Hard-boiled as a Dashiell Hammett novel: A Tutorial on Boiled Eggs

Hard boiled eggs labeled

Greetings! I’m currently blogging from post-racial America, which is different from the America that existed when we went to sleep last night. In this America, gerrymander is just the name of that old guy who hangs out in front of the laundromat all day. I’m so glad we’ve achieved racial justice in my lifetime, and am looking forward to waking up tomorrow and learning from SCOTUS that the issue of gay marriage has similarly resolved itself. Maybe next week we’ll solve women. Stop filibustering, Wendy Davis! Stop writing articles about women in the workplace, The Atlantic! Don’t even bother running for president, Hillary!

(She said before she shouted WTF into the universe, then wtf in a quieter voice to herself, then What about Obama? to no one, like a frustrated character that wanders through a frame in an episode of Louie, in need of consolation or a winning Powerball ticket or a cheeseburger.)

Shall we make some eggs?

I grew up thinking the yolks of boiled eggs were supposed to have a greenish-grey tinge. That’s how you know they’re done, right? I mean, I followed the recipe our foremothers passed down to us:

1) Put eggs in pot.
2) Boil to hell for half an hour.
3) Peel under cold water.
4) Enjoy the sulfuric fragrance emanating from your grey-yolked supper. Really get your nose in there.
5) If your kid didn’t eat the potato you baked and slipped into her coat pocket so she can keep her hands warm during her 5-mile walk to school, because you’re a character in Little House on the Prairie, take it from her and slice it into rounds.
6) There. Now you have a nice potato salad that should last you through The Long WinterBecause that train with the salt pork and flour is NEVER COMING.

Maybe this method isn’t ideal, especially if one strives for the kind of egg that comes out of a molecular gastronomer’s immersion circulator: a creamy white; a yolk that’s firm and lemony yellow on the outside and dark orange and slightly wet in the center. In this case, “Hard-boiled” becomes a bit of a misnomer because it’s impossible to achieve the egg of a food geek’s dreams if you boil the hell out of it. A simmer is your best friend.

I read through an excellent Serious Eats post on Perfect Boiled Eggs, as well as Jacques Pepin’s Complete Techniques. For hard-boiled eggs, Serious Eats uses the method of covering cold eggs with water, bringing the water to a boil, then offing the heat and setting a timer for 10 minutes. Jacques recommends bringing water to a boil, lowering cold eggs into the pot, maintaining a bare simmer, and setting a timer for 10-12 minutes. Both say it’s important to place the eggs in cold water afterward to stop the cooking process and avoid that greenish-grey hue. Serious Eats suggests pricking the egg at the bottom to prevent the shells from cracking. Both tips were essential. Here’s my homemade egg pricker at work.

Egg with pushpin

After some experimentation, I preferred the Jacques technique for soft-boiled eggs because one can control the liquidity and creaminess. The eggs aren’t cooking as the water rises to a boil, which means they’re softer than eggs cooked using the Serious Eats technique for the same amount of time.

But for regular hard-boiled eggs, I prefer Serious Eats because it’s virtually impossible to overcook the eggs. The water cools off after 10 minutes, so if you’re a multi-tasker with a touch of ADD, like me, you could forget them, catch up on your correspondence, do lunges, and come back. They’d be fine.

I tried this method for 6, 8, 10, and 12 minute eggs. Not too much of a difference looks-wise, but the 6- and 8-minute eggs were softer and seemed better for breakfast, salads, and alone with a dusting of salt and pepper. 10 was appropriate for egg salad and deviled eggs. 12 was no different from 10, confirming that the water really does start to cool off after 10 minutes.

Boiled eggs at different times

Hard-Boiled Eggs Instructions:

2-6 large eggs

Place eggs in a 2-quart pot and fill 3/4 of the way until the eggs are fully covered.

Bring water right up to the point of almost boiling. Turn off the heat. No need to cover your pot.

Set a timer for your desired doneness. I recommend 8-10 minutes.

Fill a bowl with cold water. Once the timer goes off, place the eggs in the cold water for a minute.

Run the eggs under cold water as you peel them. This will help the shell separate from the egg and the membrane slip off.

Make a quickie cobb salad.


I pulled out some arugula, speck, a block of bleu cheese, and an old avocado, loosely collected them on a plate, and drizzled them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. C’est tout. Let your imagination/leftovers guide you.

And to wrap up, because the America I referred to at the beginning of my post doesn’t exist yet: #StandWithWendy


One thought on “Hard-boiled as a Dashiell Hammett novel: A Tutorial on Boiled Eggs

  1. Pingback: Miso Ramen with Shiitake Mushroom Broth & Marinated Eggs + Solo YOLOing Through the Summer | Counter Productive


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