How to Boil an Egg: It's Simple—and Complicated!

Dawn Perry & Julia Kramer, photo by Danny Kim

Find your perfect egg: The photos below show the results of an egg dropped into boiling water and removed at various intervals.

It used to be so simple. How do you boil an egg? Easy. Place large eggs (older eggs will be easier to peel) in a medium heavy saucepan. Add water to cover by 1 1/2 inches. Bring to a boil; immediately remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes. Transfer eggs to a bowl of ice water to cool. Gently crack the eggs and peel under running water for ease.

SEE MORE: Bacon Deviled Eggs

These instructions have been written in the pages of Bon Appétit time and time again, like laws handed down from a higher power. But alas, the world is a complicated place, and there is, in fact, more than one way to boil an egg.

While we were developing the ramen for the Project column, we found that to produce a perfect “ramen egg“—with a just-set white and an almost-runny yolk—the best method was not to start the eggs in cold water but to drop them into boiling water. Blasphemy! And yet: Genius. Because here’s the thing: As we all know, a watched pot never boils. So when you start the eggs in cold water, it’s actually quite difficult to know the exact moment when the water comes to a boil, meaning it’s harder to guarantee consistent results. But with the drop-into-boiling-water method, you can time the egg precisely, because you know the exact moment it hits the boiling water.

SEE MORE: How to Make Hard-Boiled Eggs (Yes, There’s a Super-Easy Way)

Now, some people are scared of this method because they think that the eggs will crack when they’re dropping into boiling water. If you lower them in gently with a slotted spoon, you really have nothing to worry about. (Besides, would it be so bad to take a little risk?)

So if the start-in-boiling-water method allows for more precise egg-boiling than the start-in-cold-water method, why do we still use the latter technique? For the answer, we turned to the American Egg Board. Per this governing body: “Hard-boiled eggs cook best if they are not boiled at all. If eggs are cooked at 212°F for too long, the whites become rubbery and the yolks dry. Why? Egg whites are mostly protein and water; as the proteins cook, they coagulate, and if overcooked, the water is pushed out.”

In other words, it’s not broken, so let’s not go so crazy trying to fix it. If you’re trying to make a 5-to-7-minute egg, you’ll get the best results by dropping them into boiling water. For a traditional hard-boiled egg, just start them in cold.

Last but not least, don’t forget what happens after the timer has gone off. Shocking eggs in cold water will help control the consistency. Two pro-tips on this front: If you salt the water that you shock the eggs in, it absolutely seasons the interior of the eggs. (Some people doubt that this works, but we swear it does.) And if you prepare your ice bath with a fine-mesh strained placed inside the bowl, it makes removing the eggs from the water as easy as…boiling an egg.

See more from Bon Appetit:
10 Snacks You Thought Were Healthy But Really Aren’t
25 Ways to Use Sriracha
22 Recipes Everyone Should Know How to Cook