How to make hard boiled eggs
If you have ever had a frustrating experience making hard boiled eggs, you know that there is more to it than simply boiling and peeling.
Ask a friend, search the web, or reference a cookbook, and you will find many different opinions about the type of egg to use and favorite cooking methods.
Does the type of egg matter? Is one cooking method better than another to help the shell peel off without taking big chunks of the egg itself?
We have some key tips for selecting and prepping eggs, plus two different methods for cooking them: the traditional stovetop method and in the Instant Pot or other pressure cooker.
Choosing the right eggs
The age of the egg affects how easily the shell will peel away after cooking. Eggs that are too fresh will have shells that are difficult to remove without damaging (or even totally ripping apart) the egg white.
Very fresh eggs can be difficult to peel, so to ensure easily-peeled eggs, buy and refrigerate them a week to 10 days in advance of cooking. This brief “breather” allows the eggs time to take in air, which helps separate the membranes from the shell.
Look at the egg carton and read the “Best if used by” date to select eggs with the best flavor and quality.
The USDA says that expiration dates can be no more than 30 days from the day the eggs were packed into the carton. Terminology such as “Use by”, “Use before”, “Best before” tells you the time in which the eggs should be eaten before overall quality diminishes.
Code dating using these terms may not exceed 45 days including the day the eggs were packed into the carton.
Raw eggs can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 weeks after purchase.
How to make perfect hard boiled eggs: Prepping the eggs
Select eggs that have been refrigerated and those which are clean and without any visible cracks. Do not wash eggs. Do not pierce the shell either, since not only can bacteria enter the egg, but the contents of the egg may leak out during cooking.
Cooking your hard boiled eggs the traditional way
When making hard boiled eggs, the cooking time is important. (And note: Don’t microwave shelled eggs, because they will usually explode.)
Place eggs in a single layer in bottom of a saucepan, then cover the eggs with cold water. Heat the saucepan until boiling, and then remove it from the heat.
- extra-large eggs: 15 minutes
- large eggs: 12 minutes
- medium-size eggs: 9 minutes
Be sure the egg white and egg yolk are fully-cooked and firm.
- Eggs that are overcooked will have a harmless gray-green ring around the yolk.
- Eggs that are undercooked will have runny yolks, and could allow salmonella bacteria to cause a food borne illness.
After cooking, carefully pour off hot water then submerge the eggs in cold water (ideally, plunge them immediately into an ice bath) for 5-10 minutes.
How to make Instant Pot hard boiled eggs
For most of our adult life as Gen Xers, we’ve only known this tried-and-true method outlined above, but once again technology has provided us with an opportunity to change things up.
The ease and safety of the modern automatic pressure cooker has definitely improved the hard cooked eggs process in our lifetimes!
Not only is the texture better, but it is arguably the most reliable way to make perfect hard boiled eggs with no unappetizing green-ish ring to mar the sunny golden yolk.
Like all things hard cooked eggs, everyone has an opinion about the best timing for making them in the pressure cooker. The 5/5/5 method, however, is pretty universally accepted as the gold standard for reliably perfect hard boiled eggs.
The 5/5/5 stands for:
- 5 minutes (roughly) to come to pressure
- 5 minutes at pressure
- 5 minutes natural release
Here are the steps:
- Add 1 cup of water and the eggs to the inner pot of the Instant Pot. You’ll want the eggs to sit above the water, so either stack them on the trivet or, optionally, use these stackable egg trays designed for the task.
- Close the lid and turn the steam release valve to the sealing position. Press the manual button and set the cook time to 5 minutes at high pressure. It will take approximately 5 minutes to come to pressure.
- Once the cooking time expires, the Instant Pot will beep. Natural release for 5 minutes (we recommend setting a timer so you don’t accidentally overcook the eggs!), and then release whatever steam remains.
- During the natural release stage, prepare a bowl of ice water large enough to accommodate the quantity of eggs you’ve cooked.
- Using tongs, immediately transfer the eggs to the prepared ice bath and submerge for 5-10 minutes.
Please note: The above instructions were written with the 6-quart Instant Pot in mind. If you have an 8-quart model, it will take a few minutes longer to get to pressure. To accommodate this and prevent overcooking the eggs, quick release immediately after the 5-minute cooking time is completed.
Perfect hard boiled eggs: Storage tips
Since they spoil faster than fresh eggs, refrigerated hard boiled eggs in the shell should be eaten within seven days. (Why only a week? The USDA says that when shell eggs are hard cooked, the protective coating is washed away, leaving bare the pores in the shell for bacteria to enter and contaminate it. Hard-cooked eggs should be refrigerated within 2 hours of cooking and used within a week.)
Refrigerate in in a clean, dry container to prevent odor absorption. When storing hard-cooked eggs, you may notice a “gassy” odor in your refrigerator. The odor is caused by hydrogen sulfide that forms when the eggs are cooked, says Carol Schlitt, University of Illinois Extension nutrition and wellness educator. This gas is harmless and usually dissipates within a few hours.
How to peel your perfect hard boiled eggs
Hard boiled eggs are easiest to peel right after cooling. Cooling causes the egg to contract slightly in the shell.
Gently tap egg on countertop until shell is finely crackled all over. Roll egg between hands to loosen shell. Starting peeling at large end, holding egg under cold running water to help ease the shell off.
(As a side note, is it safe to put eggshells down the garbage disposal? Spoiler alert: Probably not.)
After peeling, promptly refrigerate the eggs if they’re not going to be used right away. Once peeled, eggs should be eaten that day.