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The Old Way
Hard boiled eggs are finicky. A little undercooked and they’re gross, a little overcooked and they’re rubbery and discolored. It can be hard to find the right hard boiled egg time. Someone—I think maybe my mother or grandmother?—taught me how to cook them decades ago and I never deviated from that particular hard boiled egg recipe:
- Put old, cold eggs and cold water into a pot with a ton of salt, and bring to a boil over high heat.
- Cover and remove from the heat. Leave alone, covered, for fifteen minutes.
- Plunge into ice water immediately.
- As soon as eggs are cool enough to touch, peel.
This method works well. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, it’s a great alternative. There’s also a method for steaming eggs described by one of my favorite food writers, which looks like another great alternative. But if you do have an Instant Pot, the IP is the way to go.
[If you’re new to using your Instant Pot and are a little overwhelmed by all of the parts and controls, go read my post from last week, which walks you through a very easy method for making mashed potatoes. Even if you don’t want to make mashed potatoes right now, that post will get you familiar with your Instant Pot and terms like slow release and quick release, and you’ll be ready to tackle hard boiled eggs.]How do you hard boil your eggs? With or without an #InstantPot, here are the best ways. Click To Tweet
The IP Way
When I first got my Instant Pot, a hard boiled egg recipe was the second thing I tried. Everybody online had been raving about how well the Instant Pot cooked eggs, and how super duper easy they were to peel. There are a million posts about IP hard boiled eggs, and pretty much all of them say the same thing: cook on high pressure for five minutes, slow release for five minutes, then put into ice water and peel. And I did it that way for about six months. It works fine. And they really are super duper easy to peel. It’s amazing.
But this method had a couple of problems. First, I kept forgetting to take them out after five minutes of slow release. If I didn’t set a timer, I would leave them too long and they would end up really overcooked. The Instant Pot beeps loudly when the cooking is done, but I had to wait exactly five minutes after that point. And I’m not good at remembering things.
Second, even when I followed the instructions exactly they were just a bit over-cooked. They tasted absolutely fine, but the yolks were a little bit green. Not a big deal at all if you’re just eating them plain or mixing them into something – the inside of the yolk is bright yellow, it’s just a thin layer on the outside that gets dark. The green didn’t show up at all in egg salad. But at times I wanted nice pretty yolks, like if I were slicing eggs on top of a salad.
So, I started messing around with different cooking times. Seven minutes was just a touch too short – the yolks weren’t quite hard. But eight minutes was perfect! The yolks were cooked, but still bright yellow!
On the left: eight minutes at high pressure with a quick release. On the right: five minutes at high pressure with a five-minute natural release. Both plunged into ice water immediately. Big difference.
Are you timing your hard boiled eggs right in the #InstantPot, or are you overcooking them? Click To Tweet
Racks and Cracks
The other thing I experimented with was what to put the eggs in for cooking. Most recipes I saw said to put them in a steamer basket if you have one. I didn’t have one (actually I did, but didn’t realize it fit into my IP), so I just used the flat rack that came with my IP. It worked great!
Once I realized that my vegetable steamer fit, I tried the eggs in that. But I was not impressed. Since it’s bowl-shaped, the eggs are more packed in, and for some reason more likely to crack. Perhaps it’s different in one of the flatter, non-metal baskets. I went back to using the flat rack.
HOWEVER, you should know that whatever you use, cracking in the IP is nowhere near as bad as cracking in boiling water! The intense pressure inside the pot tends to keep everything inside the cracked egg, and it’s usually fine.
The worst that will usually happen is that a little egg white will leak out. See those spider-web like things? That’s egg white.
And here’s the egg it came from. I didn’t even see a crack on the outside of the egg, but there was definitely some white missing.
This one was a little weirder. This is the only time anything like has happened to me, and naturally it happened today, when I was taking pictures for a post. See that egg on the left? It basically exploded out of its shell.
Three other eggs were also cracked, but they were perfect inside. And believe it or not, once I’d pulled the shell off of the one that had burst, it looked relatively normal too! (It’s the one in the picture below, on the top left, where a little yolk is showing.) And it tasted fine. So no harm, really. Use whatever basket or rack you have.
New vs. Old Eggs
One of the keys to easy-peel hard boiled eggs that are actually boiled is to use older eggs. As eggs get older a little air seeps in through the shell. It’s thought that the air makes a little bit of space between the egg and the shell, making it easier to peel. I have no idea if that’s true, but new hard boiled eggs do seem much, much harder to peel.
With the steam method, the age of the eggs doesn’t matter at all. Not one bit. I cooked more than a dozen eggs today to get pictures. They were all brand-new eggs, still well before the dates on the cartons. And they all peeled like a dream! Even the cracked ones!
The other thing that supposedly helps when peeling hard boiled eggs is plunging the eggs into ice water just until they’re cool enough to handle. Wait until they’re cold and they get hard to peel again. I’ve never done an official test of this, but I *feel* like it’s true. I’ve gotten interrupted while peeling eggs a few times and when I went back to it, I *think* it was harder. But like I said, I’ve never actually tested it with boiled eggs.
But with the steamed eggs, it doesn’t matter when you peel them.
They absolutely DO have to be plunged into ice water immediately, but it has nothing to do with peeling. It’s to stop the eggs from cooking more. Once they’re cool (about five minutes), you can peel them right away or put them in the fridge and peel them later.
They all peeled perfectly. Also, you can see in this picture that sometimes the membrane darkens in spots (I think in spots that are touching hot metal). That color pretty much never transfers to the egg itself.
So, I just wrote a ton of words about a process that is actually very quick and easy. Happy steaming! And if you need something to do with all of those eggs, here’s one of my favorite egg salad recipes, and a story about how Bobby Flay made it for me personally (although not all that willingly or nicely).