternative methods
To store boiled eggs, place them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. For best results, leave the shells on, but if you’ve already peeled them, add a damp paper towel to the container to keep them from drying out, and change it daily. Your hard boiled eggs should keep for up to seven days stored in either of these ways.
If you want to try a less conventional way of making hard ‘boiled’ eggs, we’ve found some surprisingly effective alternatives:
In the oven:
This method is useful if you need to cook a lot of eggs at once, but stove space is limited. Preheat your oven to 350°F, then place 12 eggs inside the individual holes in a muffin pan to stop them rolling around. Bake for around 30 minutes, then place in a bowl of ice and water for a further 10 minutes.
In a pressure cooker:
This method cooks perfect hard boiled eggs and makes them easier to peel. Simply add two cups of water and 8 eggs to the pressure cooker, and cook for 6 minutes on a low pressure. Leave to sit for 5 minutes, then place in a bowl of ice and water to cool.
On the BBQ:
For ‘boiled’ eggs with a distinctive smoky flavour, take a look at our how-to guide to making grilled eggs on the barbecue.
Celebrate all things egg with a few of our favourite dishes that make this humble ingredient the star.
Savour this beautifully simple dish of soy-marinated eggs from Bon Appetit - a soft-boiled, jammy egg, rich with Asian flavours.
Treat yourself to that gastropub staple, the scotch egg (recipe courtesy of Bon Appetit). The perfect boiled egg, covered in sausage meat and a deep-fried crispy crumb.
Or if you’re looking for an appetiser for your next dinner party, try our take on devilled eggs with various fillings.
If you want to know more, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions on how to boil an egg.
How many minutes should I cook my egg?
How long you boil an egg depends on the consistency you want. For a runny breakfast egg, you can cook your egg for as little as 3 minutes, while a completely hard-boiled egg may take around 12-14.
Why does my yolk have a green circle around it?
A green circle around the yolk means an overcooked egg. This is a sign that you should reduce the cooking time on your next batch of eggs.
One of my eggs cracked while boiling. Can I still eat it?
Egg that has seeped from the shell during cooking will still be cooked - it will just be more of a poached egg than a boiled egg.
Why doesn’t my egg peel smoothly?
There are many things that can make eggs difficult to peel. Fresh eggs tend to be harder to peel than older eggs, for example. To make things a little easier, check out some of our tips, above.
Now you know all there is to know about boiling chickens’ eggs, why not try something a little more sophisticated, with our step-by-step guide on how to boil a quail’s egg?
Flavour Hacking - How to Cook Eggs
Learn how to make perfect scrambled eggs, how to make fried eggs using a special poaching trick and learn to cure egg yolks using an ancient technique that gives them a super intense flavour. There's also a bonus experiment of cooking eggs in the dishwasher, which is a lot better than yu might think.