Eggs Cooked in the Shell

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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“Boiling an egg” is often taken as a measure of minimal competence in cooking, since you leave the egg safe in its shell and have only to keep track of the water temperature and the time. Though we commonly speak of hard- and soft-boiled eggs, boiling is not a good way to cook eggs. Turbulent water knocks the eggs around and cracks shells, which allows albumen to leak out and overcook; and for hard-cooked eggs, a water temperature way above the protein coagulation temperature means that the outer layers of the white get rubbery while the yolk cooks through. Soft-cooked eggs aren’t cooked long enough to suffer in the same way, and should be cooked in barely bubbling water, just short of the boil. Hard-cooked eggs should be cooked at a bubble-less simmer, between 180 and 190°F/80–85°C. Eggs in the shell can also be steamed, a technique that requires the least water and the least energy and time to heat the water. Leaving the lid slightly ajar on a gently bubbling steamer will reduce the effective cooking temperature to something below the boil and produce a tenderer white.