10.24.13 Set the Timer

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photos by gluttonforlife
The minute you turn 50, I mean almost to the day, you begin to get mail from the AARP. Nowhere does it say what the acronym stands for, not even on their website. Only by going to Wikipedia will you discover that this is the organization formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. I guess the idea of retirement is not what it once was. I know I'm not planning on retiring. Ever. So now the mission of this nonprofit, nonpartisan organization is "to help people 50 and older improve the quality of their lives." But can it teach me how to boil an egg successfully? How did I get to be 50 years old without learning that? A properly boiled egg—one in which the white is not rubbery and the yolk is golden and tender—is essential. The technique is so elemental: water + fire + time. Yet how often is my yolk leaden and tinged with grey? And, worse still, the shell almost always clings mercilessly, turning the peeling process into a living hell. 
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this came first
Over the years, I have tried many different techniques. Using older eggs. Bringing them to a boil in a pot of water and then covering it and letting the eggs sit for 10 minutes. Et cetera. But it wasn't until I heard Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame talk about his "key three" recipes on The Splendid Table that I found enlightenment. His technique is easy and empowering. You will be able to get the yolk the consistency you want and peel the egg effortlessly.

Few foods are more simple or more luxurious than an egg, and even fewer are as versatile and nutrient-dense. The egg is rich in protein, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin (essential for healthy eyes). Even if you fear cholesterol, you can comfortably eat as many as 4 egg yolks a week, no problem. Eggs elevate almost everything. I love nothing more than a soft-cooked egg slathered in soft butter and showered with crunchy salt. Aside from the obvious pairings—bread, bacon, potatoes, truffles—try your eggs with anchovies, tomatoes and curry (not all at once, though that might actually work, too).

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tender mercies
However you eat them, cook your eggs with care. Andy's method will set you free. If you're a fan of the deviled egg but have come to dread that moment of truth when it's time to crack the shell, your worries are over. One trick is to always start with a room temperature egg. That guarantees a certain consistency, so you know that after 4 minutes you will get a soft-boiled egg with a runny yolk; after 6 minutes, it's molten in the center; and after 8 minutes the yolks are almost like custard wrapped in soft, translucent whites. The process always ends with a quick plunge into an ice bath. (Not you, the eggs.) This technique will do you proud. Go ahead and retire the rest.
 

Boiled (8-Minute) Eggs

from Andy Ricker
  • — eggs, preferably a week old

Start with room temperature eggs. If your eggs are cold, set them in a bowl of lukewarm water for a while.

Fill a pot with plenty of water and bring it to a boil, adding a couple healthy pinches of salt. When it's at a full rolling boil, set your timer for 8 minutes and add as many eggs as you want, all at the same time, using a spider or colander.

Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath by combining lots of ice with cold water in a large bowl.

When the timer goes off, immediately remove eggs from the hot water and shock in the ice bath to stop the cooking process.

When they're cool enough to handle, crack and peel the eggs.

Download recipe  Download Recipe
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11 Comments

Does this method and timing apply to all sizes of eggs?
Diana on October 24, 2013 at 12:05 pm — Reply
Diana, what's key here is the technique: starting with room temp eggs in boiling water, then the dunk in an ice bath. The timing will depend on your preferred consistency, so a bit of experimentation will be in order. For me, a large, 8-minute egg is perfect, but you might use smaller eggs or like your yolks firmer. Hope that makes sense.
laura on October 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm — Reply
Love this yummy picture too. Why week old eggs?
Kristin on October 24, 2013 at 6:19 pm — Reply
Evidently the white starts to collect itself as the egg ages and no longer sticks to the shell in the same way.
laura on October 24, 2013 at 10:14 pm — Reply
This is a great post! I adore hard boiled eggs that are done to perfection. Your photos say it all. Such a simple pleasure! Cracked pepper and Himalayan pink salt. Beautiful! The peeling is always so unpredictable. I will definitely try this.
Jan on October 24, 2013 at 6:33 pm — Reply
Will have to try the room temperature trick, but have to share an ingredient that I recently read and tried - add a little baking soda to the water, the shells come off almost like butter!!
bonnie on October 27, 2013 at 7:45 am — Reply
Great tip, Bonnie. I will try it out.
laura on October 27, 2013 at 11:52 am — Reply
Have I told you lately how much I love you, Laura Silverman?
Ron on October 27, 2013 at 11:29 am — Reply
Not sure what has provoked such an outpouring, but it is most welcome!
laura on October 27, 2013 at 11:52 am — Reply
Confessed love notwithstanding, it is important to use a spider or proper ladle when lowering eggs into boiling water, as Laura instructed. I found out the hard (egad!) way just how grave the consequences in not doing this. IdJut!
Ron on October 27, 2013 at 1:29 pm — Reply
Oh yes, many eager cooks have encountered that problem!
laura on October 28, 2013 at 6:09 am — Reply