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Do You Know How To Hard Cook Eggs?

According to the American Egg Board, the terms “hard” and “soft-boiled” eggs are really misnomers, because boiling eggs makes them tough and rubbery. Instead, these eggs should be “hard” or “soft-cooked” in hot water.


After reading many different opinions about the best method for making perfect hard-cooked (boiled) eggs, I discovered the following easy method which gives great results. This way of cooking is also known as “coddling.” It does not toughen the whites as boiling does. This will also assist with the peeling process, as the cold water creates steam between the egg white and the shell which makes the shell easier to remove.

Start with Older Eggs

To get perfectly peeled hard-cooked eggs, use eggs that are at least a week old. Eggs that are too fresh are usually difficult to peel.

Looking for a Centered Yolk?

A centered yolk is nice for deviled eggs.  The day before, put a rubber band around the egg carton and turn it on its side in the refrigerator. Also, cook the eggs on their side.

Check for Cracks

For perfect cooking, start with eggs that don’t have any visible cracks. There are two problems you’ll want to avoid: cracked shells and the ugly green layer that can form around the yolk. In case small cracks do develop, add salt to the cooking water. The salt will help to speed up the denaturing of the egg white, causing less of it to feather into the water. Use at least a tablespoon of table salt per two quarts of water.

Bring to Room Temperature

Bring your eggs to room temperature before cooking. If the eggs have been stored in the refrigerator they can be warmed gently under flowing, hot tap water. By bringing the eggs to room temperature, they are much less likely to crack in hot water. In addition, the temperature of the egg at the start of the cooking process will affect the cooking time. An egg that is at room temperature at the start of the cooking process will require about one minute less cooking time than eggs taken directly from the refrigerator.

Prick for Roundness

At the large end of each egg is a small air space. When you hard cook an egg, this air heats up, expands, and escapes through pores in the shell—but not before the egg white sets. This leaves the egg with a flattened end. Pricking the egg with a pin to make a small hole provides a quick escape route for the air, which gives you an egg with a smoothly rounded end. If you prick an egg, watch for a small jet of air shooting from the hole as the egg cooks.

Cooking Steps

Gently place the eggs in a single layer in a pan with enough cold water to cover eggs completely (approximately by 1 ½ inches). Starting with cold water lets you heat the egg more slowly, which keeps the whites from getting rubbery. If you have two or three layers of eggs stacked up in a small pot, they may cook unevenly. Over high heat, bring water JUST to a rapid boil. As soon as the water reaches a rapid boil, remove pan from heat and cover egg pan tightly with a lid.

Avoid the Green Layer

Set timer for 20 minutes for eggs. Watch the time when cooking the eggs carefully. Overcook causes a green layer to form around the yolk. This layer is caused by a reaction between the iron in the yolk and the sulfur in the white. Heat speeds up this reaction so the longer your eggs cook the greater the chance of discoloration.

Drain off water from the eggs after exactly 20 minutes. Transfer the eggs to the bowl of ice cubes and cold water to stop the cooking process and minimize the iron-sulfur reaction. Let eggs cool at least 10 minutes in cold water, then drain. Either store in refrigerator or peel the eggs.

For Egg Safety — USDA Advises:

  • Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, un-cracked shells.
  • Buy eggs before the “Sell-By” or “EXP” (expiration) date on the carton.
  • Take eggs straight home and refrigerate them right away. Check to be sure your refrigerator is set at 40°F or below. Don’t take eggs out of the carton to put them in the refrigerator — the carton protects them. Keep the eggs in the coldest part of the refrigerator — not on the door.
  • Raw shell eggs in the carton can stay in your refrigerator for three to five weeks from the purchase date. Although the “Sell-By” date might pass during that time, the eggs are still safe to use.
  • Always wash your hands with warm water and soap before and after handling raw eggs. To avoid cross-contamination, you should also wash utensils, all counters, and other surfaces that touch the eggs with hot water and soap.
  • Don’t keep raw or cooked eggs out of the refrigerator more than two hours. Store the hard cooked eggs in a covered container (eggs can release odors) in the refrigerator. They should be eaten within 5 days.
  • Egg dishes such as deviled eggs or egg salad should be used within 3 to 4 days.

Care and Attention

The answer to perfect hard cooked eggs is to cook carefully. Even the simplest of cooking demands a degree of care and attention. However, in the end all it involves is knowing the correct way to proceed.


  • American Egg Board,
  • United States Department of Agriculture,

Hard Cooked Eggs, one without shell

Contact Our Expert!


Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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