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With my first Easter as a mommy approaching rapidly, thoughts of dyeing Easter eggs, hunts in the morning dewy grass, and pastel baskets full of goodies are on my mind. With my son only a mere 5 months old…I’ll probably be waiting another year yet, so I figured, let’s celebrate the season in another way! I’m starting off my egg-spiration with a recipe/technique that produces perfect hard cooked eggs every time.
It’s Hard Cooked – Not Hard boiled
Allow me an English major moment here…have you ever heard of proprietary eponyms? It’s a term that refers to a brand name being used as a general term for a product. Like saying I need a kleenex, instead of I need a tissue. Or Chapstick. Or Ziploc bags. You get the point.
I feel like hard cooked eggs are kind of like this. Sure, ‘hard boiled’ isn’t a brand name, but it is just ONE technique for making a HARD COOKED egg. Hard cooked describes an egg that is cooked in it’s shell until the white and yolk have set to a desired point. It can be done through several processes: boiling, baking, and steaming.
While boiling may be the most popular method for creating hard cooked eggs, I’m going to argue that it actually isn’t the best method. Hear me out.
Easily the most popular and well known method of achieving hard cooked eggs. It’s a very simple method: eggs in water to a boil then covered and removed from the heat for a set amount of time. It couldn’t be simpler.
But it isn’t entirely perfect. There are numerous potential problems: cracked eggs, hard to peel eggs, green rimmed yolks, rubbery whites.
Because boiling water actually has a higher temperature than the temperature needed to coagulate the egg proteins, it’s easy to overcook them. Since the water is moving with such high force and energy, it’s easy to crack eggs or for the whites to cook faster, leading to rubbery whites by the time the yolk is cooked.
To avoid most of these problems, cooking your eggs in a temperature below a simmer will work. Aim for a water temperature of 180°F to 190°F for 10 to 15 minutes.
I know what you’re thinking: I take the eggs off the heat as soon as the water boils! While that does prevent the eggs from cooking in turbulent boiling water for too long (if you’re on top of things), removing them from the heat source also means you’re not going to maintain a consistent temperature in your pot. It will cool the longer the eggs are off the heat.
Before I get to the method I prefer, I know you’re wondering how and why I would bake an egg. It was an odd thought to me too, but since Alton Brown said it was possible, I said okay let’s try it!
Honestly for some reason I kept expecting the eggs to explode or something. You have to bake them for so much longer than you cook them on the stove. But they didn’t! No exploded eggs, no gooey yolk scalding in the bottom of my oven. (Not to say it isn’t possible.)
Buuuut, it wasn’t my favorite method for a few reasons. The texture was odd, even after I tried reducing the bake time. The eggs were just tougher somehow, not tender and silky like I was used to. Also, where the eggs sat on the oven rack, little brown marks were scalded on the whites through the shell. It didn’t affect flavor, but I didn’t love looking at it.
It was low maintenance sure, just turn on the oven, set eggs on the rack, and bake. It’s a great way to cook a lot of eggs at once. So go ahead, try it if you like. It does work. But I’ll stick with steaming.
I hate peeling hard cooked eggs. It’s literally the reason I avoided making them often. Until now.
That’s right. Steamed eggs are the easiest to peel eggs I’ve ever come across. Both freshly cooked or from the fridge I found that steamed eggs were remarkably simple to peel, leaving my whites intact and pristine.
Alton Brown suggests in his book I’m Just Here For the Food that this may be because a small amount of egg white is pushed through the pores of the egg while cooking but is washed away by the steam, reducing any potential gumming up of the area between the shell and the solidifying white.
Whatever the reason, I’m sold. Steaming requires very little water, and because you leave them on the heat, the eggs are kept in a consistent temperature environment. This reduces the potential of overcooked or under-cooked eggs. No green yolks! Plus steam doesn’t thrash your eggs around, so no cracks!
Steaming is every bit as simple as boiling in my opinion, and I think once you try it, you’ll be a convert too!
The set up is exactly the same as boiling eggs, except for one tool: the steamer basket. If you don’t have one, they are an inexpensive and I think helpful tool to have around the house. I’ve seen them for $10 on amazon.
Or, if you really don’t want to invest in one, you can hack a substitute. A colander that fits inside your pot will work. If your colander has a handle that prevents the pot lid from fitting snugly don’t worry too much. As long as most of the steam stays in the pot it will work. According to food scientist Harold McGee, allowing some steam to escape will produce a more tender white.
Or, placing a heat proof plate on top of three alluminum foil balls inside the pot can work. Be advised, the plate can affect the transference of steam around the eggs so it may affect cook time.
Once you’ve got your steaming basket situated, you’ll need a pot with an inch or two of water, a bowl of ice water, and a spoon for lifting out your eggs. Oh, and eggs.
Time and Technique
Place your pot with water and the steamer basket over medium heat and bring the water to a boil. Once boiling and producing steam, place the eggs in the basket. Cover with a lid, and set your timer.
I found 15 minutes produced the hard cooked eggs I was familiar with. A firm white, and dry, firm yolk. These are the eggs I think most of us grew up with. However, as an adult I find I actually prefer a softer, creamier yolk. 10 minutes was very soft, but not liquid, and 12 minutes was creamy but more set. If you know you like a softer yolk, I recommend you try it out!
Once you start that timer though, the eggs need to stay over the heat for the entire cook time. Keep that water boiling. If you’re considering making some softer and some firmer eggs, be warned that lifting that lid off the pot will affect your cook time.
Pull out your 12 minute eggs quickly, then place the lid back on and add 2 minutes to your cook time for any remaining eggs.
Regardless of the cooking method you choose, having a bowl of ice water ready to go is essential.
Taking the eggs immediately from the pot and immersing them in ice water will stop the cooking process. This is so important! Without this, residual heat within the eggs will continue to cook them potentially overcooking them and leading to that unsightly green ring.
Leave them in the ice water until cool to the touch. Then eat immediately or store in the shell until you’re ready to use them.
Perfect Hard Cooked Eggs
So there you have it, the secret to easy to peel perfect hard cooked eggs every time. This was a fun experiment for me to do, and now I know that next year, when my son is of egg dyeing age, I’ll be ready. No cracked eggs, no green insides, just beautiful eggs that we’ll be able to enjoy long after the hunt is over.
I hope you have a happy Easter, and enjoy this steaming method for hard cooked eggs even when the Easter bunny has come and gone!
Eggs – However many you choose/your pan can fit!
- 1/2 Cup water
- 2 1/2 Cups ice water
- 6 eggs
- Add a couple of inches of water to the bottom of a large pot. Place steamer basket into the pot. The water should not be high enough to come through the bottom of the steamer basket, if it is, remove some water.
- Bring water to a boil over medium heat.
- When water is boiling, place eggs in the steamer basket. Place lid on top of the pot.
- Steam eggs for 15 minutes. (12 minutes if you like softer yolks).
- After 15 minutes, remove eggs and place in a bowl of ice water. Let cool in water until chilled to touch. Peel and enjoy, or store in fridge and peel when ready to eat!