Should You Start Your Eggs in Cold or Hot Water?

Instant Pot Hard Boiled Eggs
Photo: Antonis Achilleos

Hard-boiled eggs are a staple in our kitchens. High in protein and nutrients, hard-boiled eggs are a great snack to keep on hand in your household—not to mention all the delicious dishes you can make with them. From egg salad to deviled eggs, the appetizer possibilities are endless.

Let us bust a common myth right here: You don't need any fancy gadgets to make a perfect batch of hard-boiled eggs. Sure, there are plenty of specialty tools on the market that promise to cook your eggs to perfection or peel them without any hassle, but in our experience, all you really need to make a great batch of hard-boiled eggs is a big pot of water, a pair of hands, and a little bit of wisdom.

Making great hard-boiled eggs takes practice. But we believe that, just like Mama's Pyrex dishes, cooking wisdom can (and should) be passed down from generation to generation—specifically when it comes to hard-boiled egg tricks (this one from Ree Drummond is a particular favorite).

Every family has its own tried-and-true method to boil and peel a batch of eggs without breaking a sweat—but there's a lot of false wisdom out there surrounding hard-boiled eggs. One such rumor: starting your eggs in cold water yields easier-to-peel eggs.

The Difference Between Starting Eggs from Cold and Hot Water

When it comes to cooking hard-boiled eggs, there are two schools of thought. One calls for you to cook the eggs in boiling-hot water. The other calls for you to start the eggs in cold water, then allow them to gradually come to a boil on the stove. But which method yields better results?

Here's a hard-boiled egg tip that we know to be true: Starting your eggs in hot, already-boiling water makes them easier to peel. In a column for Serious Eats, cookbook author and food columnist J. Kenji López-Alt found that "starting cold resulted in eggs that had just over a 50% success rate for clean peeling. Eggs started in boiling water or steam came out well above 90%."

There's a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, too. "Slow-cooked egg whites bond more strongly with the membrane on the inside of an eggshell," López-Alt writes—therefore, starting in cold water actually increases the chances of shell-sticking.

Monitor Your Timing

One of the most important things to monitor when boiling a batch of eggs is the timing. If you start your eggs in cold water, it's much more difficult to gauge precisely when the eggs are finished cooking, which may lead to inconsistent results.

When you're starting your eggs in a pot of already-boiling water, you can simply set your timer and forget about the eggs until it goes off. But if you're starting in cold water, it's crucial to monitor your eggs until the exact moment when the water begins to boil, at which point you'll have to start the timer. The cold-water method will really test your patience—as Mama always said, "a watched pot never boils."

Don't get caught up in all the hard-boiled hoopla. Keep cooking your eggs in a pot of boiling water—no gadgets or gimmicks necessary.

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