Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs Recipe

This is a recipe I got from David Tanis’ A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes.

I realize that naming this cookbook my favorite for 2008 and then showcasing its recipe for hard-boiled eggs sends a curious message, yet it illustrates exactly what I look for in a book: not just engaging stories, understated pictures, and seasonally sound menus — all features that ?tag=chocolzucchi-20″>Tanis’ book can brag about — but also things to learn, understand, and remember long after the book has been shut.

A Platter of FigsThis is why I was bound to fall for a book that draws its title from that very premise: you need know-how, rather than a recipe, to serve a good platter of figs. A book that not only gives you a recipe for Jellied Chicken Terrine (three cheers for aspic!), but also devotes two pages to Grilled Chicken Breasts and includes a sub-recipe for the Soft-Center Hard-Cooked Eggs that you are to place, halved or quartered, around the inverted and unmolded terrine.

If, like me, you’ve long been a card-carrying member of the Hard-Boiled Eggs Loathing Society, prepare to have your mind changed. The proper way of making them, as outlined below, will not produce the dreaded dandruffy yolk, sapless and tinged with grey, but one that’s creamy and glowing, nested in a springy, just-set white.

There’s not much to it, really, yet it is one of those basic skills that everyone assumes you possess, when I myself can’t make an oeuf à la coque without calling Maxence to double-check the cooking time, so it is nice when someone takes the time to hold your hand through the process.

If, like me, you’ve long been a card-carrying member of the Hard-Boiled Eggs Loathing Society, prepare to have your mind changed.

UPDATE: David Tanis’ method consisted in lowering the eggs in boiling water and cooking them for 8 to 9 minutes. I have since changed my way of making hard-boiled eggs, and now prefer to put the eggs in when the water is cold, bring to a boil, and let rest off the heat for 10 minutes. I’ve updated the recipe below to reflect that.

And then of course you’re free to do whatever you please with those eggs. I am not sure if or when I will make the terrine — I have my eye on the Fava Bean Salad with Mountain Ham and Mint and the Fish Soup with Mussels and Chorizo first — but these perfect eggs have already become regular adornments to my lunch salads, the grated carrot and avocado salad, the red quinoa salad, and the grated carrot and beet salad. Surely you’ve met?

Raw eggs and the nifty basket I use to lift them out of the water.

Raw eggs and the nifty basket I use to lift them out of the water.

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Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs Recipe

Prep Time: 2 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Total Time: 14 minutes

Yields 6 hard-boiled eggs (what, did you think they'd reproduce?)

Perfect Hard-Boiled Eggs Recipe


  • 6 large organic eggs


  1. Place the eggs in a medium pan and cover with cold water. Bring to a rolling boil, covered, over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes.
  2. While the eggs are resting, fill a medium bowl with cold water and add a full tray of ice cubes (remember to refill the ice cube tray if you prefer to avoid this).
  3. After 10 minutes, lift the eggs out of the water with a slotted spoon and put them in the bowl of ice water; this will halt the cooking.
  4. When the eggs are cold -- this will take just a couple of minutes -- tap them gently on the counter to crack their shell all around, and return to the bowl a few more minutes: the water will infiltrate the eggs beneath the shell and make them easier to peel. (Also, when peeling the eggs, notice that there is a thin skin between the white and the shell; once found and ruptured, that skin provides good leverage to peel off the shell.)


If you're not using all six eggs right away, don't crack or peel the ones you're saving. Just write a capital "D" (for dur, hard) on each shell with a pencil, to make sure no one mistakes them for fresh; this is how my mother does it and I know no other way. Keep the eggs in the fridge and eat within a day or two.
  • Finally after all these years I have found the secret to shelling hard boiled eggs – merci beaucoup!

    • Mrs. Redboots – your method is almost exactly like mine and allows you to start cooking immediately, instead of removing the eggs from the fridge early.

  • Mrs Redboots

    I start mine in cold water, and cook them for 10 minutes, turning the heat down when they start to boil.

    But however you do them, always, always, always put them in cold water to terminate the cooking, as this stops them getting that nasty grey line around the yolk.

  • MaW

    I thought everybody knew about the cold water technique for stopping the grey line! Spread the word, it’s the only way to get perfect hard boiled eggs.

  • DDL

    A question about the boiling – when you put the eggs into the water, it’s at a rolling boil. But, do you start timing as soon as the eggs go in, or after the water comes back to a simmer? Do you adjust the heat at all to maintain a simmer, or does it make a difference to let it return to a full boil?

  • Kim Price

    Mrs. Redboots – your method is almost exactly like mine and allows you to start cooking immediately, instead of removing the eggs from the fridge early.

    I start in cold water, bring to a boil, put the heat on low and cover. Once the heat is on low, I cook them for 11 minutes (I want the yolk just barely solid) and then immediately run cold water over them (our tap water is pretty cold).

    This method never fails me and requires no advance planning.

  • jonquil

    i am excited–this book is on my wish list for contemplation. now i have an example of what is inside, it will go on the buy-soon list! thanks………..

  • Mrs Redboots and Kim – This is the method my mother taught me on her gas burners, but I find it doesn’t work on my electric stove, which takes a loooong time to heat, then heat the pan, then bring the water to the boil, so 10 minutes is not enough. Starting from the boil, however, means I can heat the water in the kettle, save time, and have reliable results.

    Also, if there is no time to let the eggs come to room temp, you can give them a warm bath instead.

    DDL – I set the pan over medium-high heat to bring the water to the boil, and start timing as soon as the eggs are in, without changing the heat under the pan or worrying about the boil or no boil.

  • If you find an egg and want to know if it’s raw or hard-boiled, there’s a little trick.
    Put the egg on the bench and spin it.
    Let it spin for a few seconds then tap your fingers on the top of the spinning egg (for less than a second) then quickly take your hand off the egg again.
    If the egg is raw it will continue to spin because the insides are still moving even though your hand stopped the shell.
    If the egg doesn’t spin anymore, it’s cooked inside.

  • What about the 64 degree egg?

  • I am definitely part of the Hard-boiled Egg Loathing Society, but I’d love to renounce my membership. The 8-minute, soft-centered egg might be the way out!

  • Peter

    Another method (suggested by Alton Brown) if you have a suitable electric kettle: put the eggs in the kettle, cover with water, turn on the kettle. When the kettle turns itself off (i.e. is boiling) start a timer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes put the eggs in ice water and continue as above.

    I’ve made the duck breast in Tanis’s book–it’s really good.

  • Erin

    I just got the book last week and read the entire thing in one sitting, right now I’m focused on the winter recipes, but am scanning the spring ideas so I’m ready as soon as it gets warm here in New Mexico. I tried his harrisa oil recipe and am completely smitten. Between the Chocolate and Zucchini cookbook and his, I’m tempted to drop out of college and go to culinary school or just move to Spain, Italy, or France….(no worries I’m a year away from my degree)

  • My mother always wrote the date the egg was boiled on the egg in pencil…

    Lately we have had good luck steaming our eggs (according to Alton Brown’s directions) – many fewer broken eggs but sadly the perfect timing still depends on the size of the egg and luck.

  • Thank you for the refresher course on hard-boiled eggs! I have suffered many years of egg-boiling anxiety — ever since I worked at a cafe in college and was required to hard-boil so many a night for egg salad the next day. The owner was so angry when I would mess it up!

    This recipe should be featured on its own page, with bright lettering, in every cook book ever. :-)

    Thank you again.

  • elemjay

    Just as long as you do NOT try making hard boiled eggs inside a kettle! My husband used to do this, and it was quite efficient until the day when one of the eggs cracked and then there were bits of cooked egg white everywhere all over the inside of the kettle. It did not improve a cup of tea, I have to tell you…

  • I have to agree with you in your naming this book your favorite for ’08. I’ve been reading it like a novel, and have been thrilled to learn so many basic things about cooking along the way. The recipes are simple but even so, you really have to know how to handle food to make it shine — and Tanis is just the one to show us. He manages to rise above all the media frenzy surrounding eating locally and seasonally and makes it seem fresh once more.

  • similar to Cassandra’s way of checking if an in-shell egg is raw or hard-boiled, i also spin mine on the counter. Try spinning both at the same time, you will notice the hard-boiled egg spins longer and more steadily while the raw one wavers around like drunk and stops sooner.

    I make perfect eggs by starting with boiling water, putting in the eggs, turning off the heat and covering for 10 minutes – 6 minutes for soft eggs (this is cold eggs straight from the fridge). to keep cold eggs from leaking out from cracked shell, add a spoonful of white vinegar in the boiling water before putting in the eggs.

  • I am part of that hard-boiled egg loathing society as well so I’m very intrigued by this technique. I will be sure to try it next time I buy eggs!

  • Hope

    I have tried and tried to make a good hard boiled egg, namely at college and now at my boyfriend’s sparsely supplied kitchen, but have never done a great job. Growing up, my mom always used an egg cooker and that’s what I will now rely on. This one is great.

    Most people don’t need another kitchen gadget but if you eat a lot of eggs, it’s worth the investment.

    I am just starting a blog.

  • I can’t peel eggs to save my life.

    But when I boiled some for lunch just now, I remembered your ice bath tip. To save time, I cracked the shells and then ran cold water over them while massaging the cracks a bit. Worked like a charm! You have saved me from so much frustration.


  • You’ve probably had a hundred of these, but I’d like to pass on the “Kreativ” award to you. Whether you’re hard boiling eggs or making a complicated souffle’ – this is one creative site.

    I particularly love your “Edible Idioms”.
    Best wishes, Sally

  • yam,yam,yam, look wonderful and tasty!!! I love it!! Gloria

  • Monica

    I used to know somebody who tagged the hard-boiled eggs in her fridge by kissing them — she wore very red lipstick, so this was a vivid label, impossible to miss.

  • Thanks for this! I am an egg lover but hate hard-boiled eggs. I will have to try this way of cooking them.

  • All – Glad so many of you have been enjoying this book too!

    Simon – Hervé This calls it the 65-degree egg and I find it super interesting, but not super energy-efficient.

    Sally – I haven’t received a hundred of those, and I am honored! Thanks for the kind words.

    Monica – Love that idea; the sort of detail one would want to use in a novel.

  • This method will work and allow you to peel the eggs easily so long as the eggs are at least a week old. To make sure you can always peel them easily, and still have a nice rich, non-chalky center, steam them. I put a steamer in a pot, with about an inch of water in there, put the eggs in the steamer and cover. Turn the heat on to high and cook for 12 minutes from the time I turn it on until I take them off the heat. Rinse in cool water, crack and peel. This works even on the eggs we get right out from under our hens.

  • Sarah

    Another way to peel eggs (only works for multiple eggs at a time) is to put the cooked eggs in a saucepan and swirl it in a circle for a minute or so – the eggs will actually pop out of the shell on their own. What happens is the shell gets hundreds of miniscule cracks and becomes almost soft, while the inner membrane is relatively untouched. About half the eggs will ‘jump out’ while the rest of them can be peeled with the shell remaining in one piece.

  • Great! I was just talking to someone about how to achieve the perfect boiled eggs yesterday. He thought he had discovered it. But, this method looks like the winner! The color is amazing.

  • now why can’t we just convince breakfast restaurants in america to do this?! i love going out to brunch, but i never get eggs the way i like them.

    maybe i’ll have to open my own.. ;) thanks for the tip. now when i make them myself, i won’t waste half the carton on mess-ups!

  • hard boiled eggs are easy; soft-boiled are the real challenge. how to make sure the whites aren’t runny but avoid a hard yolk?!

  • oscar Bartos

    I thought everyone knew and used the Cook’s Illustrated technique – it’s basically the same as Alton Brown’s, but done on the stovetop. Put the eggs in the pan with cold water. Heat until boiling. Immediately take off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes. Dunk them in ice cold water to cool. I love this technique because there’s no guesswork about what’s a proper simmer, and you don’t have to warm up the eggs beforehand.

    I once took mine off the heat before the boiling point and ended up with soft-center eggs. They were still good, but I really wanted the fluffy center. Weird, I know. But it means this recipe could be adapted to that style – probaby by reducing the resting time to 7 minutes or something.

  • kim

    I’m member of the ‘medium boiled egg’ fanclub, but we’re very specific: the white has to be firm, and the yolk still needs to be runny. I can only get this done in an egg cooker.
    For your hard boiled eggs: is the yolk still moist after a day in the fridge? (I’d want to take them to work for lunch)

  • The color of your egg yolks is sooo pretty. I’ve always wanted to try the eggs in the kettle idea!

  • I’ll buy the fig cookbook if only to display the beautiful cover!
    I could eat figs all year long…I want one noW!!

  • These are the same eggs I had growing up! My father,, the engineer, was very adamant that his eggs be cooked for 8 minutes and 20 seconds :)

  • elizadee

    “I know no other way.”…. a hard boiled egg spins nicely on a counter top… a fresh egg will wobble when spun. try it! :)

  • Thanks Clotide, I didn’t know it made it easier to peel the shell off if you put it back into the cold water, I’ll give it a try..
    There are some good tips too on Delia Smith’s website eg to make a little pinhole in the wider end helps stop cracking and that very fresh eggs are harder to peel than ones a few days old.

  • I actually do love hard-boiled eggs, or eggs of any kind. And I like the yolk soft, just almost runny. I haven’t found a great method to achieve this, it’s usually hit or miss. Maybe this is the ticket!

  • I believe you should also take the size of the egg into account, because in these matters science has shown that size really does matter ;)

  • is that the beet and carrot salad from last winter under those beautiful eggs????

    i cannot tell you how many times i made that last year. i love love love it.

    thank you for every delicious recipe you post!

  • Those eggs in the top image look absolutely perfect! David Tanis’ method is interesting, it’s like cooking vegetables and shocking them right after. I wonder if that affects the color of the yolk like it does with the green of shocked asparagus.

    Tanis’ method and Alton Brown’s method of boiling an egg are distinctly far from what our mothers taught us. It’s no wonder why many of us assume that we possess the skill but don’t succeed in making the perfect hard-boiled egg.

  • perfect – for a rather new cook (me) this is very helpful. thank you!

  • perfect! My friend just brought back some spanish tuna from spain and I am going to make a potato, egg, tuna salad that they make in a bodegon in the south of spain.

    This recipe is clutch.

    Do you think that perfect eggs are attainable when making chinese tea eggs? I’ll boil on that one for a bit… just 8 minutes tho.

  • Hi Clotilde,
    Never, in all my cook book or blogosphere explorations, have I come across a recipe that I actually have faith will make GOOD hard-boiled eggs. I can’t wait to try this!

  • judy

    To counter the “nasty gray line” (or sometimes green), I pierce the to-be-boiled egg with a thumbtack (on the fat side of the egg). I’m told this lets some sort of nasty gas out of the egg. They’ve always looked lovely since.

  • Ruth Adams

    Having grown up on a chicken farm, I wanted to share my expertise, but the spinning and the cold water, etc tricks were all mentioned in the previous comments. The only thing I can add is that the colour of the yolks is vivid because of what the chickens ate. American chickens tend to be fed on corn with some supplements and the yolk stays very pale.

  • Since I am married to a German (a group of people genetically predisposed to being able to cook hard boiled eggs and potatoes perfectly), I have learned to ask, at our B&B breakfast table, would you like your eggs 3,4,5,6,7 or 8 minutes? You will have to ask my husband for a detailed (yawn) explanation of the subtle textural difference between a 4 and a 5, and it all depends when the egg was laid or taken out of the fridge. My husband also came complete with an egg piercer, basically a spring with a straight pin on it, for piercing an egg before boiling, therefore preventing any boiled egg disasters. All of this is more than I ever want to know about boiled eggs, believe me. We get ours for free from our neighbors’ chickens’ over flow, they feed all winter and spring on my harvested sunflowers and corn. The yolks are fiery orange. I love the ones which are boiled with just a touch of softness all the way in the middle, sliced with avocado, a smear of homemade mayonnaise (decadent) on a piece of that “grainy bread”. Heaven.

  • I’ve always hated hard-boiled eggs, but these look delicious. Will I actually have to try them?!?!?

  • those bright yellow-orange egg yolks look so tasty. the texture is perfect. not too flaky or dry, just right. yum!

  • The wire egg sieve/holder in the photo looks almost exactly like the ones that Chinese people use for hot-pots/Chinese “steamboat”. You might be able to get good, cheap versions (maybe they will be gold instead of silver colored) at your local Chinese supermarket or Chinatown if it is difficult finding them in the regular stores.

  • sarah

    Just an added hint from my culinary school days, putting a bit of vinegar in the water before boiling helps buffer the eggs so they don’t break if they tap against each other while cooking. (I also was taught that the the cook time could be as little as 7 minutes.)

  • I learned from experience that using room temperature eggs helps prevent them from exploding during cooking. Maybe it’s the high temp. contrast from a refrigerated to boiling water.

  • Thank you for this post.

    I do the following with mixed results: add cold eggs to pot of cold water. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Transfer eggs to container of cold water. Crack and peel.

    Should invest in a wire egg spoon.

  • richard

    This is way to much effort and discussion for a hard boiled egg.

  • Dan

    To bring eggs to room temperature, believe it or not, I use the microwave. Mine is powerful —
    1100 Watts. Setting the Power to 3, I microwave eggs for a 1 minute. It works perfectly. When you crack them, the eggs run out of the shells and cook evenly in the pan (or when you then boil them).

    Warning: you must experiment with your machine to get it right. Wrong is when the eggs explode (messy and wierd-smelling). How do I know that…?:-) Dan

  • Gman

    Am wild about eggs any way I can get ’em, and love both hard and soft cooked. I like the start them in cold method (take them off heat once they boil, 10 minutes later shock them). Also, a tip I learned (from Julia Child, I believe…) peel them all at the same time, keep leftovers in the fridge submerged in water, preferably covered with a lid or foil or something, as the water seems to absorb flavors from the fridge. As long as your whites are intact this seems fine for days. On her suggestion have done the same thing with poached eggs: shock them in cold when just done. Keep in water for a few days. Drop them into simmering water for one minute to warm… still nice runny yolks for on top of all sorts of things: a bed of lentils (personal fave, with some sauccison Lyonnaise or Keilbasa); a salad of haricot verts (Dan Barber’s recipe) or on top of a crisp piece of schnitzel (which for some reason, when served this way with the egg is referred to as “al Holstein”). I poach using the new silicone Poach Pods (I could never master poaching…) which give me a good solid shape for both immediate or later use. Time for lunch, I think… cheers.

  • Sally

    For even more details on how to cook an egg, see Jacques Pepin’s video on You-Tube. Sometimes the simplest things in life are the hardest to come by. Watch and learn!! :)

  • ninja dave

    what if you want warm boiled eggs?
    put your eggs in a pot of cold water, turn on the gas, when the water starts to boil put bread in the toaster and when the toast pops your eggs are done. ta daaa

  • Thank you so much for posting this!
    I had no idea how to avoid cracked eggs before. I tried your method immediately and got perfect semi-soft yolks – very happy :)

  • huy

    OMG!! Thank-You!! I am finally able to boil a perfect egg!! Did exactly as you said and they turned out exactly like you said they would Unbelievable! I’ve always shy away from hard boiled eggs because I couldn’t get them right… Now I love them! thanks again

  • Heather

    I’ve found that the easiest way to peel a hard boiled egg is to crack the shell all around as you mentioned, and then roll it between my hands a few times. It seems to allow the air to get between the skin and the egg, and it peels with no fuss at all! Saves my sanity, as I love a well-cooked hard-boiled egg, but despise the frustration that can accompany peeling them.

    Thanks for so many lovely posts – truly an enjoyable blog!

  • Kojak

    I was asked to make an egg salad for a crowd. I had to hard cook 18 eggs, and the thought of cooking and peeling them made me crazy.
    I have an electric steamer/rice cooker. It has a bowl insert for rice. I cracked all the eggs into the bowl, set the timer for 20 minutes but removed the bowl after 10 minutes of steady steaming. I then had a solid mass of hard cooked eggs with solid yet creamy yolks…and no green lines. I just used my wire whisk to break the mass into an egg salad, and added the mayo and other fixings.
    Worked very well.

  • Kojak – That’s a great tip, thank you.

  • chester

    Hi Clotilde! Wow – your eggs look like they come from pasture chickens who don’t eat any soy! how beautifully orange! Not from any American supermarket!

    I get mine straight from the farmer. His chickens eat grass and grubs and silage – and table scraps sometimes. Usually my eggs are just that gorgeous but sometimes they are yellow, not orange. But never the pale yellow that comes from factory-farm eggs. (Which I hpe are illeal in teh EU) I am new to your site – I love it! Thank you!

  • Kirsten Foster

    My husband asked me this morning ‘Where could I buy really fresh, like a day old or less, eggs in Paris?’ I don’t know, do you? I’m a soft-boiled person – set white and yolk firm at the edges and gooey at the centre. I use Delia Smith’s technique of putting eggs in cold water (covering them about an inch), then bringing to boil and AS SOON AS the water starts to boil turning the neat as low as it will go, so it’s barely simmering. The you start the timer – 3 mins for slightly soft white, 4 mins for hard white and soft yolk. But I do find the results vary, obviously, due to size and freshness. Anyway, back to my question – anyone know where to get the freshest laid eggs in Paris?

  • Kirsten – Cheese shops sell what’s called “extra-frais” eggs (a.k.a. “oeufs coque”), which can only be called that if they’ve been laid less than 9 days ago.

    For even fresher eggs, you can go to the Batignolles farmer’s market: the butcher at the very end of the market sells eggs from his own farm, and they’re just days old.

  • Nabila Khan

    Lokking for some great pic of food? you can see it hear…

  • Nabila Khan

    Lokking for some great pic of food? you can see it hear…

  • Eden Valley Bakers

    I found the best way is to steam them. 13 minutes they are fully hard boiled, but steaming for shorter times allows a softer center. Then I plunge in ice water, and peel.

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