In my ongoing series of Cooking Basics, or building blocks to great cooking, I present the second installment, “How to Boil an Egg”.
A boiled egg is kind-of a misnomer. They’re really simmered rather than boiled. Simmering is the point at which bubbles rise gently and barely break the surface of the liquid. Immersing food in simmering liquid gently cooks fragile foods. If you bring the water to a boil and then add the eggs, you run the risk of breaking the fragile shells and having the egg white seep out.
First, start with good quality organic eggs. Especially since this is the only ingredient in your boiled egg, the egg should be great. Organic eggs taste better, they’re better for you, and they’re better for the environment. And the shells are harder (so there’s less shell breakage when you’re cooking them).
I often have half a carton of older eggs and a full carton of fresh eggs in the refrigerator. If this is the case for you, use the slightly older eggs for boiling. In older eggs, the whites have shriveled a little, creating a small air pocket between the shell and the whites. This small air pocket will help you peel the egg completely.
Place the raw eggs in the pan with the egg timer gadget. Cover with about an inch of cold water. I use regular tap water. Nothing else. Do not salt the water – the salt will toughen the proteins and the boiled egg will not be tender.
And, I’ve heard some people like to put vinegar in the water when boiling the egg. Vinegar (actually the acetic acid of the vinegar) dissolves calcium and other minerals from the eggshell and holds those minerals in the vinegar and water solution. This weakens or dissolves the shell making it more fragile and easy to peel.
In addition, if you were to drink that vinegar solution, you would get a nice dose of calcium. Personally, I don’t feel the need to add vinegar to the water; I don’t care for the smell or taste of the vinegar too much. And, since you don’t need to do this, I skip the vinegar entirely.
Place the uncovered pan on the stove over medium heat. Bring the water to the simmering point. You may need to adjust the heat if the boil starts getting too high or too low.
Here’s the hardest part for me – don’t walk away! If you do, I suggest that you bring a timer with you; set it for a short amount of time & don’t put the timer down. I often find myself coming back to the stove after forgetting the eggs are boiling away. URG!
In general, the cooking times are 2 to 3 minutes for soft-boiled or 10 to 15 minutes for hard-boiled eggs, though with the egg timer gadget I don’t need to guess at how well done the eggs are.
I keep an eye on the gadget, and when it’s almost reached the level where I want the eggs, I turn the heat off. Remember, the eggs are hot at this point, and they’ll continue to cook even after you take them out of the hot water.
Place the pan under cold running water, and drain off the hot water. Continue this step for a minute or so until the water is cool enough to touch. Pull the eggs out one by one and hold them under the cold running water. Place the cooled eggs on a fluffy towel on the counter.
If you overcook your eggs, it will cause a green or grey ring to appear around the egg yolk. This is because of the iron and sulfur in the egg. It won’t affect the taste of the egg, but overcooking will hurt the protein quality making the egg tough.
Ok, next is peeling, Take the boiled egg and tap it against the part that has the air bubble in it – that’s usually the fatty part at the bottom of the egg.
Now, tap around the entire length and circumference of the egg, breaking the shell all around.
Start by peeling away at the part covering the air bubble.
From there, work your way around the egg using the broken part as your guide.
If you peel the egg under running tap water, it gives you a little assistance. The water will get in between the egg and the shell, helping to loosen the egg.
You should get a nice pretty well cooked boiled egg.
Next you’ll have to decide what to do with your boiled eggs. Eat them for breakfast? Deviled eggs? Top a fresh spinach salad with sliced eggs? Egg salad sandwiches? I’ll post another idea soon (and, I’ll use both of the cooking basics techniques in one dish).