5 Questions You Probably Have About Hard Boiled Eggs

perfect hard boiled eggs
Photo Credit: Cara Dolan

March 17, 2021

By Tami Weiser

There is a fair amount of disagreement amongst chefs, caterers and home cooks alike regarding hard boiled eggs. And with Easter coming up and the likelihood of hard boiled eggs in your future, we thought we’d address the five most commonly asked questions about making perfect hard boiled eggs. Here’s what everyone wants to know. 

1. Should you add salt and/or vinegar to the cooking water?

Just a teaspoon or two of salt will change the water enough to alter the boiling temperature slightly, which some folks think may help prevent eggs from cracking and spilling out while boiling. I find this trick to be very helpful, especially if I am using very fresh eggs.

For the vinegar hack, the standard amount suggested is usually 2 teaspoons for every six eggs and it can be added either before it comes to a boil or after an egg cracks and oozes out into the water. The vinegar, just like when making poached eggs, will solidify the egg stuff quickly, but it will slightly alter the taste of the water cooked egg.

2. Should you start the eggs in cold water or boil the water first.

This is perhaps the most controversial question. I usually start with eggs in cold water, which is the classic way, but frankly, I have found that both methods work and can deliver perfect hard boiled eggs.

3. Should you prick the eggshells before cooking?

Some folks use a thin needle or kitchen tool and slowly prick a teeny hole, very carefully by all wiggling not pressing the needle, in the top end of the egg to allow for water, air and heat to get in and out of the egg. It is a bit tricky not to crack the egg, but it does help prevent eggs from cracking in the pan while they are cooking. 

4. Should you use old eggs?

Super-fresh eggs or close-to-due-date eggs: Which is best? Eggs that are closer to their expiration date are typically easier to peel. Know, though, that they can take up to 1 minute longer to cook than an egg fresh from the chicken coop.

5. How long should you cook the eggs?

The truth about perfect hard boiled eggs. It’s really a matter of preference and you should figure out how to get the eggs just like you want. Here is a guideline for a large egg, not too old and not super-fresh. (Note: medium eggs will need about 1 minute less and extra large or jumbo will need between 1 to 2 minutes more): 

  • Soft and oozy yolk with a just-cooked white: 8 to 9 minutes
  • Vividly saffron colored, moist yolk, cooked white: 10 minutes 
  • Firm white, paler, lemon-y yellow yolk: 11 to 12 minutes
  • Very firm white, very pale yellow and almost dry yolk: 13 minutes.