Making hard-boiled eggs seems easy. After all, isn’t it pretty much the same as, uh, boiling water?
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve always found making hard-boiled eggs to be harder than it looks. Are the eggs supposed to be cold or at room temperature when they go in to the water? When do I bring the water to a boil, before or after the eggs have gone in? What exactly does “boil” mean? Is it a gentle simmer in which a few bubbles slowly rise up from the bottom of the pan and break gently at the surface, or is it a rapid and audible churning of bubbly froth and foam? How long do I cook the eggs, and what happens if I fail to keep the water boiling during the requisite period of time? Perhaps most bafflingly, how do I keep the eggs’ shells from cracking and their yolks from turning green.
So many questions for which I’ve never found any consistent answers.
For years, my approach has been to avoid the issue altogether by using an egg cooker. My hope was that by investing in a little upfront cash to buy the contraption and some ongoing cabinet space to store it, I’d be able to make perfect hard-boiled eggs consistently and effortlessly.
Alas, that expectation has proven to be true more in theory than in fact. To put it bluntly, egg cookers are more trouble than they are worth. Sure they cook eggs, but I find that shells continue to crack while the yolks still turn green. (The latter is a major fail since it turns out that green yolks are a sign that the eggs have been cooked too long. Aren’t egg cookers supposed to cook the eggs for precisely the right amount of time? ) Some egg cookers can also create a watery mess as a result of water bubbling out of them and down their sides onto the counter. Finally, in my experience egg cookers tend to have life spans only marginally longer than the eggs themselves (meaning they break … a lot).
Dear readers, there is a better way. It’s called steaming your eggs, and it really works! I stumbled upon this technique as I was attempting to find answers to my egg-cooking questions while I was preparing my post on Asparagus and Hard-Boiled Egg Salad. The source is a column about the science of cooking that I peruse from time to time. In this edition, the author, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, lays out a very simple method for achieving perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs without actually boiling them or using an egg cooker. The technique involves steaming them for precisely 12 minutes.
The benefits are numerous. Unlike the boiling method, which requires that you monitor the pan to ensure that the water continues to boil at the right level, the steaming method doesn’t require any attention once you’ve placed the eggs in the steamer. The steaming method is also much gentler on the eggs, so the shells are less likely to crack. Most importantly, by steaming your eggs you will find that you are less likely to end up with overcooked eggs and their tell-tale green yolks.
All in all, using steam to cook a “hard-boiled” egg is, hands down, a winning technique. Give it a try. I think you’ll agree.
Steamed “Hard-Boiled” Eggs
Steamer baskets come in all shapes, sizes, and prices. I use a steamer insert that came with the pot I use for steaming. You can also find stainless inserts, such as the one here; silicone inserts, such as the one here; and bamboo inserts, such as the one here.
Instructions for Steaming Eggs
1. Fill a large pot with about one or two inches of water. (You should have enough water so that the pot doesn’t boil dry while you are cooking the eggs but not so much that the water touches the steamer insert.) Place either a steamer basket or steamer insert in the pot, cover, and bring the water to a boil. Remove the cover, gently add the desired number of eggs to the basket/insert, return the cover, and steam for 12 minutes. (If you desire soft-boiled eggs, steam for only 6 minutes.)
2. While the eggs are steaming, fill a large bowl with enough water to cover by several inches the number of eggs being steamed.* After the eggs have finished steaming, immediately remove them from the basket/insert using tongs or a large spoon and gently place them in the bowl of water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes.
*I don’t find it necessary for the water to be ice-cold in order to produce the necessary cooling effect. However, if you want more rapid cooling or colder hard-boiled eggs, you can add ice to the water as the original recipe indicated.
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